Think Like a Detective and Solve Problems in a More Creative Way

To me, a great idea often resembles a huge puzzle picture. At first glance, it may appear whole and perfect, but when you take a closer look, you will discover that it consists of small parts some of which are sometimes missing.

Those missing parts of the puzzle may sometimes be pieces of information, steps in the project execution which are not yet defined or small problems or issues that need further creative thinking.

Filling the gaps that keep us away from our ultimate goal can be tiresome and frustrating, so many individuals lose patience along the way and many brilliant ideas never see the light of the day.

how to think like a detective
photo: yuriy bogdanov

How to Think Like a Detective

Instead of feeling discouraged, I suggest you take a look at your creative problem from another point of view. Better think of it as a detective story, a murder mystery with many missing parts that you have to put together. Remember stories and films about famous detectives like Hercules Poaro or Sherlock Holmes and complicated murder cases that they always managed to solve? What is typical of them is that they did not have complicated technology to rely on, they simply used their own analytical and creative thinking skills when putting together the pieces of the murder puzzle.

If we assume their way of thinking maybe we will be able to overcome the obstacles that we sometimes encounter in our creative thinking process. Let us take a look at how detectives think and what skills they use in unravelling the truth.


Observation is an essential part of the learning process. Observation and repetition are the easiest ways of learning new things. Even animals learn through observation. However, we have to distinguish between looking at things and observing things because most of the times we look but rarely do we bother to then the world around us. Looking at things involves turning your eyes in some direction in order to see somebody or something. Observing means to watch and perceive something with attention and to aim to analyse and learn about something. You need to take your time and pay particular attention to small details which are typically overlooked. In our everyday thinking, we often tend to make assumptions based on obvious things, which in the end lead us to obvious conclusions, so we miss important insights that could influence our thinking and inspire us to think of new and unique ideas.

Use of Logic

At the beginning of every creative process, you need to collect heaps of information about a particular problem or situation that you will be able to work with during the brainstorming process. Sometimes it is easy to get the information you need, but sometimes you will have to search hard for data to get the full picture of the subject that you are dealing with.

So what happens when, for some reason, some information is not available to you? In this case, you should rely on your knowledge and experience and search for logical answers to your questions. During this process, you should dispose of the uncertain, unlikely and, of course, illogical, and try and discover the most probable answers.

Use of Intuition

If logic does not help, you should rely on something more transcendental – your intuition. Just how many times have you had a gut feeling that something is not right, or felt butterflies in your stomach whenever something exciting was about to happen? How many times have you met a person that you did not seem to like for some unexplainable reason and you felt uncomfortable around him/her although he/she seemed perfectly nice and normal? Sometimes you simply know that something is so and if this feeling is too intense, then it should certainly be taken into consideration.


Curiosity is the dominant characteristic of all creative minds. It manifests through a constant need to ask questions and look for answers. It is an unstoppable force which drives people to discover and learn new things. To be able to use curiosity to its full extent, you need to learn how to ask the right questions. So use your logic and intuition, focus on the information you have gathered through research and observation and ask smart and relevant questions.

If you like this and previous posts please share them with your creative friends or visit the NCY Podcast and listen to my shows about creativity.

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