When it comes down to it, our job – and our personal life – require constant problem solving. You solve problems all day everyday without even realizing it. “I’m hungry. Better get some Cap’n Crunch.” Problem: solved. But when it comes to finding solutions to complex problems at work, sometimes we can get overwhelmed or lost in the process.
Here are ten TED talks to help you look at problem solving from a new perspective and come up with innovative and unique solutions:
1. Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast – Tom Wujec
When you’re faced with a complex problem, sometimes it’s helpful to break your problem down to its most simple elements. Tom Wujec takes you through a design exercise that helps you understand how we collaborate and make sense of things.
2. Play this game to come up with original ideas – Shimpei Takahashi
We can sometimes get so wrapped in the data that all creativity gets sucked out of the room. While we love us some data, there’s a time when you need to step away from the data and let your brains be free. Shimpei Takahashi has a simple exercise that will help you make random connections and come up with lots of new ideas. Sure, they’re not all going to be genius ideas, but it’s up to you to find which ideas are closest to the mark.
3. Creative problem-solving in the face of extreme limits – Navi Radjou
While many of Navi Radjou’s examples apply directly to third-world countries where they have limited resources, we can use his principles to find clever solutions to problems regardless of the resources available to us. It’s all about tapping into our human ingenuity and learning to do more with less.
4. The power of believing you can improve – Carol Dweck
Sometimes finding the solution to a problem is all about having the right mindset. If you don’t believe you have the ability to grow and solve problems, you probably won’t grow or solve or solve problems. Pretty straightforward, right? But Carol Dweck talks about how having a growth mindset can help us become more engaged and teach us how to process errors, learn from them, and correct them.
5. What do we do with all of this big data? – Susan Etlinger
There’s a lot of data out there, and in order to find meaning from it, we need to deepen our critical thinking skills. We need to ask hard questions and pay attention to how we think so the data doesn’t swallow us up. We are not passive consumers of data and technology. We can shape the role it plays in our lives and the way we make meaning from it.
6. Want to innovate? How to be a “now-ist” – Joi Ito
The Internet has made innovation way simpler and less expensive. And now that innovation can happen so quickly, you can build out your idea and make improvements before you’ve even had time to ask for permission. Joi Ito’s advice is to “deploy or die.” You can solve problems and create innovative products by taking action, staying connected, always learning, and being present.
7. Why truly innovative science demands a leap into the unknown – Uri Alon
As marketers, we have to act like scientists a lot of the time. We study all of our market research and data and then create tests and iterations based on our research only to find that our experiments don’t give us the answers we expected. Uri Alon helps us appreciate the journey to solutions and find ways to be creative in the process.
8. How to make stress your friend – Kelly McGonigal
Our jobs can be stressful. We have crazy deadlines, huge projects, and complex problems to solve. The thing is, stress isn’t going to go away. But if we change our attitude about stress and view it as a positive thing, we’ll reduce our amount of stress. Weird, huh? And once you’ve reduced your stress level, you’ll be much more productive.
9. Embrace the near win – Sarah Lewis
Not everything we do is going to be a masterpiece. While this realization is a little disappointing, it gives us the push we need to move forward and improve in our craft. Don’t let your almost-failure or near-win keep you from working toward your goals and pursuits.
10. What I discovered in New York City trash – Robin Nagle
You probably don’t need another reason to watch this TED talk beyond the title, Robin Nagle shows what lengths she was willing to go in order to answer the simple question: who cleans up after us? As we try to solve problems and get answers to complex questions, sometimes we have to get our hands dirty and go straight to the source.
There are millions of different ways to approach problems, but we usually go about it the same way every time. So the next time you jump into a brainstorming session, come with a few more ideas to encourage collaboration and deep thinking. These TED talks should give you the tools you need to change the way you think and improve your problem solving skills.
History of Critical Thinking
“The intellectual roots of critical thinking are as ancient as its etymology, traceable, ultimately, to the teaching practice and vision of Socrates 2,500 years ago who discovered by a method of probing questioning that people could not rationally justify their confident claims to knowledge. Confused meanings, inadequate evidence, or self-contradictory beliefs often lurked beneath smooth but largely empty rhetoric.”
“He [Socrates] established the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well. His method of questioning is now known as "Socratic Questioning" and is the best known critical thinking teaching strategy. In his mode of questioning, Socrates highlighted the need in thinking for clarity and logical consistency.”
More on critical thinking through the ages is available here.
Eight Dimensions of Critical Thinking
The Foundation for Critical Thinking, one of the leading schools of thought on modern-day critical thinking, highlights eight dimensions of critical thinking: Purpose, Question, Information, Interpretation, Concept, Assumptions, Implications, Perspectives.
1. The element of Purpose provokes us to examine the intent of a specific claim or statement.2. This second element of critical thinking, Question, prompts us to clearly identify the problem or issue at the core of any given line of reasoning. Without a clear and specific question, it may be difficult to clearly define issues or challenges.3. The Information element of critical thinking guides us to consider the specific pieces of evidence and/or data points presented. It’s important to note that data points do not always refer to numbers; data can be information in the form of testimony or an interview.4. The fourth element, Interpretation, encourages us to reflect on the underlying inferences we are drawing between the information and claims we encounter during our daily lives. Are we linking ideas logically or are there flaws to our connections? How is the information or data being translated into real life?5. The Concept element urges us to investigate the validity of the laws, theories and the accepted principles on which claims and arguments are based.6. When assessing claims or information, the Assumption element of critical thinking encourages us to explore what the claim or information may be taking for granted. What are we missing?7. The Implications element of critical thinking prompts us to deeply consider the consequences of statements and claims to determine the potential downstream effects.8. The last and final element of critical thinking, Point of View, ensures that we reflect upon the source and perspective of claims presented during everyday life. Point of View is especially important since it can help identify limitations or bias. More information is available about the eight elements of critical thinking here.