J is for: Join the Dots when Problem-Solving


History is full of innovative concepts that were the result of combining existing ideas in new and novel ways. James Dyson did exactly this when he combined a vacuum cleaner with a sawdust cyclone to invent the first bagless vacuum cleaner. You could say he cleaned up at problem-solving.

Think about a problem you’re trying to solve. Grab some Post-it notes and write down one problem-solving idea on each one. Mix and match the Post-it notes together. How many new and interesting problem-solving combinations can you discover?

The image of James Dyson combining a vacuum cleaner to a sawdust cyclone reminds me of one of my favorite comedians, Red Green. He always had a segment on his show where he would illuminate the benefits of duct tape by combining 2 unrelated items to make a new outlandish invention. I often wondered how the show’s writers came up with those creative and hilarious problem-solving skits.

I’m writing this on January 31, 2019

This week a polar vortex hit the Midwest. My husband and I drove down to Rochester, Minnesota a few days ago for some appointments and procedures he had scheduled at the Mayo Clinic. We stayed at an Airbnb for the first time. When we arrived, the temperatures were dropping fast. The wind hit our face like the crack of a whip as we moved quickly to get our bags from the car, into the house. We stayed warm that night, but our car did not.

The next morning, we rose to get ready for a day filled with tests and consultations. My husband was supposed to begin a new trial to treat his cancer.  I poured coffee down my throat, but he had to fast for lab work. To spare himself having to look on with envy, he braved the –28* cold to start the car. No luck. He returned with the grim news that the engine wouldn’t turn over.

So he began problem-solving.

He tried to jump start the car, using the Airbnb host’s car. It didn’t do a lick of good. Then, he began to think like James Dyson. He pulled an electric heater from the kitchen, out to the driveway where he placed it in front of the vehicle (our host was very accommodating). He could see that the heat wasn’t reaching the engine. More problem-solving. “Do you have a fan?” he asked our host. He wanted to blow the heat onto the engine to ensure it would get warmer. The host remembered that she had a small heater with a built-in fan. Then Dan saw a mattress in the garage, waiting for the junk pile. SO he grabbed that and pulled it in front of the car to block the icy cold wind and keep the heat in.  Finally, we just had to give up.

We would have to deal with this another day

Now, we needed to get to the clinic. Our host was kind enough to give us a ride. We added a day to our stay, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get the car started until the cold snap moved on to the east. We would see if AAA Roadside Assistance could help. Sometimes problem-solving leads you to a solution quickly. Other times it rules out options that just aren’t viable. We have to do this in all areas of our lives, from our health to our creative endeavors, to our car troubles. Joining the dots and thinking outside of the box can be especially helpful.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge

A to Z Blogging ChallengeI’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ideas for “Thinking Creatively.” I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will focus on “Avoiding Burnout.” I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is J is for Join the Dots.

What problems have you tried to solve creatively?

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather EricksonThe Ericksons

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

Have any questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! By commenting, you agree to the terms of my privacy policy.

5 comments on “J is for: Join the Dots when Problem-Solving

Glad you were able to get to the appointment. Sucks that your car wouldn’t start.

Have you seen the series Connections? It’s all about how various people combined things in ways that we would not expect to make the things that are ubiquitous in our world.

Hi Liz. I found Connections on Daily Motion. Thank you for the recommendation. That’s the kind of series that is right up my alley.

The most difficult part of joining the dots to solve a problem is to remain calm until a solution presents itself. In the case of a Minnesota winter doing what Minnesota winters do, you both kept your cool and accomplished what you were there to do. I remember setting an alarm to rise at midnight to start my car engine so it would start again for work in the morning. Yup, typical Minnesota winters. Now I live in Hawaii and don’t even own a car.
(Theme: very short stories with varied genres)

Hi Gail. Hawaii is a definite upgrade–especially in January.

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