Innovation in a Crisis: From Problem to Possibility

Kathryn HaydonBusiness, Grow Your Creativity

Innovation in a Crisis: From Problem to Possibility

By Kathryn P. Haydon

Business, Grow Your Creativity

Now that the world’s in crisis, you might think that “innovation” has become irrelevant. Actually, it’s necessary more than ever. 

Innovation is the implementation of new and novel solutions. Innovation, along with the creative thinking that fuels it, thrive with constraints. Right now, constraints abound.

The organizations and individuals who have tended to their creativity, who have built processes into their teams to support it, and who have worked to develop a culture of agility and experimentation will emerge from this crisis ahead. 

Creative Thinking in Crisis

Due to stay-at-home orders and non-essential business closures, an independent bookstore put out a new service: mystery book boxes for delivery.

Union Square Hospitality Group created a relief fund for employees, funded by gift card purchases and CEO Danny Meyer’s own paycheck.

The Cincinnati Zoo livestreams daily virtual visits with their animals. 

A care home stages “socially distanced” Bingo games with residents seated in their individual doorways. 

And so much more. 

These are organizations that have turned problems into possibilities, that have not let the new and ever-changing constraints stop their good work in its tracks. 

Yes, it can be exhausting to keep pivoting with each new constraint that comes forward. It can be demoralizing to have your previous momentum popped like a balloon. And there may be temporary suffering. Despite all of that, you can keep moving forward even with stark challenges staring you in the face. 

Here’s the most poignant tool I can offer to help you move forward, day by day, with the creative thinking you need.

How to Turn Problems Into Possibilities

Creative problem solving process is full of useful tools that we can activate to move forward when we get stuck. Ideally, we can apply them before we get stuck. 

One of these tools is what I call in The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative “Asking Possibility Questions.” 

State your problem: We have no income. 

Turn it into a possibility question: What might be all the ways to bring in new streams of income? 

The key is to use those six little words. What might be all the ways . . . 

Some more examples: 

Our physical location is closed. => What might be all the ways to serve outside of a physical location?

We have no income to pay our employees. => What might be all the ways to put our employees to work in new ways that are called for at this moment? 

My community needs help but I don’t know what to do. => What might be all the ways to serve my community? 

Now is just the right time to nurture your creative thinking to enable you to move forward under changing constraints. Start with your most pressing problem. Turn it into a possibility question. Keep practicing this reframing tool. Make it natural. Make it a habit to ask the kind of question that will nudge you toward the possibilities that await. 


Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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