The answer may be found within the question

Problem-solving and creativity are the same. When we are solving problems, we evaluate our circumstance, identify opportunities, visualize scenarios and judge the results before we act.

When you are attempting a creative endeavor, you go through the same process. The intent is the same. You are building something with intellectual resources. We know that the more you are familiar with a thing, the more qualified your ideas will be when finding a solution or trying to build a campaign or brand. So creativity is a skill we are all familiar with, because we are all solving problems on a regular basis. Yet, people claim, “I’m not creative!” It’s not true.

It’s important to understand that the mental muscles we use to find solutions are the same we use to build ideas, because it shows us we are always primed to come up with something brilliant if we allow ourselves. But sometimes we come across a challenging problem in which the answer is not that clear. Sometimes we act methodically, do research and evaluate pros and cons. Other times, we have a split second to make a choice.

We go through this process multiple times a day on many levels. We stress and worry about our process and solutions. Fortunately, our minds move quickly and are capable of much more than we think, so we can absorb and understand the environment that surrounds our problem. The first thing we need to do is consider the question. Is the issue we are dealing with or asking ourselves the right question? The old adage in politics is you answer the question you want someone to ask, not the question they are asking. But that never yields great solutions. Everyone needs to be on the same page and want to find the best option.

To find out if you are embarking on a process that will yield a good solution, you must revisit the issue. Trace the evolution of a situation and find the source of the problem before finding a suitable solution. We tend to knee-jerk our conclusions without doing the research and then set forth on a path that was not well planned out. The best way to find an answer is to try to understand what the problem is from multiple perspectives. Do you understand the values of person asking the question? What is the real goal? Is this solution just a spoke in the wheel of many other solutions that will make up the successful implementation of a larger goal?

Shifting your perspective of the way you look at an issue will likely open up more possibilities and reveal new and valuable data necessary to create the best outcome. If you understand the question, the time it will take you to find the best answer is shortened and clearer to follow. And remember: Even when you choose a path, never put on blinders that keep you from noticing or giving time to other opportunities. There is no warning sign before you come upon a valuable new perspective or opportunity. You need to pay attention.

Alex Raffi is partner and creative director for Imagine Communications.