Creative Problem Solving Can be a Life-Saver!
Have you ever had a problem that seemed unsolvable? It happens! I’ve faced many issues that initially stumped me in both my personal and business life.
The question is, what do you do when this happens? Do you walk away and say, “Forget it!” or do you ask yourself question like, “What am I missing?”, “Who can I ask for help?”, or “Is there another way to approach this?”
The benefit of questions like these is they encourage creative problem solving. You often hear people talking about Thinking Outside The Box. What they’re really saying is Use Creative Problem Solving.
What is Creative Problem Solving and How Can We Apply it in Our Lives?
Here’s a real-world example.
My brother and I were driving on back-roads in Montana in his beat-up old Suburban, The Orange. It was bright orange, like a construction worker’s vest and though the name wasn’t terribly original, it fit perfectly. We were camping with a few friends in some remote spot and were on our way back to the nearest town to grab some supplies.
That was one of the best things about living in Montana, back then—yes I just said back then—you could pick a dirt road and drive until you found an isolated spot to set up camp. You never worried about anyone camping nearby. And forget the “pay for a spot that’s surrounded by people in camper-trailers” nonsense. That’s not camping! That’s pretending. If you’ve never been camping in a spot that’s so isolated you could go for days, maybe weeks without another person walking or driving by, then you haven’t been truly camping. But sadly in our current times finding a spot among a swarm of other “campers” is the best you can get in most states.
Back to the story.
We’re ripping down the dirt road, clouds of dust billowing in our wake…
The Orange lurched and started to wobble. We’d blown a tire. My brother gripped the wheel tightly, let off the gas, and slowed to a halt in the middle of the dirt road.
Inspecting the damage, we found the right-rear tire had blown out. It was shredded beyond repair. No big deal. The Orange came complete with its own full-sized spare tire. We’d change the tire and be back on our way.
The Orange had a standing ratchet-jack, one of the kind that stands about three feet tall with a head that ratchets up the center post using a long lever arm. These jacks are great for vehicles with high clearance because they can quickly and easily lift the wheels of the ground. We got the jack out and started to set it up.
That’s when the creative problem solving came into play.
The lever arm was missing. We searched the entire vehicle and couldn’t find it anywhere. Without that arm the jack was useless. There was no way to lift the Orange, no way to change the tire.
The dirt road we were on might see traffic once or twice a month. And this was before cell phones were common. We were stuck with two choices. Either we figured out how to change that tire or we walked about forty miles to get help!
I was a strong teenager. I thought I could muscle the jack up without the lever. So I set it up in the middle of the rear bumper and lifted the head as far as I could. Then I centered myself over the short arm—where the lever would go. And I used all my strength to press down and ratchet that jack. Yeah…I moved the jack three clicks, that’s about three inches, just enough to start putting weight on it.
After that I tried various other methods including pounding on the ratchet arm with a hammer, jumping on it, and having my brother and friends lift the bumper while I did these things. We got another 4 clicks lift. The tire was still firmly on the ground.
We were discouraged. It seemed there was no hope. My brother was loading up his pack, getting ready to start walking when I had the idea to dig under the tire.
We were on a dirt road. We had a shovel. If we couldn’t lift The Orange high enough to change the tire, we could take the ground out from underneath the tire!
I grabbed our camping shovel and attacked the ground around the blown tire. The digging was slow. It was hard packed, washboard gravel. Taking turns we finally cleared a hole that was deep and wide enough to let us remove the tire. Then we tried to put the new tire on, but because the tire was fully inflated, the hole was too shallow.
Back to digging.
We finally made it deep enough to slide the spare tire in and mount it.
Then we had a new problem. There was no way to lower the jack. Because of the jack’s design, as long as it was fully weighted, it took as much force to ratchet the jack down as it did up…
Luckily The Orange was 4-wheel drive. We locked the front axles, made sure everyone was clear, and then kicked it in gear and lurched backward. (If we’d gone forward the jack would have damaged the back of The Orange when the upper post swung into the tailgate.)
It was rough, but we were finally on our way. All thanks to creative problem solving.
So the next time you have a dilemma turn on your creative muscles and discover the power of imaginative problem solving.
You Are The Master of Your Destiny!