Creative Problem Solving With Visual Metaphors

Do you ever get stuck in a rut? Do you sometimes wish you could snap out of your well worn mental grooves and discover fresh, new and shiny creative Mind Bombs!


When you’re stuck in a creative mental block or ‘problem state’ you are only using a limited portion of your mind. And the fact is the problem remains so because you try to use the same neural circuits to gain creative insight, which is futile. As Einstein famously said:

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

So how can we think about problems or projects from different perspectives in a way that gives rise to useful new understandings?

One of the first things to do is to stop dwelling on the problem. And one of the best ways to do this is to become aware of the structure of the problem. In other words, how does your mind create the problem state: Where are the pictures located in space? How big are they? Are they in colour or black & white?

Focusing on the attributes of your internal thought process’s enables you to go to another level of thinking.

Doing this alone can bring about creative insight but you can go much further by manipulating the internal images.

A powerful way to do this is with the use of Metaphorical Images or Icons.

Let’s say you were stuck with new ways to move forward with a project. If you were to become aware of your internal images you may see yourself in a small, dim and distant picture looking frustrated…

So if you were to ask yourself, “What is that like?”, you may think it is like being stuck in a muddy bog. That becomes your metaphorical image or icon for the ‘stuck state.’

What you can then do is remove or add things directly into that image. Play with it and change it. This can be a really nice and easy way of changing unconscious structures which can free up your creative resources.

Below I have included an excellent technique from “The Half Second Rule” Special Report that enables you to quickly shift problem states into new creative insight utilising the power of metaphorical imagery.

Give it a go now because I think you’ll enjoy it! 😉

Merging Metaphors

(This is a really interesting technique that makes full use of your unconscious resources. You can use it to help you resolve ‘stuck states.’ Adapted from a technique called ‘Spinning Icons’ developed by Joe Munshaw and Nelson Zink.)

1. Select a problem state.

2. As you think about your problem state what visual image comes to mind? Notice where it is located in space.

3. Break your current state: eg) Remember you phone number backwards or look up and notice the patterns on the ceiling. Now think about the desired resource state (or outcome, or goal) you would like instead. Notice how you represent this as a visual image. Pay attention to where it is located in space.

4. Now allow your mind to turn the first picture (problem state) into a metaphorical symbol or icon. Keep it in the same location in space. (This visual metaphor could be quite complex or it may be as simple as a colour. Just trust your unconscious.)

TOP TIP: It can be useful to ask yourself, “What is this problem state like?” This often allows a metaphorical representation to arise.

5. Do the same thing with the desired resource state you selected in step 3, making sure to place the new metaphor symbol in the same location in space as the original image.

6. Now see the two metaphor symbols at the same time noticing their locations in space. Next slowly rotate them around each other. Keep rotating them around each other and do so faster and faster. Do this spinning for about 10 seconds allowing the rotation to be so fast that you can no longer track the images and you may even feel a little confused.

7. Now allow the images to merge together, that’s right. And push this merged image out in front of you where you can view it easily. Describe the new image briefly, quickly moving to step 8.

8. Immediately begin telling WHATEVER story comes to mind. Just allow yourself to start telling a story. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be a real memory, a story or just simply made up ramblings. The point being is that this process taps into your vast unconscious resources.

9. Now ask yourself, “How is this story relevant to my problem/challenge?” or “How can this story help resolve my problem?” (This step can help to give you conscious insight into how the previous steps have made some useful changes.)

Did you like that? It’s great isn’t it! Making use of your own metaphorical icons to shift your internal states is an excellent way to harness the power of your vast unconscious resources.

So what else could you now use this technique on?

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