How to find the answers you need, Einstein style!

One of the keys to problem solving, is to learn how to stick with the challenge for long enough to find the answer you need.

Einstein famously said: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

I think we can all agree that Einstein was one of the greatest minds in history, however, his decision to stick with a challenge and work on it for a long time is something we can all benefit from.

Creative thinking requires effort

Over on my marketing blog, one of the most common phrases I see in the comments section when I make a suggestion, is a variant of; ‘It’s not as easy as it sounds.” Most people seem to be programmed to seek the easy or lazy answer by default. Then, if the answer doesn’t come easy, they quit. This places a very low ceiling on their potential, as there’s only so far someone can go if they are not prepared to think deeply, when required.

If I have a challenge that’s proving a tricky nut to crack, I employ a few strategies before I decide it’s beyond me:

  • I take the problem for a walk. Ensuring I have a way to record any answers that come to me. This is the best thing I have ever found for developing creative ideas. Almost every challenge I have is resolved this way.
  • I clearly define the challenge at the top of a sheet of paper, then write as many answers as possible. I allow my mind to flow and write down everything that comes to me. I also make sure the question is written correctly.
  • I talk to someone with expertise in the area, where my challenge resides. For example, if it’s a design problem I’ll talk to a designer – even if their field of design is different.
  • I talk to someone whose opinion I respect, yet who has no expertise on that area. This outside perspective has proven to be a goldmine of creative answers, as their feedback directs me to look for answers in a new, often fertile direction.
  • I then give the challenge as long as required, before deciding the answer is beyond me.

Some challenges come with a hard deadline, so there is a set time frame within which the answer is needed. However, in most cases the deadline is more flexible than that.

In short: For us to stand the greatest chance of getting an above average answer, we should stick with it for longer than the average person.