A problem can be defined as the difference between where we are and where we want to be, or what we have versus what we want. Problems are ubiquitous and incessant – like the waves of the ocean or the setting of the sun. Everyone, regardless of their background, intelligence, good looks, or charm, has problems. Problems can’t be avoided. If you happen to go to bed tonight without any problems on your mind, they’ll show up in the morning. Just listen to the news as you get ready for work. You’ll have a few for breakfast and a few more by lunch. They’ll abruptly enter your life in the mail, in your email inbox, and as text messages on your phone. They’re on the front page of every newspaper and on every page thereafter. You’ll arrive at the office and get a couple, smack dab in your face, as you walk through the front door!
Regardless of your past, good or bad, your present life is likely filled with many unwelcome challenges, such as stress, anxiety, self-doubt, addiction, and worries about yours or someone else’s health, finances, or the future. Your relationships with your partner, children, and other family members are often riddled with unwanted conflict and concerns. Chances are high that your relationships with your friends, neighbors, bosses, and co-workers are filled with annoying and frustrating challenges.
The good news is many of the problems you face will work themselves out or, given enough time, will just go away. But some won’t. Some hang on, like unwanted houseguests, who long ago wore out their welcome. These kinds of problems require better thinking, bigger ideas, and superior solutions that you can’t find with a Google search. These kinds of problems require novel creativity, unusual insight, and uncommon out-of-the-box thinking. The solutions to these problems, elusive as they might be, do exist in some mysterious realm, but they refuse to manifest themselves to those who don’t, or won’t, do the work to find them.
How does one access this greater wisdom to find the answers to life’s most complex problems?
The answers to our problems are found in the thinking habits we develop. Sloppy thinking habits generate slipshod, half-baked answers, answers that often do as much damage as the problem itself. On the other hand, methodical, focused thinking often generates great answers, the kind of answers that address and answer serious problems. It’s all in how we think.
Creativity is the ability to produce ingenious ideas that are both original and useful, the kind of ideas that tackle and fix difficult problems. During World War II, psychologists studied Air Force pilots and their survival skills. They found it wasn’t IQ that best predicted survival, but creativity, especially divergent thinking: the ability to see many options and come up with alternative solutions. This ability to think not only maximized survival during the war, it promoted superior problem-solving skills that were applicable in every walk of life afterward.
Studies that followed children as young as five years old and on to adulthood discovered that those children who developed creative thinking skills excelled when compared to their peers in almost every measurable category throughout their lives. And their creativity turned out to be three times more accurate than childhood I.Q. at predicting success as adults.
Creative thinking, the kind of thinking that generates the best ideas, is a skill, and like all other skills, it’s something that we can learn and develop. We can improve and enhance our creative thinking skillset and get better at it over time. With creative thinking skills, we can find better answers to our most serious problems.
Creativity is different from other skills like music, drawing, or painting because it is the kind of skill that cuts across every area of our life. The same kind of thinking that generates superior answers in any profession also generates better answers in raising children, dealing with a difficult relationship, getting a new business off the ground, or writing a novel. In our personal and professional lives, we must often solve complicated problems that have no easy answers, and we’re forced to discover solutions that have never before been revealed. In such situations, especially when there are no easy answers, we need to call upon and use our creative thinking skills.
 Puccio, Gerard, The Creative Thinker’s Toolkit, The Teaching Company, 2014
 Bronson, Po and Merryman, Ashley; The Creativity Crisis, Newsweek.com, 7/10/10