Creativity and Problem solving

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.

–        Edward de Bono

How do you solve a problem? Normally we use three methods…

1.Algorithms- Which is step-by-step procedure which leads to solution. Mathematicians love this method of problem solving.

2.Heuristics- Which is mental rule- of –thumb method of solving of problem. It might not always result in correct solution, but it helps you to solve problem faster ex. 3.8956 x 4.67345 may be time consuming, to save time just multiply 4 x 5. Heuristics also helps you in faster decision making ex. which shares to buy or not to buy without detailed analysis.

3.Trial- and – error method- This approach involves trying a number of different solutions and ruling out those that do not work. Scientists love this method.

If you bring creativity into problem solving it helps you in coming up with solutions without restoring to above methods. This is called as Insight Approach. Here solution comes as a sudden insight.

I will talk about a few cases were creativity / insights led to solution of a problem. Most famous example is that of Archimedes who came up with Archimedes principle as he entered his bath tub.


August Kekule was unable to define structure of Benzene- C6 H6, where 6 hydrogen atoms are attached to 6 carbon atoms. Solution came in form of a dream where he saw snakes catching their own tails. Kekule could then visualise the structure in from of a hexagonal benzene ring with carbon forming double bond with other carbon atom.


Alexander Fleming went on vacation and stacked bacterial culture in one corner. When he came back he saw on culture was contaminated by fungus, and fungus had destroyed bacterial colonies near it. This gave Fleming insight to problem he was facing; the fungus contained something that destroyed the bacteria which caused infection. That something was Penicillin.








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