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Published on:

13th Oct 2022

Optimise Your SEO Career: Creative Thinking (Is it worth the hype?)

In this week's episode of The SEO Mindset Podcast, Sarah and Tazmin talk all about creative problem solving, including what it is, how to do it and benefits.

About 'The SEO Mindset' Podcast

Build your inner confidence and thrive.

The SEO Mindset is a weekly podcast that will give you actionable tips, guidance and advice to help you not only build your inner confidence but to also thrive in your career.

Each week we will cover topics specific to careers in the SEO industry but also broader topics too including professional and personal development.

Your hosts are Life Coach Tazmin Suleman and SEO Manager Sarah McDowell, who between them have over 20 years of experience working in the industry.

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We'd love to hear from you. We have many ways that you can reach out to us to say hello, ask a question, or suggest a topic for us to discuss on a future episode.

Twitter - @sarahmcduk, @sulemantazmin, @seomindsetpod

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Copyright 2022 Sarah & Tazmin

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In House SEO - 3rd Edition of the Book

Blue Array's 3rd edition of their 'In House SEO' book is now available to buy. It includes insights from 29 in house SEO experts and you may recognise one of the co-authors, yes, that's right, co-host of the podcast has a chapter about inclusive marketing for the LGBTQ+ community. Blue Array founder, Simon Schnieders, has very kindly offered to give those that listen to the podcast a copy of the book for FREE! There are 5 books up for grabs. All you need to do is reach out to us either on Twitter (link below) or drop us an email (theseomindsetpodcast@gmail.com), and let us know you are interested in getting your hands on a free copy. We will then pick 5 winners at random. Good luck everyone!

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Transcript
Sarah:

Hello and a very warm welcome to the SEO Mindset Podcast, your weekly go to podcast where you can get actionable growth tips and advice that you can optimize optimize your SEO career and not just for the algorithms. We are back with season three Tazmin. Welcome back!

Tazmin:

Welcome. I'm so glad to be back on here. It feels like a long time since you and I have talked on the podcast. It feels really good to be back and it feels really great to get people's feedback, that they're enjoying the podcast, that they're getting value from it, which just makes it all worthwhile, definitely.

Sarah:

And it feels like we've had a bit of a break and ready to get back into it, ready to give people episodes, talk to people, get guests on. So, yeah, it's great to be back, isn't it? So before we get into this week's episode, I just want to let people know a couple of things of how they can support and follow the podcast. So we decided to set ourselves up on Buy Me a Coffee. So Buy Me a Coffee is a platform where you can do one off donations to people like me and Tazmin. So if you enjoy what we do with the podcast, you can give us a one off donation to support us. So that's really easy to do. Just go to theseomindset.co.uk/donate, I will include a link in the show notes, and also you can follow and subscribe to the podcast by following theseomindset.co.uk/listen. So when you go to that URL, and again, I will include a link in the show notes, but you can easily subscribe and follow via your podcast playing platform of choice. So whether that's Google, iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts, you can.

Tazmin:

Yeah, I'm really excited because it's not a topic I know a lot about, which means I get to learn something new.

Sarah:

It's always good to learn something new.

Tazmin:

Absolutely. I will be putting this in my journal tonight when I ask myself the question, what did you learn today? I will mention it.

Sarah:

So we should probably tell our listeners what they will be learning and what this episode is about. Right, so this week it's going to be all about creative problem solving. So we'll be discussing what that is, how to do it, and the benefits. Okay, so creative Problem Solving, or CPS, is a way of solving problems or identifying opportunities when conventional thinking has failed. Okay. It encourages you to find fresh perspectives and come up with innovative solutions so that you can formulate a plan to overcome obstacles and reach your goals. That's the definition. And just as a fun fact, it's known or people say that James Dyson, the inventor and founder of Dyson, used Creative Problem to create the successful vacuum cleaning company that he has. So he used creative problem Solving when other businesses were focused on one thing, he decided to focus on something else. And that obviously worked well for him. So there's a real life example. So you've got a definition and a real life example. What do you reckon? What do you think to creative problem solving? Off the bat?

Tazmin:

Do you know what I think people who have gone through the educational system and it's become so ingrained. So I'm quite theoretical. I like the textbooks, the structure, and in many ways it serves me well. But increasingly, as the world is changing so much faster and we are having to solve problems, which you are certainly not going to be able to go into a textbook and find the answer, you have to be more creative in how you solve the problems. You have to be a bit more experimental.

Sarah:

Yeah, and I think for me, looking back on the definition, I just love how it says about when conventional thinking has failed, that's when creative problem solving can come into play. And I think that's really important for anyone, but especially in the SEO, right? Because with SEO problems and issues that we face and those kind of things that we need to find a solution for, we can't always use conventional thinking because it might be something new to us, or there's not much data because Google keeps a lot of things for themselves or something new, like with algorithm updates and all that sort of stuff. So there's a lot of times whereas SEO people and me, myself, you have to change your thinking, don't you? And you have to be flexible, and you can't just rely on the conventional thinking. So you could relate that to conventional. So when there's something that you're looking into in regards to an SEO project, you might have your best practices or your things that you work through, and you do. However, they won't always work. And that's where sometimes you have to think outside the box, don't you, and think, okay, is there another way that I can tackle this?

Tazmin:

So what sort of characteristics should a person need to be able to work in it?

Sarah:

Well, I'm glad you asked that, because there are four core principles of creative problem solving, so let's go through them and discuss them and see what those core principles are. So I've got some big words for you here. So this is where I stumbled across them. So core principle number one is divergent and convergent thinking must be balanced. Okay? So you might be thinking, what the hell is divergent and convergent thinking? So divergent thinking is the process of generating lots of potential solutions and possibilities, otherwise known, known as mind mapping, whereas convergent thinking involves evaluating those options and choosing the most promising one. Okay, so the first core principle is these two different ways of thinking need to be balanced. So the key to creativity is learning how to identify and balance divergent and convergent thinking and knowing when to practice each one so does that make sense?

Tazmin:

Okay, I just wanted to add to the listeners, when I asked Sarah that question, I didn't know that this was the next part of the information she was going to give. Maybe that just shows how well we work together. Sarah so in my very simple brain, this means if I have a problem that I don't know how to solve, I should come up with lots of ideas really quickly, I'm assuming. So I guess speed is of the essence in this way of thinking. You don't want to be spending five years creatively thinking of an answer and then evaluating each one against a criteria that I've decided on beforehand. I don't know, maybe like with my coaching programs, if I want to think of a new suite or a new program, I come up with lots and lots of ideas and then whittle them down to the ones that make sense.

Sarah:

Yes, definitely. So doing research into this, and often we tend to use a combination of the two to develop new ideas or solutions. However, using them simultaneously I'm struggling with the big words tonight. This can result in unbalanced or biased decisions and can stifle idea generation. So it's all about getting those balances, right? And you said about just getting those ideas down, right? Don't overthink it, just jot them down. No idea is going to be stupid here. And then have a balance of them both. Okay? And then also you need to know when to practice each one. So obviously, with your divergent thinking, that's the getting those ideas down and the conversion is where you're okay, which is the best one? So which one do you use and when? Core principle number two is asking problems as questions. Now, I think you'll love this, but when you rephrase problems and challenges as openended questions with multiple possibilities, it's easier to come up with solutions.

Tazmin:

Oh, give me an example. I need an example.

Sarah:

You put me on the spot here. You need an example. So give me a challenge or a problem that you face. It could be anything.

Tazmin:

Like, I suppose one of the questions is, do I put on a live event for my coaching?

Sarah:

You've done it then, haven't you? So you've rephrased a problem and a challenge as an open ended question with multiple possibilities. Okay? So asking these types of questions generates lots of great information. So in comparison, when you come with a problem or a closed question, this will give short answers such as confirmations or disagreements. So your question, should I do a live event for this podcast? That's an easy yes or no, right? And that stops the idea generation there and then. Okay? Whereas if we phrase it as an open ended question, where you'd be like, what are some of the benefits and disadvantages of having a live event, for example, that's much more openended, and you can jot down loads of different possibilities then the idea is that problem statements tend to generate limited responses or none at all. So we need to rephrase problems and challenges as openended questions. Does that bit make sense?

Tazmin:

That does. I suppose in a way it's when you're I liken it to. When you're asking someone coaching questions, if you ask them questions which will result in a yes or a no, you're channeling the conversation. Whereas if you ask the whats and the hows and the whens, it becomes more of a conversation rather than a one way two.

Sarah:

Yeah, definitely. And it's all about that, isn't it?

Tazmin:

Yeah, I'll buy into that one.

Sarah:

Core principle number three is deferring or suspending judgment. Okay? So the idea here is that if we judge solutions early, this tends to shut down the whole idea generation. Okay? So if there's an idea or something that we judge and we're like, oh no, that's completely not going to work because of this, then it just shuts that whole idea generation down. So instead there's an appropriate and necessary time to judge ideas during the later down the stage. So at this stage, it's all about coming up with different ideas, creative solutions. And we don't want to be judging them early on because judgment and the asking why and how and logistics comes further down the line when you get into the nitty gritty. So I suppose it's getting into your head about not judging ideas first and just get these ideas down. Like, don't think about the logistics, don't think of the how to or anything like that. Don't judge, just get them down again.

Tazmin:

I get that now. It's like so many things that when they're explained to you in this way, it makes sense. So don't worry so much about the how. Is it the right thing to do?

Sarah:

Yes.

Tazmin:

Just get those ideas down and then figure out which one is the right one or the right few. And then you can work out the howling. Exactly.

Sarah:

Okay. And then the last core principle of creative problem solving is focus. And I think you've touched on this quite a lot. Focus on yes and rather than no but. So you say something similar, don't you? Not yet.

Tazmin:

So I haven't found the answer yet. We don't know the answer yet because it opens up.

Sarah:

So the idea here is that language matters when you're generating information and ideas. So language such as yes and encourages people to expand their thoughts, which is what we need during stages of creative problem solving. Using the word but preceded by yes or no ends the conversation. So if you say so, someone gives an idea and you say yes, but you might be thinking, I'm still saying yes. That but is a negative. Yeah. So it's switching out the book for the and to open that up. And this did make me think of you because language does matter, doesn't it?

Tazmin:

It matters so much in every part of your life, this thoughts that go on in your head and the words that you speak out of your mouth. Wow. It's so impactful.

Sarah:

Yeah, 100% right. Tazmin I'm aware that there's a lot of information that we've given people, so I think that we need to take a short break. So we've talked about what creative problem solving is in the core principles. When we come back, we'll go into more details about how you actually use it and implement it. We are back. Did you have a nice break?

Tazmin:

I did, I did. And it gave me a few moments to reflect, which is very important. Shall I tell you what I reflected on?

Sarah:

Please do.

Tazmin:

So, you've talked about a concept and you talked about the core principles, and I'm all about the people. That's my angle. So I thought, what competencies would somebody need to be able to do this really well? So they can't be an overthinker, which many of us are have to be a quick decision maker, have an open minded mindset and positive language.

Sarah:

Like it. You are learning.

Tazmin:

Did I use my break well?

Sarah:

Gold star goes to Tazmin.

Tazmin:

Thank you. So far, those are the core competencies that I can identify that would make you really good at creative problem solving.

Sarah:

I love it. I love it. Thanks for sharing that. And it's always good to reflect because then you're reflecting on information. So we said that when we come back from the break, we talk about how to actually do and implement creative why do I keep forgetting what the flipping word is?

Tazmin:

Creative problem solving.

Sarah:

Problem solving. What is wrong with me? Tazmin, what is wrong with my mind?

Tazmin:

A trick thing to make sure that I'm doing.

Sarah:

So, yes, we said that we come back from the break, we would talk about how to implement creative problem solving. That time. There are four steps. So similar to the four principles, there are four steps. I love steps, lists, principles. It's a great way for my mind to work. So the steps to do creative problem solving step number one is clarify. Step number two is ideate. Love that word. Step number three is develop. And step number four is implement. So, first up is identifying your goal, desire or challenge. This is crucial because it's easy to assume incorrectly that you know what the problem is.

Tazmin:

That's a really good point. So I suppose on the event one, the question would be, what is the desired outcome of the event?

Sarah:

Yes, definitely. After you've identified your goal, you then need to gather data. You in the gathering data stage. So once you've identified and you've understood the problem, you can collect information about it to help you develop a clear understanding. So make a note of details, such as who and what is involved and all the relevant facts and everyone's feelings and opinions, and then formulate questions. So when you've increased your awareness of the challenge or problem you've identified, ask questions that will generate solutions.

Tazmin:

So I guess, again, it could be, am I going to have a live event in person or a zoom event? Is it going to be a full day? Is it going to be half day? Things like that.

Sarah:

And think about the obstacles you might face and the opportunities they could present. Right. So when you're putting together an event, a live event, obviously there's going to be obstacles. But with every obstacle, there is an opportunity, right? So here's this obstacle, but here's an opportunity of how we can overcome it. Irish people could see this, but Tasman is jotting things down. She's jot.

Tazmin:

You were a cognitive moving in her brain. I was an A grade student. Let it be known.

Sarah:

I can tell. Okay, so after clarify, the next stage is ideate my favorite word? I'm going to try and say ID eight. There's your challenge. Tomorrow, Tasman. We have to see who can use the word IDEAT more just in conversation.

Tazmin:

I do a lot of ideation when I'm creating content for social.

Sarah:

So with the idea stage here, we are generating ideas that answer the challenge questions you identified in step one, see all those challenges that you've identified and clarify. These are ideas that could answer that challenge. Now, it can be tempting to consider solutions that you've tried before, so you know you tried and tested. So here if you've got your SEO cap on, maybe you're like, okay, I've had this problem before. This is what I'm going to try. Because as our mind tends to return to habitual thinking patterns, this can stop us from producing new ideas, right? Whereas this is a chance to use your creativity. So use what you've tried before, but like, mind map and explore other ideas.

Tazmin:

Okay, but then that requires you to go out of your comfort zone.

Sarah:

Yeah.

Tazmin:

That could require you. So would this process be better on your own or with other people?

Sarah:

I think it depends on how you work as a person, doesn't it? Because if you are a person that takes on board everyone's feedback and everyone's ideas, it could be overwhelming. Whereas if you're better at, like, only listening to stuff that matters to you, then I think it depends on you as a person and also what the problem is. If it's really new to you, get other people's opinions, right? Whereas if it's something that you've worked on before and it's an SEO thing that's happened to you before and you're like, okay, I've got a good idea. But I always like asking people for advice, and I think you do too. So I think it depends on who you are as a person.

Tazmin:

I think I might go a bit hybrid on this. So it might be that I spend part of the time problem solving with some other people and getting lots of ideas and then bringing them back and having my own criteria, that clarifying bit, what exactly am I trying to achieve and what is it that feels right? Like you've got your own gut feel and then having some time on my own where I sort of filter out.

Sarah:

Yes, definitely. I love that approach and I would probably do something similar. And also if you ask other people, they might have tried something that you've not tried either. But I suppose in the early stages you don't want too much feedback to stop you from coming up with your own ideas as well, do you? Okay, so step number three, we've done the clarify step, we've done the ideate step, we're now at the develop. So this is where we're formulating our solutions. So this is where we begin to focus on evaluating all of your possible options and come up with solutions. So you need to analyze whether potential solutions meet your needs and criteria and decide whether you can implement them successfully. Then you need to consider how you can strengthen them and determine which ones are the best fit. So I think here so in the past we've talked about your different thinking methods, didn't we? No, it was just speaking, what am I on about? We've done a communication, different communication?

Tazmin:

Yeah, we did the listening, different types.

Sarah:

Of things, because obviously this is a type of thinking, isn't it? This is creative problem solving. Yeah, but yeah, so maybe we can look at for other episodes, we can look into other ways of thinking.

Tazmin:

I think just taking a step back, someone like me could probably over complicate this whole thing and it would probably be really useful for me to have someone accountable too. So if I was working with a manager and said. I'm going to go off and look at this. Set a deadline for when I will come back with here on my ideas. And these are the ones I've sifted out and present them through some sort of accountability. Otherwise you could potentially make a real.

Sarah:

Roasting with all the trimmings and the.

Tazmin:

Gravy with all the trimmings.

Sarah:

Yeah. I suppose having deadlines. Isn't it? Or like you set yourself, okay, I'm only going to spend an hour on this. I agree, because you could really easily overthink these things, couldn't you?

Tazmin:

Yeah, actually no, this has reminded me of somebody that I used to work with, a development manager called Steve, and he was very go, go, go, and I was all nerd, let me think about this, Steve. And we worked really well together because when I thought he was going too quick into something and we were going to make a ripe pizza of it, I'd say, hold off, we need to test. But when I was overthinking things, he'd say to me, Tasmania, come on, we've got a life. Yes, just get on with it. And it's that balance between different personality types. If this was going to be a group function or a group thing have different personality types.

Sarah:

Definitely. And I'm glad you said that because I've had that sort of relationship with other co workers. So there's people that are deported. Let's just get it done, let's just try it. If it goes wrong, we'll learn from it. Whereas I love a plan, I love to overthink it. So I've had exactly the same thing where I've worked well with other people because I'm more of the planner and the thinker, whereas they're more of this thing. I've had that too.

Tazmin:

Yeah, that's very cool. So I think note to anybody who's listening who has a team and wants to implement this as a vehicle to get some work done, be careful about who you put into this whole process and match the team to get the maximum benefit. So have some really quick thinkers who are just going to spew out ideas and some thinkers in there who are going to balance those quick thinkers.

Sarah:

And then the next the final step is implement. So we've developed and formulated our solutions and now we need to formulate a plan to implement. So once you've chosen the best solution or solutions, there might be more than one. It's time to develop a plan of action. So how are you going to get this plan into action? So you need to identify resources and actions that will help you to implement your chosen solution. And yeah, just think about your team and what resources you have and break down. Okay, so this is the solution, but break down into, like, easable easrable manageable chunks so you can get those actions done and communicate your plan and make sure that everyone involved understands and accepts it as well. So when you're coming across the solution, everyone that needs to be part of it, or you might have a solution that's going to affect another department, do you know what I mean? So you need to make sure that everyone's on board. You're giving them the time to understand and say, this was the problem, this is the solution. And yeah, make sure it's collaborative together.

Tazmin:

Yeah. Which makes me think we should do an episode on storytelling.

Sarah:

Yes.

Tazmin:

So going back to this, you know your four steps. You've got the clarify, IDH, develop, and implement.

Sarah:

Correct?

Tazmin:

I wrote those ones down. Could that roughly be translated to clarify is your why ideate? Is your what developers, your how and implement? Is your why? Okay, I'll have a gold. Stop it.

Sarah:

Yeah, say that again. So people say clarify is why?

Tazmin:

Why are you doing this thing? Is what? What are you going to create? Is how to implement is when?

Sarah:

Yes, so the steps so obviously, I've used a resource to put this together, so I'll make sure that I link to the research and those are the steps that model uses. But definitely that is your what, why, when, how, who that thing.

Tazmin:

So when you want added value, you know, which podcast to listen to.

Sarah:

Awesome. Well, I suppose we need to wrap things up, Tasman, because Tam, I really enjoyed that.

Tazmin:

Thank you so much.

Sarah:

So, if there is one of the key things that we want people to take away so what are the key things that you've taken away from this session?

Tazmin:

I think, in a funny way, this session has given me a bit of likeness. So if you've got a problem to solve and it's proving difficult, rather think, oh, no, how am I going to fix that? There is this other way where you can just quickly brainstorm, be creative, get all of your ideas out and it could create a massive opportunity for you. So even in not being able to solve a problem through the traditional way, there is an opportunity to do it a different way, which may be wonderful. So it's given me some optimism.

Sarah:

100%.

Tazmin:

Yeah.

Sarah:

There we go. Round of applause has been you've been a great student. Well, unfortunately, that's all we've got time for in this week's episode. So thank you, Tazmin, for being wonderful as ever. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in and yeah. Any last words, Tazmin, to all the listeners out there?

Tazmin:

Mind Blowing episode by Sarah It's given me a lot of optimism to go and fix my event scenario and lots of useful advice. Yeah, great.

Sarah:

Thank you very much. And remember, we need to optimize your career, not just their...

Tazmin:

Algorithms! Thank you, Sarah.

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About the Podcast

The SEO Mindset
Build your inner confidence and thrive
The SEO Mindset is a weekly podcast that will give you actionable tips, guidance and advice to help you not only build your inner confidence but to also thrive in your career.

Each week we will cover topics specific to careers in the SEO industry but also broader topics too including professional and personal development.

Your hosts are Mindset Coach Tazmin Suleman and SEO Manager Sarah McDowell, who between them have over 20 years experience working in the industry.
Support This Show

About your hosts

Sarah McDowell

Profile picture for Sarah McDowell
I've been in Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for around 10 years, currently working as the SEO Manager at Captivate (part of Global), the world's only growth-orientated podcast host. I am a self-confessed SEO nerd (I find the industry fascinated and love learning how search engines like Google work) and a bit of a podcast addict (with this being the fourth podcast I have hosted). I am also a speaker and trainer. I hope you enjoy this podcast!

Tazmin Suleman

Profile picture for Tazmin Suleman
I am a Life Coach, helping people grow and thrive, however my background has included careers in Development, Data Integrity and SEO. Through coaching, mentoring and teaching I help people build happier more fulfilling professional and personal lives by changing their mindset and habits. I teach courses on these topics and have incorporated a lot of the teachings in this podcast. I hope you find it useful.