"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Solving Problems Vs. Creating Solutions - A Mindset Context Switch

With all that has been going on in my schoolroom this year, I have had to change my mindset.  In fact, I've decided to take on the slogan of the Robinson family from "Meet the Robinsons."

Slogan of the Robinson Family - Keep Moving Foward!
Let me ask you this...Are you a problem solver or someone who finds creative solutions?

I have always considered myself a "problem solver."  While that might be a great title to have, I think it might be determental to my kids if their teacher is constantly trying to solve problems in her school.   I now try to actively seek creative solutions rather than focus on solving problems.  Why?  Creating solutions and problem solving involve very different states of mind. Creativity activates positive thoughts while problem solving is focused on what is negative. Creating is forward focused; it’s building toward the future. Problem solving is focused on the past.

I've had to make a context switch.

When I tell my kids "we have a problem" it casts a dark tone over the day and the person to whom this message is directed.  What if, instead we said something like, "Wow!  We need to find a new way to do this!"  I don't know about you, but my kids much prefer the later.  
What does creating look like?
There are five steps in the creative process from Robert Fritz, which are types of action, not a formula. These steps are:
  1. Conceive of the result you want to create. Creators start at the end by knowing what they want to create. (By the way, this is the way Right Brainers think all the time.  We start with the end in mind.)
  2. Know what condition or situation currently exists. If you don’t know what has already been created or done, it’s impossible to know what to do next. (This is where most people stop!)
  3. Take action. When you know what you want and what you currently have, take action. Creating is a learning process, so every action may not work. When actions don’t work, readjust. (Take a lesson from the Military - do an After Action Review.  Figure out what worked and what didn't so you don't have to redo it again.  Keep moving forward!)
  4. Learn the rhythms of the creative process. There are three phases: germination, assimilation, and completion.  (Listen to the niggling voice in your head...ideas come in the strangest places and at the strangest times.  Most of mine come after 11pm when talking with my husband.)
  5. Create momentum. Professional creators create momentum. The seeds of their next action are planted and  germinate in their present actions.  (Keep improving and keep talking about your changes with someone.  Sounding boards have a good way of keeping you in check and moving forward.)

The comments in parenthesis above are mine.  According to Robert Fritz, when talking about problem solving in a particular scenario in the corporate world, "The problem led to action to solve the problem. The action lessened the problem. Less action was needed to solve the problem. Less attention was given to the problem, and the problem resurfaced. Problem solving," Fritz explains, "provides a way to organize our focus, actions, time, and thought process. Designing solutions to problems gives the sense that something important is being done."
He adds, “…it’s an illusion.”
What’s the alternative if designing solutions to problems doesn’t work?  It is in finding creative solutions.  Now, you might say, "That is in the corporate world!  I am a home educator. When my kid has a problem, I need to find a solution!"  I can tell you that after years of trying to fix my son's dysgraphia, I realized that I needed to find creative solutions to the problem rather than to fix him.  He wasn't broken.  He just wasn't able to do what I was asking him.  Poor kid.  I am astounded at his resiliancy given I kept trying to fix him.    
So, the first thing you need to do is change your language.  Notice that the word “problem” is not present in the five steps above. The tone is positive and growth oriented.
What do you think could happen if instead of telling your child "There is a problem" to changing your approach to "Let's find a better way?"

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