She had never been in a fight before.

But as a result of her fight with another student, a fifteen-year-old, we’ll call Crystal, managed to get herself suspended from school. And not just suspended for a week. Crystal’s suspension was for two months.

Enter Kelly Heinze, an eighth-grade teaching assistant at Crystal’s school. Kelly’s job was to tutor Crystal online during her 60 day suspension from school. I met Kelly as a student in my graduate class, Principles of Creative Problem-Solving at SUNY Buffalo State this semester. In the course, students work on real problems that are important to them in their real life.

Applications of Creative Problem Solving

Kelly decided to apply what she was learning about Creative Problem-Solving to Crystal’s problem. Here is what she had to say:

I am currently tutoring a student online because she was suspended from school. I have been struggling to connect with her and I was worried she wasn’t learning anything from our sessions. I initially thought the problem was that she was rebelling and didn’t want to do school work because she wasn’t actually in the school. What I was doing wasn’t helping the situation.

I brought my problem to our class with Dr. Firestien. Using Creative Problem-Solving, I found the correct problem was more likely that she was struggling and didn’t want to ask for help. I also realized that it was me who was part of the problem. This insight was the breakthrough that allowed the group to give me ideas to change how I was teaching and how I was supporting her efforts.

In three short weeks, she was communicating with me, asking questions and answering them herself. She was getting work done quickly, doing it well, and her grades were going up. When all of this happened, she was able to petition to come back to school.

Without our class and Creative Problem-Solving, I don’t know if I would have solved my problem and helped her to get to where she is today.

Redefining the Problem

Kelly did an amazing job of redefining the problem. It wasn’t that Crystal was a rebel and ignoring her school work, as she originally thought. Crystal was struggling, and sheepish to ask for the help she needed. Sometimes what we think is the problem is not the problem at all.

My Recommendation

Next time, when you have a tough problem to solve, don’t accept your first definition of the problem as the real problem. Step back from the problem, just like Kelly did, and look at the situation from a different perspective. You will be amazed at the new insights that you will get.

Kelly’s story and many others will be featured in my upcoming book, Solve the Real Problem, scheduled for release later this year.

Dr. Roger Firestien

Dr. Roger Firestien has taught more people to lead the creative process than anyone else in the world.

Called “The Gold Standard” of creativity training by his clients, he has presented programs in creativity to over 600 organizations nationally and internationally ranging from major fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, universities, associations and churches.

Dr. Firestien is an associate professor and senior faculty at the Center for Applied Imagination at SUNY Buffalo State, President of Innovation Resources, Inc. and a guest lecturer at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine.

Roger is the author of six books, including Leading on the Creative Edge and Why didn’t I think of that? His latest book: Create in a Flash: A leader’s recipe for breakthrough innovation is now available worldwide.

His expert views on creativity have been reported in Fast Company, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily, INC and The New York Times.

You can find his new nine-part video series on innovation on the Open-Sesame on-line learning platform.

Dr. Firestien’s seventh book tentatively titled: What you think IS the problem, is NOT the problem, is scheduled for release in early 2023.

If you want to read more articles from Dr. Roger Firestien click the link.

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