Partners in Problem-Solving

When you have a complex problem to solve, how do you go about solving it? Let’s take a look at some surprising partners in the problem-solving process.

Sometimes, when we have complex or difficult problems to solve, our feelings of being under pressure cause us to push so hard for solutions, that we wind up spinning our wheels. We study the problem from every possible angle, collect huge amounts of information, struggle hard and do lots of analysis. We obsess over the problem. Still the answer evades us.

Some of this is because it is hard for us to tolerate feeling confused for very long. We want certainty, and we want clear answers. However, sometimes it’s better not to push. As the head of theoretical physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory once said, our unconscious is an important factor in solving complex problems. We need to give our minds a chance to work, without additional sensory and informational overload.

This means that while you certainly need to collect all the information you can, and sometimes literally immerse yourself in the problem, at some point it is important to back off and leave it, trusting that creative, productive mental work will continue even if you are not aware of it. Peak performers of all kinds demonstrate and researchers confirm: analysis and intuition are partners in creative work.

People who won’t relax their dependence on concrete, countable information often just can’t see possibilities that don’t fit into what they already know. This happens with individuals, and on an even larger scale with organizations. But, if you’re willing to let go for a while and let your creative subconscious have a turn, you may be surprised and pleased at the results.