Problem Solving, Creativity, Brains, & Co-coaching

For some time it has been recognised that problem solving tends to work through four stages:

  • Play – when a problem and all its parts are analysed, stirred up, and understood, whether systematically or by a process akin to a child playing with food on a plate;
  • Incubation – when the problem solver’s attention is turned away from the problem in hand, whether by getting up from the desk in search of a drink, or by having a good night’s sleep;
  • Illumination – when the solution suddenly presents itself, often with a sense of certainty as to its rightness; and
  • Verification – when the solution is tested against the problem and, more often than not, found to be the right answer.

What is going on here?

How can it be that ‘doing nothing’ (during “incubation”) can be so effective?

Our brains are made of two halves:

  • The left side, which controls the right side of our bodies and is generally responsible for rational thought; and
  • The right side, which controls the left side of our bodies and is generally responsible for creative and artistic activity.

So when we are ‘incubating’ a problem, it’s not that we are doing nothing, but rather we are giving the right side of our brains a chance to chip in and help out. Thus it can be very helpful to create distance between us and a problem, and this is well articulated in Prof’ Richard Wiseman’s book “Did You Spot the Gorilla?” The book makes clear that this can have major business benefits, as well as personal ones: consequently it’s not about Rational VERSUS Creativity but, by using both sides of our brains, its about harnessing Rationality AND Creativity.

Of course creating this distance can be difficult for those not used to it – but help could be at hand through co-coaching. Co-coaching is the process where people, working in pairs, support each other to improve their performance. From my experience as a participant in trials, co-coaching does help create distance between self and a problem. It also helps build urgency to get on and just do it!

For more information on co-coaching, see “cococo” in ‘Interesting Links”.

Accessing the benefits of both sides of our brains, can be a bit like using a campervan. The left (rational) side of our brains looks after maintenance, and keeps us within the law and the Highway Code. But that’s all a bit boring, and not why we buy a van.

The right (creative/artistic) side of our brains can help us decide where to go with the van, so we can wake up somewhere spectacular, and then fully appreciate the beauty of the moment.

As the advert’ puts it: “priceless”.


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5 Responses to “Problem Solving, Creativity, Brains, & Co-coaching”

  1. Susie Says:

    Well said!


  2. Sherita Searcy Says:

    Ditto Susie. Co-coaching is a great way to unify minds and allow further clarity in the middle of a misty mind. Like minded people create a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Smile. Great post.

  3. Ravi Chhabra Says:

    Another thing helps in problem solving is to ask, “What are some of the possible solutions to this problem?” and do not answer for a while – just like in incubation … may be sleep over it. Several times by next morning I have been pleasantly surprised with simple and practical solution/s.

  4. Rogen Says:

    The four stages mentioned in the blog is a systematic approach converting intuition into a rational thought and it is true in all the cases. But people will not realise this as they are overwhelmed with the solution.

    The incubation stage is very important in those areas where the usage of creativity is essential, like ad agencies. The work culture in some MNCs underlines this fact, where creative flow happens only when the work environment supports the incubation stage.

    What I felt about co-coaching is nothing but ‘Synergy’. But it will be utilized to the maximum only when the persons coming together for co-coaching are complementory in nature. There should be some understanding between the co-coaching people. That does not mean they should be like-minded personalities. Like-minded persons will give a small portion of the overall result. But persons who are complementory in nature helps in team winning- where one person lacks, the other one strengthens and vice versa.

  5. Response to ‘Problem Solving, Creativity, Brains, & Co-coaching’ « Canvas Says:

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