Support The World's Smartest Network

Help the New York Academy of Sciences bring late-breaking scientific information about the COVID-19 pandemic to global audiences. Please make a tax-deductible gift today.

This site uses cookies.
Learn more.


This website uses cookies. Some of the cookies we use are essential for parts of the website to operate while others offer you a better browsing experience. You give us your permission to use cookies, by continuing to use our website after you have received the cookie notification. To find out more about cookies on this website and how to change your cookie settings, see our Privacy policy and Terms of Use.

We encourage you to learn more about cookies on our site in our Privacy policy and Terms of Use.

Five Creative Problem-Solving Tips for Aspiring STEM Professionals

Published December 18, 2018

Five Creative Problem-Solving Tips for Aspiring STEM Professionals

We all have problems—some large, some small. What's unique about STEM professionals is that they've been trained to take a particular approach to problem-solving—a creative approach.

Below are some of the tools and methods that STEM professionals often employ when trying to solve a problem.

1. Don’t sweat it if you don’t think you’re creative.
Creativity isn’t something that some people are born with and others not; it’s a skill that's learned and developed with time. With curiosity, imagination, and practice, you can start flexing your creative muscles.

2. Think positively, and be open-minded.
Not surprisingly, positive thinking can have a direct impact on how well you solve problems. It’s also important to have what scientists call “an ill-defined mindset,” meaning you approach problems knowing there could be many possible solutions instead of focusing only on one.

3. Try different approaches.
Scientists use different methods to answer both simple and complex questions. If you start off moving in one direction and get really frustrated or feel that you're not finding any useful results, a great thing to do is step back and try again from the beginning, this time using a different method.

4. Experiment with "design thinking."
This is one of the hottest methods of problem-solving today. Born out of the tech industry, design thinking is different because it starts with a group of people, rather than thinking on your own. The group works together to come up with a lot of different solutions, then creates prototypes of the best ideas, testing and tweaking them with time in order to find a great solution.

5. Think of failure as one step on the way to success.
For centuries, great thinkers have transformed their imperfect experiments into inventions that changed the world. Did you know that one of the most popular social networks—Instagram—started out as an unsuccessful app? After several iterations and tweaks, it was reborn as the platform we know and love today.

Want to get more suggestions for solving problems like a STEM professional? Check out our Creative Problem Solving video series.