Chapter 5How to Solve Any Problem

The majority of students who take my course are concentrating their studies in engineering, psychology, or economics. Typically, very few of them consider themselves artists. At the start of a semester, I ask my new students whether they can draw a copy of a photo of Brad Pitt – I mean a near‐flawless replica of the photo. The overwhelming majority responds with a resounding “No.” Some claim they don't possess the artistic gene, whereas others concede that with enough training, they probably could do it.

The truth is, I can teach just about anyone to draw a near perfect replica of this photo in a matter of seconds. It doesn't require a particular genetic gift or the development of a physical skill. The problem isn't one of artistry, but of decision‐ making.

For so long, we have defined creativity as an ability to devise something representative, perhaps even functional, out of abstraction. Thinking creatively, or creative problem solving is often described as thinking “outside the box,” which in itself is an abstract concept. It begs the questions, what is the box, who made it, and how?

The answer is, the box is actually a frame, constructed by you as a function of all the information you've gathered leading up to this moment, and how you went about gathering it. In observing how others behave, solve problems, and gather their own data, you build the foundation of your framework. The way it is delivered to you, complete with the biases possessed ...

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