What does it mean to be flexible? Maybe for some of us it means we can arrange our schedules to accommodate work and life events. For some it may mean flexibility of opinion. In other words, some people might be willing to change their minds about certain beliefs, thoughts or even convictions. However, flexibility, while on the surface may appear to be fairly straightforward, is made up of three key elements, creativity, integrative ability and self-direction. Let’s look at each of these and see how they combine to ensure flexibility.
Creativity is not just the domain of artists, poets or musicians. Everyone can and needs to be creative. Here’s how being creative helps us in our everyday lives. Being creative affords us the ability to better understand and synthesize new information. Furthermore, it opens our minds to a broader range of ideas to help solve problems. The ability to solve problems is essential to any business.
While you may think of logical and intuitive as the odd couple, we use both of these tools in creative thinking. Solving problems involves both linear thinking such as creating a matrix or comparing positive and negative aspects of a situation. Intuitive thinking is looking at the big picture. Some people scoff at the tools a trainer may use in any training session such as analogies, role-playing, brainstorming, drawing and writing. However, these are the very tools that open our minds and afford us those coveted “Eureka, I think I’ve got it!” moments. Here are five tips to help you think more creatively.
- Don’t stop at your first solution to a problem. Think beyond that one and see what other avenues might be available.
- Yes, do brainteasers, puzzles and games to help develop what we are so fond of calling outside the box thinking.
- Ask why? Ask why not?
- Take old ideas and see how they can be made “new” or fit into something “new”
- Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm!
Do you know these two people?
Fred often has mental blocks. He tends to focus on one component of a problem and often fails to see the most obvious solution. When asked to allocate a small part of the budget to something, he gets hung up on exactly how to do it. When one client has an issue, Fred will focus all his attention and energy on that client and neglect the needs of others. He forgets to call people back. In other words, Fred has a narrow focus and is unable to see the big picture.
Fredericka, has the ability to integrate all of the variables of a situation into a homogeneous picture. She fully understands the situation in its entirety and makes decisions about every aspect of the problem whether it’s planning, resource allocation or other decisions. Fredericka is a good project planner, a proactive thinker and is rarely caught off guard.
Most people have the idea that problem-solving is a one-step process. Step One: See the problem. Step Two: Solve the problem. The fact is that problem solving involves multiple components that build on one another, including:
- Problem/situation analysis
- Integrative ability
- Problem Management
Problem solving involves the ability to identify the elements of a problem, identify its critical components, envision different types of situations and create a variety of solutions. Here are five tips on how to enhance your integrative ability.
- Find the middle line between acting without all the facts and “paralysis by analysis.”
- After analyzing a problem. Think about your past experiences and you may find a similar situation with a similar or parts of the solution that will match the current one. However, avoid having preconceived opinions.
- Avoid Duck Tape solutions. Solve the problem so it doesn’t occur again,
- Get to the root of reoccurring problems.
- Ask for help.
Self-direction comes from deep inside each of us. Not everyone’s is fully developed. We all know people who see no problem with not having a developed sense of self-direction. They seem to lack a sense of mission, do only what is required and no more. They see change as an unwelcome intrusion and more trouble than it’s worth, no matter what the change may entail.
You, I’m sure, are just the opposite. You are committed to your job, are enthusiastic and typically achieve positive results. You set personal goals, are passionate and open to change. You no doubt have courage, integrity and are resilient. You take personal responsibility for making tough decisions even though they may be unpopular and OMG! you admit your mistakes. However, if you know someone without a sense of self-direction or if you tend to lack self-direction, here are five tips on how to develop it.
- Make both short and long-range plans. Keep your goals where you can see them every day.
- Be resilient.
- Learn from mistakes. Every problem is not a 4-alarm fire and there is seldom a need to over react. Over reacting wastes time, energy and resources.
- Admit your mistakes and come up with a workable solution.
- Hold yourself accountable for your own success.
So there we have flexibility in a nutshell. You don’t have to be a pretzel, change who you are, or bend in the wind with every new idea that comes down the pike. Just use the 15 tips to be more flexible, use your integrative abilities and develop a strong sense of self-direction.
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