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IBX Insights

The Secret to Problem-Solving: Do Your Research First

By August 17, 2020April 18th, 2022Innovation
People piece a project together atop a cluttered desk

I’m a true romantic at heart. I love the idea of magic existing in the world. I’m also a huge science fiction and fantasy nerd. Books, movies, video games ― you name it, I will devour it.

I love listening to stories about when genius strikes a creator and leads to an amazing breakthrough or invention that changes life as we know it. As you can see, there’s a common theme running through these interests ― the instantaneous creation of something from nothing.

Innovation Doesn’t Happen By Magic

Creating something from nothing is what many of us perceive creativity and innovation to be. We imagine something miraculously appearing out of the blue. And why shouldn’t that happen if we put all our heart into it and want it badly enough? I’ll tell you why. All of the would-be magic and wonder are actually the product of meticulous and rigorous work.

A thousand-page fantasy novel doesn’t just appear in one week. Some authors take years or even decades building the world of their characters before even beginning to write the final product. Outside of the fantasy world, magic exists through science, which we all know is precise and can be tedious before a breakthrough is reached.

The truth behind creative genius and innovation is not random brilliance striking the lucky few. It’s the creative process built upon an entire body of work that involves structure, failures, research, and experience.

Understand the User Experience

At the Independence Center for Innovation, we teach and use design thinking to solve problems in creative and innovative ways through a human-centered lens.

We guide organizations through the design thinking process by encouraging them to be creative and come up with an applicable and user-appropriate solution. What most people we work with don’t realize before they begin the process is that, akin to the hero’s journey in the epic fantasy novel, design thinking requires a lot of work before a solution can be reached.

There is extensive value in doing your due diligence when beginning the creative problem-solving process. You will understand your user in a more holistic way and perhaps avoid repeating work that has already been done, keeping your ideas fresh. Or maybe, you’ll find an existing idea that can be repurposed to fit your user’s needs.

The more you know about a person, phenomenon, process, product, and the various contexts in which they fit into the world, the easier it will be to understand how to invoke the right type of change you need to solve the problem at hand.

Designing a Creative Solution Requires Research

Engaging in what I like to call design research, which is made up of primary and secondary research methods used to gather insight about and from an end user, informs better design and iteration throughout the process.

When conducting primary research, you go straight to the source (the users/stakeholders) to understand their experience. The design research I’m talking about goes a bit further. This is when you seek out information from places like the web, journals, newspapers, public records, statistics, previous studies, etc. To put it simply, this is when you do your homework and really try to understand what makes your user tick. Through this research you’ll find meaning, and that’s what can lead you down the path of creative problem solving.

Using a Full Toolbox to Problem-Solve

I like to compare design thinking to painting a still life, like say a basket of fruit, created by a handful of artists that work in different styles. The first artist is an impressionist, the second a cubist, the third a surrealist, and the last a sculptor. All four of these artists will see, interpret, and create a version of the fruit basket completely unique to their style.

But in order to create something truly new, fresh, creative, and innovative to the art world, we might ask all of them to work together to create one piece of art. Can you imagine what could come from the collaboration of four minds who use extremely varied practices? Or what if a fifth artist had practiced all four movements of art, and was perhaps a musician as well?

Whether collaborating or working alone in the design thinking process, the ability to draw upon a wider body of knowledge gives creators a well-rounded and more robust toolbox to use as they approach a problem.

So that’s the truth behind the creative process. If you’d like to learn more about how to implement the process in your work or if you want to know more about design thinking in general, please be sure to check out our online Design Tool Kit.

Tori Kontor

Tori Kontor is a Senior Innovation Consultant on the Innovation Team at Independence Blue Cross. She is responsible for strategic project sourcing, design, management, and facilitation for a variety of clients within and beyond the Independence family of companies. She also creates custom innovation and design training, taught in workshops and sessions both virtually and in hybrid modalities. She holds an MPH from Drexel University and draws strongly upon her background in public health and qualitative research to inform her design approach for problem solving and solution implementation. Tori finds her creativity is cultivated most successfully through trying new things and getting outside whenever she can!