What’s Your Problem? In Search of Answers in Unfamiliar Places

By Casper Nielsen
Creative Copycat at Frankly

Fear is the ultimate evil. Face your challenges with courage and creativity.

Your strategy lacks energy. Your communication is not as effective as you want it to be. Or your customer service is second-to-none.

Problems stand in line waiting to interfere with your business. Sometimes, a solution is simple. Sometimes, a solution seems elusive. And skills alone aren’t enough to crack the code. You need to transcend your traditional way of thinking. To develop new and imaginative ideas. You need creativity.

And creativity is not the same as skills. A musician is not creative just by virtue of being a skilled songwriter. A painter is not creative just by virtue of being a great charcoal artist. When a songwriter experience writer’s block, he needs to move beyond skills to conquer it. Because, the problem is not trouble with producing words. It’s trouble with figuring out what should happen next. He needs new rules. A new way of thinking. To explore the unknown. To move outside his comfort zone.

The thing is, we human beings – songwriters as well as chefs, marketing managers and business leaders – all share a common underlying trait: A sensitivity to the uncertain. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. It’s an instinct. We are all naturally scared of what we don’t know – and what it might bring.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”

– Jack Canfield, American author and entrepreneur

The only thing you have to fear is the fear itself

All of our fears are patterns deeply rooted in our minds. Some patterns are designed to save our lives – and thus very useful. Other patterns, though, don’t serve us. Instead of empowering, they undermine. They fight hard to keep us in our comfort zone.

Fear is what keeps us locked from taking the plunge and explore the unfamiliar. Creativity occur when you’re fearless. When you are capable of seeing the world differently. When your eyes are not dulled by fear. American author and entrepreneur Jack Canfield said it well: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”. If you can see past our fears, you are capable of achieving incredible things. You can write better songs and create better business strategies.

In the mid 1940s, psychologist Karl Duncker developed a test to measure people’s problem-solving capabilities. Subjects were given a candle, a box of thumbtacks, and a box of matches, and asked to fix the lit candle to the cork board wall so that it wouldn’t drip wax onto a table below. Duncker noted that this problem requires people to overcome their tendency for “functional fixedness”. He described it as a “mental block against using an object in a new way that is required to solve a problem.”

To complete the task, you can take the tacks out of their box, tack the box onto the wall, and place the lit candle inside the box. A later variation of the problem had the tacks presented to subjects outside the box – and the subjects were much more likely to figure out the tack-box-to-wall strategy. Hence, the concept of ‘out-of-box’ thinking or creative thinking.

Repetitive and ingrained thinking patterns (or mental blocks, as Duncker called them) keep us from understanding the exact nature of the problem itself and evaluating and selecting alternative options. When you “hack” your mind and allow yourself to break with familiar habits and see things from a different perspective, you’ll reach that creative state of mind – and discover the right path to solve your problems.