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Article • 10 min read

Creative Problem Solving

Finding innovative solutions to challenges.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

challenges in creative problem solving

Imagine that you're vacuuming your house in a hurry because you've got friends coming over. Frustratingly, you're working hard but you're not getting very far. You kneel down, open up the vacuum cleaner, and pull out the bag. In a cloud of dust, you realize that it's full... again. Coughing, you empty it and wonder why vacuum cleaners with bags still exist!

James Dyson, inventor and founder of Dyson® vacuum cleaners, had exactly the same problem, and he used creative problem solving to find the answer. While many companies focused on developing a better vacuum cleaner filter, he realized that he had to think differently and find a more creative solution. So, he devised a revolutionary way to separate the dirt from the air, and invented the world's first bagless vacuum cleaner. [1]

Creative problem solving (CPS) is a way of solving problems or identifying opportunities when conventional thinking has failed. 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.

In this article, we'll explore what CPS is, and we'll look at its key principles. We'll also provide a model that you can use to generate creative solutions.

About Creative Problem Solving

Alex Osborn, founder of the Creative Education Foundation, first developed creative problem solving in the 1940s, along with the term "brainstorming." And, together with Sid Parnes, he developed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process. Despite its age, this model remains a valuable approach to problem solving. [2]

The early Osborn-Parnes model inspired a number of other tools. One of these is the 2011 CPS Learner's Model, also from the Creative Education Foundation, developed by Dr Gerard J. Puccio, Marie Mance, and co-workers. In this article, we'll use this modern four-step model to explore how you can use CPS to generate innovative, effective solutions.

Why Use Creative Problem Solving?

Dealing with obstacles and challenges is a regular part of working life, and overcoming them isn't always easy. To improve your products, services, communications, and interpersonal skills, and for you and your organization to excel, you need to encourage creative thinking and find innovative solutions that work.

CPS asks you to separate your "divergent" and "convergent" thinking as a way to do this. Divergent thinking is the process of generating lots of potential solutions and possibilities, otherwise known as brainstorming. And convergent thinking involves evaluating those options and choosing the most promising one. Often, we use a combination of the two to develop new ideas or solutions. However, using them simultaneously can result in unbalanced or biased decisions, and can stifle idea generation.

For more on divergent and convergent thinking, and for a useful diagram, see the book "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making." [3]

Core Principles of Creative Problem Solving

CPS has four core principles. Let's explore each one in more detail:

  • Divergent and convergent thinking must be balanced. The key to creativity is learning how to identify and balance divergent and convergent thinking (done separately), and knowing when to practice each one.
  • Ask problems as questions. When you rephrase problems and challenges as open-ended questions with multiple possibilities, it's easier to come up with solutions. Asking these types of questions generates lots of rich information, while asking closed questions tends to elicit short answers, such as confirmations or disagreements. Problem statements tend to generate limited responses, or none at all.
  • Defer or suspend judgment. As Alex Osborn learned from his work on brainstorming, judging solutions early on tends to shut down idea generation. Instead, there's an appropriate and necessary time to judge ideas during the convergence stage.
  • Focus on "Yes, and," rather than "No, but." Language matters when you're generating information and ideas. "Yes, and" encourages people to expand their thoughts, which is necessary during certain stages of CPS. Using the word "but" – preceded by "yes" or "no" – ends conversation, and often negates what's come before it.

How to Use the Tool

Let's explore how you can use each of the four steps of the CPS Learner's Model (shown in figure 1, below) to generate innovative ideas and solutions.

Figure 1 – CPS Learner's Model

challenges in creative problem solving

Explore the Vision

Identify your goal, desire or challenge. This is a crucial first step because it's easy to assume, incorrectly, that you know what the problem is. However, you may have missed something or have failed to understand the issue fully, and defining your objective can provide clarity. Read our article, 5 Whys , for more on getting to the root of a problem quickly.

Gather Data

Once you've identified and understood the problem, you can collect information about it and develop a clear understanding of it. Make a note of details such as who and what is involved, all the relevant facts, and everyone's feelings and opinions.

Formulate Questions

When you've increased your awareness of the challenge or problem you've identified, ask questions that will generate solutions. Think about the obstacles you might face and the opportunities they could present.

Explore Ideas

Generate ideas that answer the challenge questions you identified in step 1. It can be tempting to consider solutions that you've tried before, as our minds tend to return to habitual thinking patterns that stop us from producing new ideas. However, this is a chance to use your creativity .

Brainstorming and Mind Maps are great ways to explore ideas during this divergent stage of CPS. And our articles, Encouraging Team Creativity , Problem Solving , Rolestorming , Hurson's Productive Thinking Model , and The Four-Step Innovation Process , can also help boost your creativity.

See our Brainstorming resources within our Creativity section for more on this.

Formulate Solutions

This is the convergent stage of CPS, where you begin to focus on evaluating all of your possible options and come up with solutions. Analyze whether potential solutions meet your needs and criteria, and decide whether you can implement them successfully. Next, consider how you can strengthen them and determine which ones are the best "fit." Our articles, Critical Thinking and ORAPAPA , are useful here.

4. Implement

Formulate a plan.

Once you've chosen the best solution, it's time to develop a plan of action. Start by identifying resources and actions that will allow you to implement your chosen solution. Next, communicate your plan and make sure that everyone involved understands and accepts it.

There have been many adaptations of CPS since its inception, because nobody owns the idea.

For example, Scott Isaksen and Donald Treffinger formed The Creative Problem Solving Group Inc . and the Center for Creative Learning , and their model has evolved over many versions. Blair Miller, Jonathan Vehar and Roger L. Firestien also created their own version, and Dr Gerard J. Puccio, Mary C. Murdock, and Marie Mance developed CPS: The Thinking Skills Model. [4] Tim Hurson created The Productive Thinking Model , and Paul Reali developed CPS: Competencies Model. [5]

Sid Parnes continued to adapt the CPS model by adding concepts such as imagery and visualization , and he founded the Creative Studies Project to teach CPS. For more information on the evolution and development of the CPS process, see Creative Problem Solving Version 6.1 by Donald J. Treffinger, Scott G. Isaksen, and K. Brian Dorval. [6]

Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Infographic

See our infographic on Creative Problem Solving .

challenges in creative problem solving

Creative problem solving (CPS) is a way of using your creativity to develop new ideas and solutions to problems. The process is based on separating divergent and convergent thinking styles, so that you can focus your mind on creating at the first stage, and then evaluating at the second stage.

There have been many adaptations of the original Osborn-Parnes model, but they all involve a clear structure of identifying the problem, generating new ideas, evaluating the options, and then formulating a plan for successful implementation.

[1] Entrepreneur (2012). James Dyson on Using Failure to Drive Success [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 27, 2022.]

[2] Creative Education Foundation (2015). The CPS Process [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 26, 2022.]

[3] Kaner, S. et al. (2014). 'Facilitator′s Guide to Participatory Decision–Making,' San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[4] Puccio, G., Mance, M., and Murdock, M. (2011). 'Creative Leadership: Skils That Drive Change' (2nd Ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[5] OmniSkills (2013). Creative Problem Solving [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 26, 2022].

[6] Treffinger, G., Isaksen, S., and Dorval, B. (2010). Creative Problem Solving (CPS Version 6.1). Center for Creative Learning, Inc. & Creative Problem Solving Group, Inc. Available here .

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How to Be a More Creative Problem-Solver at Work: 8 Tips

Business professionals using creative problem-solving at work

  • 01 Mar 2022

The importance of creativity in the workplace—particularly when problem-solving—is undeniable. Business leaders can’t approach new problems with old solutions and expect the same result.

This is where innovation-based processes need to guide problem-solving. Here’s an overview of what creative problem-solving is, along with tips on how to use it in conjunction with design thinking.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Creative Problem-Solving?

Encountering problems with no clear cause can be frustrating. This occurs when there’s disagreement around a defined problem or research yields unclear results. In such situations, creative problem-solving helps develop solutions, despite a lack of clarity.

While creative problem-solving is less structured than other forms of innovation, it encourages exploring open-ended ideas and shifting perspectives—thereby fostering innovation and easier adaptation in the workplace. It also works best when paired with other innovation-based processes, such as design thinking .

Creative Problem-Solving and Design Thinking

Design thinking is a solutions-based mentality that encourages innovation and problem-solving. It’s guided by an iterative process that Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar outlines in four stages in the online course Design Thinking and Innovation :

The four stages of design thinking: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement

  • Clarify: This stage involves researching a problem through empathic observation and insights.
  • Ideate: This stage focuses on generating ideas and asking open-ended questions based on observations made during the clarification stage.
  • Develop: The development stage involves exploring possible solutions based on the ideas you generate. Experimentation and prototyping are both encouraged.
  • Implement: The final stage is a culmination of the previous three. It involves finalizing a solution’s development and communicating its value to stakeholders.

Although user research is an essential first step in the design thinking process, there are times when it can’t identify a problem’s root cause. Creative problem-solving addresses this challenge by promoting the development of new perspectives.

Leveraging tools like design thinking and creativity at work can further your problem-solving abilities. Here are eight tips for doing so.

Design Thinking and Innovation | Uncover creative solutions to your business problems | Learn More

8 Creative Problem-Solving Tips

1. empathize with your audience.

A fundamental practice of design thinking’s clarify stage is empathy. Understanding your target audience can help you find creative and relevant solutions for their pain points through observing them and asking questions.

Practice empathy by paying attention to others’ needs and avoiding personal comparisons. The more you understand your audience, the more effective your solutions will be.

2. Reframe Problems as Questions

If a problem is difficult to define, reframe it as a question rather than a statement. For example, instead of saying, "The problem is," try framing around a question like, "How might we?" Think creatively by shifting your focus from the problem to potential solutions.

Consider this hypothetical case study: You’re the owner of a local coffee shop trying to fill your tip jar. Approaching the situation with a problem-focused mindset frames this as: "We need to find a way to get customers to tip more." If you reframe this as a question, however, you can explore: "How might we make it easier for customers to tip?" When you shift your focus from the shop to the customer, you empathize with your audience. You can take this train of thought one step further and consider questions such as: "How might we provide a tipping method for customers who don't carry cash?"

Whether you work at a coffee shop, a startup, or a Fortune 500 company, reframing can help surface creative solutions to problems that are difficult to define.

3. Defer Judgment of Ideas

If you encounter an idea that seems outlandish or unreasonable, a natural response would be to reject it. This instant judgment impedes creativity. Even if ideas seem implausible, they can play a huge part in ideation. It's important to permit the exploration of original ideas.

While judgment can be perceived as negative, it’s crucial to avoid accepting ideas too quickly. If you love an idea, don’t immediately pursue it. Give equal consideration to each proposal and build on different concepts instead of acting on them immediately.

4. Overcome Cognitive Fixedness

Cognitive fixedness is a state of mind that prevents you from recognizing a situation’s alternative solutions or interpretations instead of considering every situation through the lens of past experiences.

Although it's efficient in the short-term, cognitive fixedness interferes with creative thinking because it prevents you from approaching situations unbiased. It's important to be aware of this tendency so you can avoid it.

5. Balance Divergent and Convergent Thinking

One of the key principles of creative problem-solving is the balance of divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the process of brainstorming multiple ideas without limitation; open-ended creativity is encouraged. It’s an effective tool for generating ideas, but not every idea can be explored. Divergent thinking eventually needs to be grounded in reality.

Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is the process of narrowing ideas down into a few options. While converging ideas too quickly stifles creativity, it’s an important step that bridges the gap between ideation and development. It's important to strike a healthy balance between both to allow for the ideation and exploration of creative ideas.

6. Use Creative Tools

Using creative tools is another way to foster innovation. Without a clear cause for a problem, such tools can help you avoid cognitive fixedness and abrupt decision-making. Here are several examples:

Problem Stories

Creating a problem story requires identifying undesired phenomena (UDP) and taking note of events that precede and result from them. The goal is to reframe the situations to visualize their cause and effect.

To start, identify a UDP. Then, discover what events led to it. Observe and ask questions of your consumer base to determine the UDP’s cause.

Next, identify why the UDP is a problem. What effect does the UDP have that necessitates changing the status quo? It's helpful to visualize each event in boxes adjacent to one another when answering such questions.

The problem story can be extended in either direction, as long as there are additional cause-and-effect relationships. Once complete, focus on breaking the chains connecting two subsequent events by disrupting the cause-and-effect relationship between them.

Alternate Worlds

The alternate worlds tool encourages you to consider how people from different backgrounds would approach similar situations. For instance, how would someone in hospitality versus manufacturing approach the same problem? This tool isn't intended to instantly solve problems but, rather, to encourage idea generation and creativity.

7. Use Positive Language

It's vital to maintain a positive mindset when problem-solving and avoid negative words that interfere with creativity. Positive language prevents quick judgments and overcomes cognitive fixedness. Instead of "no, but," use words like "yes, and."

Positive language makes others feel heard and valued rather than shut down. This practice doesn’t necessitate agreeing with every idea but instead approaching each from a positive perspective.

Using “yes, and” as a tool for further idea exploration is also effective. If someone presents an idea, build upon it using “yes, and.” What additional features could improve it? How could it benefit consumers beyond its intended purpose?

While it may not seem essential, this small adjustment can make a big difference in encouraging creativity.

8. Practice Design Thinking

Practicing design thinking can make you a more creative problem-solver. While commonly associated with the workplace, adopting a design thinking mentality can also improve your everyday life. Here are several ways you can practice design thinking:

  • Learn from others: There are many examples of design thinking in business . Review case studies to learn from others’ successes, research problems companies haven't addressed, and consider alternative solutions using the design thinking process.
  • Approach everyday problems with a design thinking mentality: One of the best ways to practice design thinking is to apply it to your daily life. Approach everyday problems using design thinking’s four-stage framework to uncover what solutions it yields.
  • Study design thinking: While learning design thinking independently is a great place to start, taking an online course can offer more insight and practical experience. The right course can teach you important skills , increase your marketability, and provide valuable networking opportunities.

Which HBS Online Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Ready to Become a Creative Problem-Solver?

Though creativity comes naturally to some, it's an acquired skill for many. Regardless of which category you're in, improving your ability to innovate is a valuable endeavor. Whether you want to bolster your creativity or expand your professional skill set, taking an innovation-based course can enhance your problem-solving.

If you're ready to become a more creative problem-solver, explore Design Thinking and Innovation , one of our online entrepreneurship and innovation courses . If you aren't sure which course is the right fit, download our free course flowchart to determine which best aligns with your goals.

challenges in creative problem solving

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Creative problem-solving: navigating challenges.

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Have you ever faced a challenge that seemed impossible to overcome? Whether it’s a personal dilemma or a professional roadblock, we all encounter obstacles that require us to think outside the box and find innovative solutions. This is where creative problem-solving comes into play. In this article, we will explore the art of navigating challenges through the power of creativity. Join us on this journey and unlock your creative potential as we delve into different strategies and techniques to overcome obstacles and find unique solutions.

Understanding Creative Problem-Solving

Creative problem-solving is a powerful skill that enables individuals to approach challenges in non-traditional ways. It involves thinking creatively and critically, exploring multiple perspectives, and generating innovative ideas. By embracing a creative mindset, individuals can find solutions that may not have been initially apparent.

Creative problem-solving is not limited to specific industries or professions. In fact, it is a valuable skill in various fields, including business, technology, arts, and everyday life. Whether you are an entrepreneur seeking to launch a new product, a student facing a difficult assignment, or a parent trying to resolve a family conflict, creative problem-solving can be applied to navigate these challenges effectively.

The Power of Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is at the core of creative problem-solving. It involves approaching challenges with an open mind, embracing curiosity, and exploring possibilities beyond the obvious. Creative thinking allows us to break free from conventional thought patterns and discover new perspectives and solutions.

When we tap into our creative thinking abilities, we can approach challenges from different angles. It encourages us to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and consider alternative solutions. By engaging our creative minds, we can overcome mental blocks and find unique pathways to success.

The Importance of Embracing Challenges

While challenges may seem daunting, they are essential for personal and professional growth. Embracing challenges allows us to step out of our comfort zones, push our boundaries, and discover new capabilities. It is through overcoming challenges that we develop resilience, adaptability, and problem-solving skills.

When we view challenges as opportunities for growth and improvement, we shift our mindset from one of fear and avoidance to one of curiosity and excitement. Each obstacle becomes a chance to learn, innovate, and become better versions of ourselves. By embracing challenges, we can unlock our creative potential and navigate through them with confidence.

Strategies for Creative Problem-Solving

Now that we understand the importance of creative problem-solving, let’s explore some strategies and techniques to enhance our problem-solving abilities. While there are numerous approaches to creative problem-solving, we will focus on the following four key strategies:

1. Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking involves generating a wide range of ideas and possibilities. It encourages free-flowing, out-of-the-box thinking without limitations. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, involves narrowing down and evaluating the ideas generated during the divergent thinking phase. It helps us identify the most feasible and effective solutions.

To apply this strategy, start by brainstorming as many ideas as possible without judgment or evaluation. Allow your mind to wander and explore various possibilities. Once you have a list of ideas, evaluate each one based on their feasibility, effectiveness, and alignment with your goals. This process of alternating between divergent and convergent thinking will help you uncover creative solutions to your challenges.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a visual technique that allows you to organize and connect ideas in a non-linear manner. It involves creating a central idea or problem statement and branching out into subtopics or potential solutions. By visually representing the connections between different ideas, mind maps help stimulate creative thinking and generate new insights.

To create a mind map, start by writing down your central problem statement or idea in the center of a blank page. Then, draw branches radiating from the center and jot down relevant subtopics or potential solutions on each branch. You can further expand each subtopic with additional branches and ideas. This visual representation of your thoughts will help you explore different perspectives and uncover innovative solutions.

3. Role-Playing and Perspective Shifting

Role-playing and perspective shifting involves stepping into someone else’s shoes and viewing the challenge from their perspective. By adopting different roles or considering the problem from various viewpoints, we can gain new insights and uncover alternative solutions.

To apply this strategy, imagine yourself as a different person who is directly affected by the challenge. How would they approach the problem? What solutions would they propose? By temporarily shifting your perspective, you can gain fresh insights and discover unique approaches to your challenge.

4. Prototyping and Experimentation

Prototyping and experimentation involve creating tangible representations of your ideas and testing them in a real or simulated environment. It allows you to quickly identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement in your solutions. By embracing a mindset of continuous iteration and improvement, you can refine your ideas and find the most effective solution.

To implement this strategy, create a prototype or a small-scale version of your solution. Test it in a controlled environment, gather feedback, and make necessary adjustments. Repeat this process until you achieve a refined solution that addresses the challenge effectively. Through prototyping and experimentation, you can navigate through uncertainties and discover innovative solutions.

The Benefits of Creative Problem-Solving

Creative problem-solving offers numerous benefits that extend beyond finding solutions to immediate challenges. Let’s explore some of the key advantages of embracing a creative mindset:

  • Enhanced Critical Thinking Skills: Creative problem-solving enhances critical thinking skills by encouraging individuals to analyze problems, evaluate different perspectives, and make informed decisions.
  • Increased Innovation and Adaptability: By embracing creativity, individuals can discover innovative solutions and adapt to changing circumstances more effectively.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: Creative problem-solving promotes collaboration and teamwork by encouraging individuals to share ideas and perspectives, leading to collective intelligence and better solutions.
  • Improved Decision-Making: Creative thinking allows individuals to consider a wide range of factors, evaluate alternatives, and make informed decisions that lead to better outcomes.
  • Personal Growth and Self-Discovery: Through creative problem-solving, individuals can challenge their own limitations, discover new strengths, and develop a growth mindset.

In this journey of creative problem-solving, we have explored the power of embracing challenges and adopting a creative mindset. By thinking creatively, exploring different perspectives, and using various strategies, we can navigate through challenges and find innovative solutions. Remember, creative problem-solving is a skill that can be developed and honed with practice. So, embrace the challenges that come your way, unleash your creative potential, and navigate through them with confidence. Your ability to find unique solutions will not only benefit you but also inspire others to approach challenges with a creative mindset. Let your creativity be the compass that guides you to success.

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Creative Education Foundation

What is CPS?

Cps = c reative p roblem s olving, cps is a proven method for approaching a problem or a challenge in an imaginative and innovative way. it helps you redefine the problems and opportunities you face, come up with new, innovative responses and solutions, and then take action..

challenges in creative problem solving

Why does CPS work?

CPS begins with two assumptions:

  • Everyone is creative in some way.
  • Creative skills can be learned and enhanced.

Osborn noted there are two distinct kinds of thinking that are essential to being creative:

Divergent thinking.

Brainstorming is often misunderstood as the entire Creative Problem Solving process.   Brainstorming is the divergent thinking phase of the CPS process.   It is not simply a group of people in a meeting coming up with ideas in a disorganized fashion. Brainstorming at its core is generating lots of ideas.  Divergence allows us to state and move beyond obvious ideas to breakthrough ideas. (Fun Fact: Alex Osborn, founder of CEF, coined the term “brainstorm.” Osborn was the “O” from the ad agency BBDO.)

Convergent Thinking

Convergent thinking applies criteria to brainstormed ideas so that those ideas can become actionable innovations.  Divergence provides the raw material that pushes beyond every day thinking, and convergence tools help us screen, select, evaluate, and refine ideas, while retaining novelty and newness.

To drive a car, you need both the gas and the brake.

But you cannot use the gas and brake pedals at the same time — you use them alternately to make the car go. Think of the gas pedal as Divergence , and the brake pedal as Convergence . Used together you move forward to a new destination.

Each of us use divergent and convergent thinking daily, intuitively. CPS is a deliberate process that allows you to harness your natural creative ability and apply it purposefully to problems, challenges, and opportunities.

challenges in creative problem solving

The CPS Process

Based on the osborn-parnes process, the cps model uses plain language and recent research., the basic structure is comprised of four stages with a total of six explicit process steps. , each step uses divergent and convergent thinking..

challenges in creative problem solving

Learner’s Model based on work of G.J. Puccio, M. Mance, M.C. Murdock, B. Miller, J. Vehar, R. Firestien, S. Thurber, & D. Nielsen (2011)

Explore the Vision.   Identify the goal, wish, or challenge.

Gather Data.   Describe and generate data to enable a clear understanding of the challenge.

Formulate Challenges. Sharpen awareness of the challenge and create challenge questions that invite solutions.

Explore Ideas. Generate ideas that answer the challenge questions.

Formulate Solutions. To move from ideas to solutions. Evaluate, strengthen, and select solutions for best “fit.”

Formulate a Plan.  Explore acceptance and identify resources and actions that will support implementation of the selected solution(s).

Explore Ideas. Generate ideas that answer the challenge question

Core Principles of Creative Problem Solving

  • Everyone is creative.
  • Divergent and Convergent Thinking Must be Balanced.  Keys to creativity are learning ways to identify and balance expanding and contracting thinking (done separately), and knowing  when  to practice them.
  • Ask Problems as Questions.  Solutions are more readily invited and developed when  challenges and problems are restated as open-ended questions  with multiple possibilities. Such questions generate lots of rich information, while closed-ended questions tend to elicit confirmation or denial. Statements tend to generate limited or no response at all.
  • Defer or Suspend Judgment.  As Osborn learned in his early work on brainstorming, the  instantaneous judgment in response to an idea shuts down idea generation . There is an appropriate and necessary time to apply judgement when converging.
  • Focus on “Yes, and” rather than “No, but.”  When generating information and ideas, language matters.  “Yes, and…” allows continuation and expansion , which is necessary in certain stages of CPS. The use of the word “but” – preceded by “yes” or “no” – closes down conversation, negating everything that has come before it.

What is creative problem-solving?

Creative problem-solving in action

Table of Contents

An introduction to creative problem-solving.

Creative problem-solving is an essential skill that goes beyond basic brainstorming . It entails a holistic approach to challenges, melding logical processes with imaginative techniques to conceive innovative solutions. As our world becomes increasingly complex and interconnected, the ability to think creatively and solve problems with fresh perspectives becomes invaluable for individuals, businesses, and communities alike.

Importance of divergent and convergent thinking

At the heart of creative problem-solving lies the balance between divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking encourages free-flowing, unrestricted ideation, leading to a plethora of potential solutions. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is about narrowing down those options to find the most viable solution. This dual approach ensures both breadth and depth in the problem-solving process.

Emphasis on collaboration and diverse perspectives

No single perspective has a monopoly on insight. Collaborating with individuals from different backgrounds, experiences, and areas of expertise offers a richer tapestry of ideas. Embracing diverse perspectives not only broadens the pool of solutions but also ensures more holistic and well-rounded outcomes.

Nurturing a risk-taking and experimental mindset

The fear of failure can be the most significant barrier to any undertaking. It's essential to foster an environment where risk-taking and experimentation are celebrated. This involves viewing failures not as setbacks but as invaluable learning experiences that pave the way for eventual success.

The role of intuition and lateral thinking

Sometimes, the path to a solution is not linear. Lateral thinking and intuition allow for making connections between seemingly unrelated elements. These 'eureka' moments often lead to breakthrough solutions that conventional methods might overlook.

Stages of the creative problem-solving process

The creative problem-solving process is typically broken down into several stages. Each stage plays a crucial role in understanding, addressing, and resolving challenges in innovative ways.

Clarifying: Understanding the real problem or challenge

Before diving into solutions, one must first understand the problem at its core. This involves asking probing questions, gathering data, and viewing the challenge from various angles. A clear comprehension of the problem ensures that effort and resources are channeled correctly.

Ideating: Generating diverse and multiple solutions

Once the problem is clarified, the focus shifts to generating as many solutions as possible. This stage champions quantity over quality, as the aim is to explore the breadth of possibilities without immediately passing judgment.

Developing: Refining and honing promising solutions

With a list of potential solutions in hand, it's time to refine and develop the most promising ones. This involves evaluating each idea's feasibility, potential impact, and any associated risks, then enhancing or combining solutions to maximize effectiveness.

Implementing: Acting on the best solutions

Once a solution has been honed, it's time to put it into action. This involves planning, allocating resources, and monitoring the results to ensure the solution is effectively addressing the problem.

Techniques for creative problem-solving

Solving complex problems in a fresh way can be a daunting task to start on. Here are a few techniques that can help kickstart the process:


Brainstorming is a widely-used technique that involves generating as many ideas as possible within a set timeframe. Variants like brainwriting (where ideas are written down rather than spoken) and reverse brainstorming (thinking of ways to cause the problem) can offer fresh perspectives and ensure broader participation.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a visual tool that helps structure information, making connections between disparate pieces of data. It is particularly useful in organizing thoughts, visualizing relationships, and ensuring a comprehensive approach to a problem.

SCAMPER technique

SCAMPER stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse. This technique prompts individuals to look at existing products, services, or processes in new ways, leading to innovative solutions.

Benefits of creative problem-solving

Creative problem-solving offers numerous benefits, both at the individual and organizational levels. Some of the most prominent advantages include:

Finding novel solutions to old problems

Traditional problems that have resisted conventional solutions often succumb to creative approaches. By looking at challenges from fresh angles and blending different techniques, we can unlock novel solutions previously deemed impossible.

Enhanced adaptability in changing environments

In our rapidly evolving world, the ability to adapt is critical. Creative problem-solving equips individuals and organizations with the agility to pivot and adapt to changing circumstances, ensuring resilience and longevity.

Building collaborative and innovative teams

Teams that embrace creative problem-solving tend to be more collaborative and innovative. They value diversity of thought, are open to experimentation, and are more likely to challenge the status quo, leading to groundbreaking results.

Fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement

Creative problem-solving is not just about finding solutions; it's also about continuous learning and improvement. By encouraging an environment of curiosity and exploration, organizations can ensure that they are always at the cutting edge, ready to tackle future challenges head-on.

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Creative Thinking: Innovative Solutions to Complex Challenges

Learn how to grow a culture of creativity to innovate competitive solutions.

All Start Dates

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM ET

2 consecutive days

Registration Deadline

May 28, 2024

October 8, 2024

Overview: Creative Thinking Skills Course

The tech breakthrough that makes smartphones irrelevant, a new viral ad campaign, your company’s next big revenue generator — ideas like these could be sitting in your brain; all you need are the creative thinking skills and strategies to pull them out.

This interactive program focuses explicitly on the creative thinking skills you need to solve complex problems and design innovative solutions. Learn how to transform your thinking from the standard “why can’t we” to the powerful “how might we.” Crack the code on how to consistently leverage your team’s creative potential in order to drive innovation within your organization. Explore how to build a climate for innovation, remove barriers to creativity, cultivate courage, and create more agile, proactive, and inspired teams.

You will leave this program with new ideas about how to think more productively and how to introduce creative thinking skills into your organization. You can apply key takeaways immediately to implement a new leadership vision, inspire renewed enthusiasm, and enjoy the skills and tools to tackle challenges and seize opportunities.

Innovation experts Anne Manning and Susan Robertson bring to this highly-interactive and powerful program their decades of experience promoting corporate innovation, teaching the art of creative problem solving, and applying the principles of brain science to solve complex challenges.

Who Should Take Creative Thinking Skills Training?

This program is ideal for leaders with at least 3 years of management experience. It is designed for leaders who want to develop new strategies, frameworks, and tools for creative problem solving. Whether you are a team lead, project manager, sales director, or executive, you’ll learn powerful tools to lead your team and your organization to create innovative solutions to complex challenges.

All participants will earn a Certificate of Participation from the Harvard Division of Continuing Education.

Benefits of Creative Thinking Skills Training

The goal of this creative thinking program is to help you develop the strategic concepts and tactical skills to lead creative problem solving for your team and your organization. You will learn to:

  • Retrain your brain to avoid negative cognitive biases and long-held beliefs and myths that sabotage creative problem solving and innovation
  • Become a more nimble, proactive, and inspired thinker and leader
  • Create the type of organizational culture that supports collaboration and nurtures rather than kills ideas
  • Gain a practical toolkit for solving the “unsolvable” by incorporating creative thinking into day-to-day processes
  • Understand cognitive preferences (yours and others’) to adapt the creative thinking process and drive your team’s success
  • Develop techniques that promote effective brainstorming and enable you to reframe problems in a way that inspires innovative solutions

The curriculum in this highly interactive program utilizes research-based methodologies and techniques to build creative thinking skills and stimulate creative problem solving.

Through intensive group discussions and small-group exercises, you will focus on topics such as:

  • The Creative Problem Solving process: a researched, learnable, repeatable process for uncovering new and useful ideas. This process includes a “how to” on clarifying, ideating, developing, and implementing new solutions to intractable problems
  • The cognitive preferences that drive how we approach problems, and how to leverage those cognitive preferences for individual and team success
  • How to develop—and implement— a methodology that overcomes barriers to innovative thinking and fosters the generation of new ideas, strategies, and techniques
  • The role of language, including asking the right questions, in reframing problems, challenging assumptions, and driving successful creative problem solving
  • Fostering a culture that values, nurtures, and rewards creative solutions

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Instructors, anne manning, susan robertson, certificates of leadership excellence.

The Certificates of Leadership Excellence (CLE) are designed for leaders with the desire to enhance their business acumen, challenge current thinking, and expand their leadership skills.

This program is one of several CLE qualifying programs. Register today and get started earning your certificate.

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Creative Problem Solving Explained

challenges in creative problem solving

Creative problem solving is based on the belief that everyone is creative and can enhance their creative abilities with discipline.

Creative problem solving is a deliberate approach to solving complex problems. While creativity is an innate part of creative problem solving, the process uses a variety of steps and strategies designed to bring to the table solutions that are actionable and effective.

It’s a proven approach to use innovative ideas and views of a problem to develop viable options that can be brought to bear on the challenge. It can also redefine the problem, coming at it from a new perspective that results in an effective solution.

It also has powerful applications for addressing your greatest workflow challenges. Using creative problem solving lets you identify, refine, iterate, and select the best options to improve workflows using new technologies like automation.

Fundamentals of Creative Problem Solving

Many people hear “creative problem solving” and think it’s about brainstorming answers. However, creative problem solving is about much more. Creative answers to problems do not just appear magically but are the result of deliberate processes.

To work well, creative problem solving is rooted in two assumptions:

  • Everyone is creative in some manner
  • You can learn and enhance someone’s creative abilities

Those are powerful assumptions. They help to dispel the idea that there are “creative types” and “noncreative types.” All participants can be empowered to engage in the process by supporting and reinforcing the innate presence of creativity.

Alex Osborn helped define and formalize the idea of creative problem solving. He believed that two types of thinking are critical to creative problem solving.

Convergent Thinking focuses on the norms of problem solving and focuses on finding a singular solution that's well defined. Divergent Thinking is the opposite, with multiple options being considered after fostering creativity as part of the problem solving process.

Both play a role and have value in problem solving. Typically, both are used as part of the process.

For example, divergent thinking can create multiple ideas for possible solutions. Convergent thinking can whittle those down to a few or one idea to implement.

Principles of Creative Problem Solving

Here is a closer look at some key tenets of creative problem solving.

Reframe the Problem as a Question

Begin by restating the problem as a question or series of open-ended questions. The problem becomes more approachable with multiple possibilities available, and participants can be invited into the process.

By contrast, problems presented as declarative statements are often met by silence. These statements often lead to a limited response or no response at all.

There's a shift when asked as a question rather than a statement. The challenge is not an obstacle but rather an opportunity to solve. It opens the door to brainstorming and ideation.

Suspend Judgment

All too often, ideas that are generated in problem solving spaces are quickly dismissed. This instantaneous judgment has short- and long-term impacts.

First, it immediately dismisses the presented idea and the presenter. What’s more, the dismissal can have a chilling effect on others, stymieing the idea generation process.

There’s a time when judging presented ideas – when convergent thinking is at play. In the beginning, immediate judgment should be suspended.

Even the most implausible ideas presented at the beginning of the process may play a role later as long as they are still considered viable. If poisoned early in the process, they will unlikely be given any value later.

‘Yes, And’ Instead of ‘No, But’

The word “no” can have a similarly stifling effect on the creative problem solving work. "But," whether preceded by "yes” or "no," can close the conversation. It acts to negate everything that has come before.

You can create and maintain a more positive, encouraging tone using "yes, and" language instead of "no, but" language.

More positive language helps build on previously generated ideas. It creates an additive approach to the process instead of a dismissive one.

One Approach to Creative Problem Solving

Having a clearly defined approach to solving problems helps participants understand the scope and scale of the work. While multiple approaches can be used, here is one way to frame the engagement.

1. Clarify the Problem

The most critical step to creative problem solving is identifying and articulating the problem or goal. While it may appear to be easy to do so, often, what people think the problem is is not the true problem.

The critical step is to break down the problem, analyze it and understand the core issue.

One approach is to use the "five whys." Start by asking yourself, "Why is this a problem?" Once you have the answer, ask, "Why else?" four more times.

This iterative process can often refine and revise to unearth the true issue that needs to be addressed. You can ask other questions to further refine, such as:

  • Why is this problem important to us?
  • What is stopping us from solving this problem?
  • Where will we be differently 6-12 months after solving the problem?

2. Define Evaluation Criteria

The creative problem solving process is likely to generate many potential ideas. It’s important to establish the process by which the ideas will be evaluated and, if selected, deployed.

These processes may have important factors, such as budget, staffing and time. The process needs to address what you seek to accomplish, avoid and act on. The process should be articulated to the participants in the problem solving and those affected by the outcomes.

3. Research the Problem

You want a clear understanding of the problem, which may require lots or a little research. Understand the common problem, how others may deal with it, and potential solutions.

4. Develop Creative Challenges

Once the problem is articulated and researched, it’s time to frame them. “Creative challenges” are simple and brief, question-based concepts. For example, "How can we …" or “What would it mean if …" These challenges will form the basis of your problem solving. They should be broadly focused and not include any evaluation criteria.

5. Create Ideas

Idea generation is what most people envision when they think of brainstorming or solving problems.

Start by taking just one of the creative challenges. Give yourself or the team some time to build at least 50 ideas. That may seem like a lot, but it can spark conversation and construction.

The ideas may or may not solve the presented challenge. By capturing them on paper or a computer (many programs support idea generation), you can have them readily available to organize, expand on, evaluate, and flesh out.

Be sure to use the following rules in this stage:

  • Write down every idea
  • Ensure no one critiques presented ideas
  • Don’t stop until you’ve reached 50
  • Present the full list of ideas and then ask if anyone has anything else to add
  • If you have time, sleep on the ideas and return the next day. Try to add 25 more.

6. Sort and Assess Ideas

Take a break and reconvene to look at the ideas using the evaluation criteria. Combine ideas, then use the evaluation criteria to whittle down the list.

Some ideas may be implementable immediately. Others may need further analysis to prioritize.

7. Create a Plan

When you have your shortlist, create an action plan that outlines the steps necessary to implement the ideas. By breaking down the ideas into actionable steps, you’ll be better able to put them into play and see the results.

Problem Solving Your Workflows

When it comes to coming up with creative answers to your workflow problems, we have a variety of resources for you listed below. In addition, we're always interested in providing objective, experienced ideas through our Customer Success and Services teams.

  • Reframe Your Business Processes
  • Process Redesign Tips
  • What is Business Process Re-Engineering?
  • Process Improvement Examples
  • https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/what-is-creative-problem-solving
  • https://www.mindtools.com/a2j08rt/creative-problem-solving
  • https://www.creativeeducationfoundation.org/what-is-cps/
  • https://innovationmanagement.se/2010/06/02/the-basics-of-creative-problem-solving-cps/
  • https://asana.com/resources/convergent-vs-divergent

Tags creativity   problem solving   process improvement  

Categories Business Ideas   Workflow Ideas   Project Management  

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Harnessing Creativity in Problem-Solving: Innovations for Overcoming Challenges

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In today's fast-paced and dynamic world, problem-solving has become an indispensable skill. Whether you are a business leader, a student, an entrepreneur, or simply someone navigating the complexities of daily life, the ability to overcome challenges is paramount. One key to effective problem-solving is harnessing creativity.

In this article, we'll explore the concept of harnessing creativity in problem-solving and discuss innovative approaches to tackle various challenges successfully.

Understanding the Link Between Harnessing Creativity and Problem-Solving

Creativity and problem-solving are often perceived as separate domains. However, they are intricately intertwined. Creativity is the fuel that powers innovative problem-solving. When you introduce creativity into the problem-solving process, you open the door to fresh perspectives and unconventional solutions. Here's how it works:

1. Divergent Thinking

Harnessing creativity encourages divergent thinking, which is the ability to consider multiple perspectives and generate a wide range of ideas. This process is particularly valuable when tackling complex problems. Divergent thinking allows you to explore different avenues, identifying potential solutions that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

2. Out-of-the-Box Solutions

Creative problem-solving involves thinking beyond conventional boundaries. It prompts individuals to look for out-of-the-box solutions that challenge the status quo. This approach can lead to groundbreaking innovations that address problems in new and unexpected ways.

3. Resilience in Problem-Solving

Creativity fosters resilience in problem-solving. When you approach challenges with a creative mindset, you are better equipped to adapt to unexpected obstacles and setbacks. You are more likely to experiment with different approaches and persist until you find a workable solution.

Innovative Approaches to Problem-Solving through Creativity

Now that we understand the importance of creativity in problem-solving , let's explore innovative approaches that can help you harness your creative potential to overcome challenges.

1. Design Thinking

Design thinking is a problem-solving framework that places empathy at its core. It involves empathizing with the end user or the person facing the problem. By deeply understanding their needs, you can design solutions that truly address the issue. This approach encourages creative thinking, as it often requires brainstorming and prototyping to arrive at user-centric solutions.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a visual technique that allows you to organize thoughts and ideas in a nonlinear fashion. It's an excellent tool for problem-solving as it helps you see connections between different elements of a problem. This visual approach often leads to creative insights and novel solutions.

3. Brainstorming and Collaboration

Collaborative brainstorming sessions can be a hotbed of creativity. When you bring diverse minds together to tackle a problem, you benefit from different perspectives and experiences. Encourage open, non-judgmental idea sharing in a brainstorming session to stimulate creative problem-solving.

4. Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering involves breaking down a problem or a solution to its fundamental components. By dissecting an issue, you can better understand its intricacies and explore alternative ways to approach it. This analytical approach can trigger creative problem-solving by revealing hidden opportunities.

5. Storytelling and Scenario Planning

Using storytelling and scenario planning, you can create narratives that explore different outcomes and solutions. This approach encourages creative thinking by visualizing potential scenarios and their consequences. It allows you to anticipate challenges and devise strategies to overcome them.

6. Visual Thinking

Visual thinking is a method that involves using drawings, diagrams, and other visual aids to represent problems and solutions. Visualizing a problem often reveals patterns and relationships that are not apparent through words alone. This technique can unlock new, creative insights.

Case Studies in Creative Problem-Solving

To illustrate the power of creativity in problem-solving, let's delve into a few real-world case studies where innovative approaches led to remarkable solutions:

1. Airbnb: Empathy-Driven Design Thinking

Airbnb, the world's leading online marketplace for lodging and travel experiences, faced a unique problem. They needed to build trust between hosts and guests who were essentially strangers. To address this challenge, they implemented an empathy-driven design thinking approach. They focused on understanding the concerns and needs of both hosts and guests, leading to the creation of a secure platform with user-centric features.

2. SpaceX: Reverse Engineering for Rocket Reusability

SpaceX, Elon Musk's aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company, sought to reduce the cost of space exploration by making rockets reusable. Instead of following conventional engineering approaches, SpaceX employed reverse engineering by disassembling and analyzing the process of rocket launches. This led to the groundbreaking development of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has revolutionized space travel.

3. Tesla: Visual Thinking in Electric Car Design

Tesla, an electric vehicle and clean energy company, used visual thinking as a core part of its design process. By visualizing the electric car as a clean, efficient, and powerful machine, Tesla's team reimagined the possibilities of electric transportation. This approach led to the creation of high-performance electric vehicles that are changing the automotive industry.

Challenges in Harnessing Creativity for Problem-Solving

While harnessing creativity for problem-solving is essential, it comes with its set of challenges. Some of these challenges include:

1. Fear of Failure

Creativity often involves taking risks and embracing the possibility of failure. Many individuals and organizations are risk-averse, which can stifle creative problem-solving. Overcoming the fear of failure is crucial to unlock creative potential.

2. Lack of Resources

Creativity often requires time, resources, and a supportive environment. In organizations, tight budgets and stringent schedules can limit the space for creative problem-solving. Overcoming these constraints may require resource allocation and a cultural shift towards valuing creativity.

3. Resistance to Change

People and organizations can be resistant to change, especially when it comes to unconventional problem-solving approaches. Overcoming this resistance may require effective communication, leadership, and a commitment to demonstrating the value of creative solutions.

Conclusion: Harnessing Creativity for Effective Problem-Solving

In a world marked by constant change and complexity, effective problem-solving is a skill that can set individuals and organizations apart. Harnessing creativity in problem-solving is not just an option; it's a necessity. By embracing innovative approaches like design thinking, mind mapping, brainstorming, and visual thinking, you can unlock your creative potential to overcome challenges.

Real-world examples from companies like Airbnb, SpaceX, and Tesla demonstrate the power of creative problem-solving in achieving remarkable outcomes. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the challenges that come with creativity, such as the fear of failure, resource constraints, and resistance to change. Addressing these challenges head-on is essential for realizing the full potential of creative problem-solving.

In conclusion, by fostering a culture of creativity and incorporating innovative problem-solving methods, individuals and organizations can rise to the occasion and conquer the most complex challenges that come their way. Creativity isn't a luxury; it's a strategic advantage that can drive success in an ever-evolving world.

So, the next time you face a problem, remember to tap into your creative reservoir. You might just discover the innovative solution that changes everything.

About the Author

Awais Ahmed is a passionate writer and expert in the field of personal development, communication, and professional skills. With a background in psychology and a keen interest in human behavior, he is dedicated to helping individuals unleash their full potential and achieve personal and career success.

Continue to: Collaborative Innovation Social Problem-Solving

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challenges in creative problem solving

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creative problem-solving framework

  • Identifying the Real Problem : Imagine you wake up to a cold shower. The obvious problem? No hot water! But before you start dismantling the showerhead, take a step back. Is it a faulty heating element, a low thermostat setting, or a bigger issue with the building’s plumbing? This initial step is crucial. Ask yourself questions like “What are the symptoms?” and “When did this problem start?”. In our shower scenario, identifying the root cause (a faulty heating element) saves you time and unnecessary tinkering.
  • Generating Wild Ideas : Now, it’s time to unleash your creativity! Remember that brainstorming session in school where every idea, no matter how wacky, was welcome? That’s the spirit! Back to our chilly shower situation, ideas might include: boiling water on the stove for a makeshift bath (not ideal!), calling the landlord for repairs (the most likely solution!), or – if you’re feeling adventurous – installing a solar water heater (hey, it could work!).
  • Evaluating Ideas: Okay, so you have a list of ideas, from the practical to the downright peculiar. Here comes the filter. Evaluate each idea based on realistic criteria. For the shower scenario, fixing the heating element is likely the most feasible and impactful solution. While a solar water heater might be innovative, the cost and practicality might not make it the best choice at this moment.
  • From Idea to Action Plan: We’ve identified the best course of action (fixing the heating element). Now, it’s time to develop a concrete solution. This might involve calling a plumber, gathering the necessary tools, or researching DIY repair tutorials (if you’re handy!). The key is to create a clear plan that addresses the problem directly.
  • Putting Your Solution to the Test : The plan is in place, it’s time to implement! In our case, this means calling the plumber and getting that heating element fixed. Once the repair is done, take a celebratory hot shower! But remember, even the best plans can have hiccups. If the hot water issue persists, you might need to re-evaluate your initial diagnosis or call the plumber back for further troubleshooting.
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  • Netflix:  The company revolutionized how we watch TV shows and movies. However, when the company started, it faced a big challenge – getting people to watch their content when they were not a well-known brand. Instead of relying on traditional advertising, Netflix used creative problem-solving to develop a unique solution. They created an algorithm recommending TV shows and movies based on a user’s viewing history, leading to a highly personalized viewing experience. This recommendation engine became a critical factor in the company’s success, helping them attract and retain customers.
  • NASA:  NASA had to devise an instant solution to save the Apollo 13 mission and their team. Their spacecraft was damaged, and they needed a solution to bring their astronauts safely back to Earth. The team fitted a square CO2 filter into a round hole using available materials on the spacecraft; the team used creative problem-solving to develop this approach. This innovative solution allowed the astronauts to return safely to Earth and set this incident as a classic creative solving example.
  • IKEA:  IKEA makes stylish and affordable furniture and is a well-versed company. However, they faced significant challenges entering the Japanese market. Japanese apartments are comparatively smaller than the rest of the world, so the regular product range was irrelevant to Japanese customers. So, IKEA used creative problem-solving to develop a solution appealing to the Japanese market. They launched a variety of products specially created for smaller spaces that are easy to assemble and disassemble—they also introduced a range of futons designed to look like beds, appealing to Japanese customers who prefer sleeping on the floor. This innovative and creative approach helped IKEA successfully enter the Japanese market.

challenges in creative problem solving

  • Flexibility:  Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and consider multiple perspectives.
  • Open-mindedness:  Being open to new ideas and willing to challenge assumptions.
  • Curiosity:  Seek more information by questioning and better understanding the problem.
  • Persistence:  If a solution does not work, apply another solution, but continue until the problem is solved.
  • Divergent thinking:  Generating multiple ideas and exploring different possibilities.
  • Convergent thinking:  Evaluating and selecting the best ideas based on specific criteria.
  • Visualization:  Using mental imagery to explore solutions and ideas.
  • Collaboration:  Working with others to combine different perspectives and knowledge.
  • Risk-taking:  Being willing to take calculated risks and try new approaches.
  • Innovation:  Combining ideas and approaches in novel ways to create new solutions.

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Creative Problem Solving: from complex challenge to innovative solution

Dr. Hannah Rose

Even if you usually excel at finding solutions, there will be times when it seems that there’s no obvious answer to a problem. It could be that you’re facing a unique challenge that you’ve never needed to overcome before. You could feel overwhelmed because of a new context in which everything seems to be foreign, or you may feel like you’re lacking the skills or tools to navigate the situation. When facing a difficult dilemma, Creative Problem Solving offers a structured method to help you find an innovative and effective solution.

The history of Creative Problem Solving

The technique of Creative Problem Solving was first formulated by Alex Osborn in the 1940’s. It was not the first time Osborn came up with a formula to support creative thinking. As a prolific creative theorist, Osborn also coined the term brainstorming to define the proactive process of generating new ideas.

With brainstorming, Osborn suggested that it’s better to bring every idea you have to the table, including the wildest ones, because with just a little modification, the outrageous ideas may later become the most plausible solutions. In his own words: “It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.”

Osborn worked closely with Sid Parnes, who was at the time the world’s leading expert on creativity and innovation. Together, they developed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process. To this day, this process remains an effective way to generate solutions that break free from the status quo.

The Creative Problem Solving process, sometimes referred to as CPS, is a proven way to approach a challenge more imaginatively. By redefining problems or opportunities, it becomes possible to move in a completely new and more innovative direction.

Dr Donald Treffinger described Creative Problem Solving as an effective way to review problems, formulate opportunities, and generate varied and novel options leading to a new solution or course of action. As such, Treffinger argued that creative problem solving provides a “powerful set of tools for productive thinking”.

Creative Problem Solving can also enhance collective learning at the organisational level. Dr David Vernon and colleagues found that Creative Problem Solving can support the design of more effective training programmes.

From its invention by two creative theorists to its application at all levels of creative thinking — from personal to organisation creativity — Creative Problem Solving is an enduring method to generate innovative solutions to complex challenges.

The four principles of Creative Problem Solving

You can use Creative Problem Solving on your own or as part of a team. However, when adopted by multiple team members, it can lead to an even greater output of useful, original solutions. So, how do you put it into practice? First, you need to understand the four guiding principles behind Creative Problem Solving.

The first principle is to look at problems and reframe them into questions. While problem statements tend to not generate many responses, open questions can lead to a wealth of insights, perspectives, and helpful information — which in turn make it easier to feel inspired and to come up with potential solutions. Instead of saying “this is the problem”, ask yourself: “Why are we facing this problem? What’s currently preventing us from solving this problem? What could be some potential solutions?”

The second principle is to balance divergent and convergent thinking. During divergent thinking , all options are entertained. Throw all ideas into the ring, regardless of how far-fetched they might be. This is sometimes referred to as non-judgmental, non-rational divergent thinking. It’s based on the willingness to consider all new ideas. Convergent thinking, in contrast, is the thinking mode used to narrow down all of the possible ideas into a sensible shortlist. Balancing divergent and convergent thinking creates a steady state of creativity in which new ideas can be assessed and appraised to search for unique solutions.

Tangential to the second principle, the third principle for creative problem solving is to defer judgement. By judging solutions too early, you will risk shutting down idea generation. Take your time during the divergent thinking phase to give your mind the freedom to dream ambitious ideas. Only when engaged in convergent thinking should you start judging the ideas you generated in terms of potential, appropriateness, and feasibility.

Finally, Creative Problem Solving requires you to say “yes, and” rather than “no, but” in order to encourage generative discussions. You will only stifle your creativity by automatically saying no to ideas that seem illogical or unfeasible. Using positive language allows you to explore possibilities, leaving space for the seeds of ideas to grow into applicable solutions.

How to practice Creative Problem Solving

Now that you know the principles underlying Creative Problem Solving, you’re ready to start implementing the practical method devised by its inventors. And the good news is that you’ll only need to follow three simple steps.

  • Generating – Formulate questions. The first step is to understand what the problem is. By turning the problem into a set of questions, you can explore the issue properly and fully grasp the situation, obstacles, and opportunities. This is also the time to gather facts and the opinions of others, if relevant to the problem at hand.
  • Conceptualising – Explore ideas. The second step is when you can express your creativity through divergent thinking. Brainstorm new, wild and off-the-wall ideas to generate new concepts that could be the key to solving your dilemma. This can be done on your own, or as part of a brainstorming session with your team.
  • Optimising – Develop solutions. Now is the time to switch to convergent thinking. Reflect on the ideas you came up with in step two to decide which ones could be successful. As part of optimising, you will need to decide which options might best fit your needs and logistical constraints, how you can make your concepts stronger, and finally decide which idea to move forwards with.
  • Implementing – Formulate a plan. Figuring out how you’ll turn the selected idea into reality is the final step after deciding which of your ideas offers the best solution. Identify what you’ll need to get started, and, if appropriate, let others know of your plans. Communication is particularly important for innovative ideas that require buy-in from others, especially if you think you might initially be met with resistance. You may also need to consider whether you’ll need additional resources to ensure the success of complex solutions, and request the required support in good time.

Creative Problem Solving is a great way to generate unique ideas when there appears to be no obvious solution to a problem. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly impossible challenge, this structured approach will help you generate solutions that you might otherwise not have considered. By practising Creative Problem Solving, some of the most improbable ideas could lead to the discovery of the perfect solution.

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Master High Performance, Innovation & Leadership

What is Creative Problem Solving?

Creative Problem Solving

“Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.” — John Adams

Imagine if you come up with new ideas and solve problems better, faster, easier?

Imagine if you could easily leverage the thinking from multiple experts and different points of view?

That’s the promise and the premise of Creative Problem Solving.

As Einstein put it, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Creative problem solving is a systematic approach that empowers individuals and teams to unleash their imagination , explore diverse perspectives, and generate innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Throughout my years at Microsoft, I’ve used variations of Creative Problem Solving to tackle big, audacious challenges and create new opportunities for innovation.

I this article, I walkthrough the original Creative Problem Solving process and variations so that you can more fully appreciate the power of the process and how it’s evolved over the years.

On This Page

Innovation is a Team Sport What is Creative Problem Solving? What is the Creative Problem Solving Process? Variations of Creative Problem Solving Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Criticisms of Creative Problem Solving Creative Problem Solving 21st Century FourSight Thinking Profiles Basadur’s Innovative Process Synetics SCAMPER Design Thinking

Innovation is a Team Sport

Recognizing that innovation is a team sport , I understood the importance of equipping myself and my teams with the right tools for the job.

By leveraging different problem-solving approaches, I have been able to navigate complex landscapes , think outside the box, and find unique solutions.

Creative Problem Solving has served as a valuable compass , guiding me to explore uncharted territories and unlock the potential for groundbreaking ideas.

With a diverse set of tools in my toolbox, I’ve been better prepared to navigate the dynamic world of innovation and contribute to the success and amplify impact for many teams and many orgs for many years.

By learning and teaching Creative Problem Solving we empower diverse teams to appreciate and embrace cognitive diversity to solve problems and create new opportunities with skill.

Creative problem solving is a mental process used to find original and effective solutions to problems.

It involves going beyond traditional methods and thinking outside the box to come up with new and innovative approaches.

Here are some key aspects of creative problem solving:

  • Divergent Thinking : This involves exploring a wide range of possibilities and generating a large number of ideas, even if they seem unconventional at first.
  • Convergent Thinking : Once you have a pool of ideas, you need to narrow them down and select the most promising ones. This requires critical thinking and evaluation skills.
  • Process : There are various frameworks and techniques that can guide you through the creative problem-solving process. These can help you structure your thinking and increase your chances of finding innovative solutions.

Benefits of Creative Problem Solving:

  • Finding New Solutions : It allows you to overcome challenges and achieve goals in ways that traditional methods might miss.
  • Enhancing Innovation : It fosters a culture of innovation and helps organizations stay ahead of the curve.
  • Improved Adaptability : It equips you to handle unexpected situations and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Boosts Confidence: Successfully solving problems with creative solutions can build confidence and motivation.

Here are some common techniques used in creative problem solving:

  • Brainstorming : This is a classic technique where you generate as many ideas as possible in a short period of time.
  • SCAMPER: This is a framework that prompts you to consider different ways to Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify/Minify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Rearrange elements of the problem.
  • Mind Mapping: This technique involves visually organizing your ideas and connections between them.
  • Lateral Thinking: This approach challenges you to look at the problem from different angles and consider unconventional solutions.

Creative problem solving is a valuable skill for everyone, not just artists or designers.

You can apply it to all aspects of life, from personal challenges to professional endeavors.

What is the Creative Problem Solving Process?

The Creative Problem Solving (CPS) framework is a systematic approach for generating innovative solutions to complex problems.

It’s effectively a process framework.

It provides a structured process that helps individuals and teams think creatively, explore possibilities, and develop practical solutions.

The Creative Problem Solving process framework typically consists of the following stages:

  • Clarify : In this stage, the problem or challenge is clearly defined, ensuring a shared understanding among participants. The key objectives, constraints, and desired outcomes are identified.
  • Generate Ideas : During this stage, participants engage in divergent thinking to generate a wide range of ideas and potential solutions. The focus is on quantity and deferring judgment, encouraging free-flowing creativity.
  • Develop Solutions : In this stage, the generated ideas are evaluated, refined, and developed into viable solutions. Participants explore the feasibility, practicality, and potential impact of each idea, considering the resources and constraints at hand.
  • Implement : Once a solution or set of solutions is selected, an action plan is developed to guide the implementation process. This includes defining specific steps, assigning responsibilities, setting timelines, and identifying the necessary resources.
  • Evaluate : After implementing the solution, the outcomes and results are evaluated to assess the effectiveness and impact. Lessons learned are captured to inform future problem-solving efforts and improve the process.

Throughout the Creative Problem Solving framework, various creativity techniques and tools can be employed to stimulate idea generation, such as brainstorming, mind mapping, SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse), and others.

These techniques help break through traditional thinking patterns and encourage novel approaches to problem-solving.

What are Variations of the Creative Problem Solving Process?

There are several variations of the Creative Problem Solving process, each emphasizing different steps or stages.

Here are five variations that are commonly referenced:

  • Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving : This is one of the earliest and most widely used versions of Creative Problem Solving. It consists of six stages: Objective Finding, Fact Finding, Problem Finding, Idea Finding, Solution Finding, and Acceptance Finding. It follows a systematic approach to identify and solve problems creatively.
  • Creative Problem Solving 21st Century : Creative Problem Solving 21st Century, developed by Roger Firestien, is an innovative approach that empowers individuals to identify and take action towards achieving their goals, wishes, or challenges by providing a structured process to generate ideas, develop solutions, and create a plan of action.
  • FourSight Thinking Profiles : This model introduces four stages in the Creative Problem Solving process: Clarify, Ideate, Develop, and Implement. It emphasizes the importance of understanding the problem, generating a range of ideas, developing and evaluating those ideas, and finally implementing the best solution.
  • Basadur’s Innovative Process : Basadur’s Innovative Process, developed by Min Basadur, is a systematic and iterative process that guides teams through eight steps to effectively identify, define, generate ideas, evaluate, and implement solutions, resulting in creative and innovative outcomes.
  • Synectics : Synectics is a Creative Problem Solving variation that focuses on creating new connections and insights. It involves stages such as Problem Clarification, Idea Generation, Evaluation, and Action Planning. Synectics encourages thinking from diverse perspectives and applying analogical reasoning.
  • SCAMPER : SCAMPER is an acronym representing different creative thinking techniques to stimulate idea generation. Each letter stands for a strategy: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Rearrange. SCAMPER is used as a tool within the Creative Problem Solving process to generate innovative ideas by applying these strategies.
  • Design Thinking : While not strictly a variation of Creative Problem Solving, Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach that shares similarities with Creative Problem Solving. It typically includes stages such as Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Design Thinking focuses on understanding users’ needs, ideating and prototyping solutions, and iterating based on feedback.

These are just a few examples of variations within the Creative Problem Solving framework. Each variation provides a unique perspective on the problem-solving process, allowing individuals and teams to approach challenges in different ways.

Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving (CPS)

The original Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process, developed by Alex Osborn and Sidney Parnes, consists of the following steps:

  • Objective Finding : In this step, the problem or challenge is clearly defined, and the objectives and goals are established. It involves understanding the problem from different perspectives, gathering relevant information, and identifying the desired outcomes.
  • Fact Finding : The objective of this step is to gather information, data, and facts related to the problem. It involves conducting research, analyzing the current situation, and seeking a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing the problem.
  • Problem Finding : In this step, the focus is on identifying the root causes and underlying issues contributing to the problem. It involves reframing the problem, exploring it from different angles, and asking probing questions to uncover insights and uncover potential areas for improvement.
  • Idea Finding : This step involves generating a wide range of ideas and potential solutions. Participants engage in divergent thinking techniques, such as brainstorming, to produce as many ideas as possible without judgment or evaluation. The aim is to encourage creativity and explore novel possibilities.
  • Solution Finding : After generating a pool of ideas, the next step is to evaluate and select the most promising solutions. This involves convergent thinking, where participants assess the feasibility, desirability, and viability of each idea. Criteria are established to assess and rank the solutions based on their potential effectiveness.
  • Acceptance Finding : In this step, the selected solution is refined, developed, and adapted to fit the specific context and constraints. Strategies are identified to overcome potential obstacles and challenges. Participants work to gain acceptance and support for the chosen solution from stakeholders.
  • Solution Implementation : Once the solution is finalized, an action plan is developed to guide its implementation. This includes defining specific steps, assigning responsibilities, setting timelines, and securing the necessary resources. The solution is put into action, and progress is monitored to ensure successful execution.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation : The final step involves tracking the progress and evaluating the outcomes of the implemented solution. Lessons learned are captured, and feedback is gathered to inform future problem-solving efforts. This step helps refine the process and improve future problem-solving endeavors.

The CPS process is designed to be iterative and flexible, allowing for feedback loops and refinement at each stage. It encourages collaboration, open-mindedness, and the exploration of diverse perspectives to foster creative problem-solving and innovation.

Criticisms of the Original Creative Problem Solving Approach

While Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving is a widely used and effective problem-solving framework, it does have some criticisms, challenges, and limitations.

These include:

  • Linear Process : CPS follows a structured and linear process, which may not fully capture the dynamic and non-linear nature of complex problems.
  • Overemphasis on Rationality : CPS primarily focuses on logical and rational thinking, potentially overlooking the value of intuitive or emotional insights in the problem-solving process.
  • Limited Cultural Diversity : The CPS framework may not adequately address the cultural and contextual differences that influence problem-solving approaches across diverse groups and regions.
  • Time and Resource Intensive : Implementing the CPS process can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, requiring significant commitment and investment from participants and organizations.
  • Lack of Flexibility : The structured nature of CPS may restrict the exploration of alternative problem-solving methods, limiting adaptability to different situations or contexts.
  • Limited Emphasis on Collaboration : Although CPS encourages group participation, it may not fully leverage the collective intelligence and diverse perspectives of teams, potentially limiting the effectiveness of collaborative problem-solving.
  • Potential Resistance to Change : Organizations or individuals accustomed to traditional problem-solving approaches may encounter resistance or difficulty in embracing the CPS methodology and its associated mindset shift.

Despite these criticisms and challenges, the CPS framework remains a valuable tool for systematic problem-solving.

Adapting and supplementing it with other methodologies and approaches can help overcome some of its limitations and enhance overall effectiveness.

Creative Problem Solving 21st Century

Roger Firestien is a master facilitator of the Creative Problem Solving process. He has been using it, studying it, researching it, and teaching it for 40 years.

According to him, the 21st century requires a new approach to problem-solving that is more creative and innovative.

He has developed a program that focuses on assisting facilitators of the Creative Problem Solving Process to smoothly and confidently transition from one stage to the next in the Creative Problem Solving process as well as learn how to talk less and accomplish more while facilitating Creative Problem Solving.

Creative Problem Solving empowers individuals to identify and take action towards achieving their goals, manifesting their aspirations, or addressing challenges they wish to overcome.

Unlike approaches that solely focus on problem-solving, CPS recognizes that the user’s objective may not necessarily be framed as a problem. Instead, CPS supports users in realizing their goals and desires, providing a versatile framework to guide them towards success.

Why Creative Problem Solving 21st Century?

Creative Problem Solving 21st Century addresses challenges with the original Creative Problem Solving method by adapting it to the demands of the modern era. Roger Firestien recognized that the 21st century requires a new approach to problem-solving that is more creative and innovative.

The Creative Problem Solving 21st Century program focuses on helping facilitators smoothly transition between different stages of the problem-solving process. It also teaches them how to be more efficient and productive in their facilitation by talking less and achieving more results.

Unlike approaches that solely focus on problem-solving, Creative Problem Solving 21st Century acknowledges that users may not always frame their objectives as problems. It recognizes that individuals have goals, wishes, and challenges they want to address or achieve. Creative Problem Solving provides a flexible framework to guide users towards success in realizing their aspirations.

Creative Problem Solving 21st Century builds upon the foundational work of pioneers such as Osborn, Parnes, Miller, and Firestien. It incorporates practical techniques like PPC (Pluses, Potentials, Concerns) and emphasizes the importance of creative leadership skills in driving change.

Stages of the Creative Problem Solving 21st Century

  • Clarify the Problem
  • Generate Ideas
  • Develop Solutions
  • Plan for Action

Steps of the Creative Problem Solving 21st Century

Here are stages and steps of the Creative Problem Solving 21st Century per Roger Firestien:


Start here when you are looking to improve, create, or solve something. You want to explore the facts,  feelings and data around it. You want to find the best problem to solve.

IDENTIFY GOAL, WISH OR CHALLENGE Start with a goal, wish or challenge that begins with the phrase: “I wish…” or “It would be great if…”

Diverge : If you are not quite clear on a goal then create, invent, solve or improve.

Converge : Select the goal, wish or challenge on which you have Ownership, Motivation and a need for Imagination.


Diverge : What is a brief history of your goal, wish or challenge? What have you already thought of or tried? What might be your ideal goal?

Converge : Select the key data that reveals a new insight into the situation or that is important to consider throughout the remainder of the process.

Diverge : Generate many questions about your goal, wish or challenge. Phrase your questions beginning with: “How to…?” “How might…?” “What might be all the ways to…?” Try turning your key data into questions that redefine the goal, wish or challenge.

  • Mark the “HITS” : New insight. Promising direction. Nails it! Feels good in your gut.
  • Group the related “HITS” together.
  • Restate the cluster . “How to…” “What might be all the…”


Start here when you have a clearly defined problem and you need ideas to solve it. The best way to create great ideas is to generate LOTS of ideas. Defer judgment. Strive for quantity. Seek wild & unusual ideas. Build on other ideas.

Diverge : Come up with at least 40 ideas for solving your problem. Come up with 40 more. Keep going. Even as you see good ideas emerge, keep pushing for novelty. Stretch!

  • Mark the “HITS”: Interesting, Intriguing, Useful, Solves the problem. Sparkles at you.
  • Restate the cluster with a verb phrase.


Start here when you want to turn promising ideas into workable solutions.

DEVELOP YOUR SOLUTION Review your clusters of ideas and blend them into a “story.” Imagine in detail what your solution would look like when it is implemented.

Begin your solution story with the phrase, “What I see myself doing is…”


PPCo stands for Pluses, Potentials, Concerns and Overcome concerns

Review your solution story .

  • List the PLUSES or specific strengths of your solution.
  • List the POTENTIALS of your solution. What might be the result if you were to implement your idea?
  • Finally, list your CONCERNS about the solution. Phrase your concerns beginning with “How to…”
  • Diverge and generate ideas to OVERCOME your concerns one at a time until they have all been overcome
  • Converge and select the best ideas to overcome your concerns. Use these ideas to improve your solution.


Start here when you have a solution and need buy-in from others. You want to create a detailed plan of action to follow.

Diverge : List all of the actions you might take to implement your solution.

  • What might you do to make your solution easy to understand?
  • What might you do to demonstrate the advantages of your solution?
  • How might you gain acceptance of your solution?
  • What steps might you take to put your solution into action?

Converge : Select the key actions to implement your solution. Create a plan, detailing who does what by when.

Credits for the Creative Problem Solving 21st Century

Creative Problem Solving – 21st Century is based on the work of: Osborn, A.F..(1953). Applied Imagination: Principles and procedures of Creative Problem Solving. New York: Scribner’s. Parnes, S.J, Noller, R.B & Biondi, A. (1977). Guide to Creative Action. New York: Scribner’s. Miller, B., Firestien, R., Vehar, J. Plain language Creative Problem-Solving Model, 1997. Puccio, G.J., Mance, M., Murdock, M.C. (2010) Creative Leadership: Skills that drive change. (Second Edition), Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Miller, B., Vehar J., Firestien, R., Thurber, S. Nielsen, D. (2011) Creativity Unbound: An introduction to creative process. (Fifth Edition), Foursight, LLC., Evanston, IL. PPC (Pluses, Potentials & Concerns) was invented by Diane Foucar-Szocki, Bill Shepard & Roger Firestien in 1982

Where to Go for More on Creative Problem Solving 21st Century

Here are incredible free resources to ramp up on Creative Problem Solving 21st Century:

  • PDF of Creative Problem Solving 21st Edition (RogerFirestien.com)
  • PDF Worksheets for Creative Problem Solving (RogerFirestien.com)
  • Video: Roger Firestien on 40 Years of Creative Problem Solving

Video Walkthroughs

  • Video 1: Introduction to Creative Problem Solving
  • Video 2: Identify your Goal/Wish/Challenge
  • Video 3: Gather Data
  • Video 4: Clarify the Problem: Creative Questions
  • Video 5: Clarify the Problem: Why? What’s Stopping Me?
  • Video 6: Selecting the Best Problem
  • Video 7: How to do a Warm-up
  • Video 8: Generate Ideas: Sticky Notes + Forced Connections
  • Video 9: Generate Ideas: Brainwriting
  • Video 10: Selecting the Best Ideas
  • Video 11: Develop Solutions: PPCO
  • Video 12: Generating Action Steps
  • Video 13: Create Your Action Plan
  • Video 14: CPS: The Whole Process

FourSight Thinking Profiles

The FourSight Thinking Skills Profile is an assessment tool designed to measure an individual’s thinking preferences and skills.

It focuses on four key thinking styles or stages that contribute to the creative problem-solving process.

The assessment helps individuals and teams understand their strengths and areas for development in each of these stages.

Why FourSight Thinking Profiles?

The FourSight method was necessary to address certain limitations or challenges that were identified in the original CPS method.

  • Thinking Preferences : The FourSight model recognizes that individuals have different thinking preferences or cognitive styles. By understanding and leveraging these preferences, the FourSight method aims to optimize idea generation and problem-solving processes within teams and organizations.
  • Overemphasis on Ideation : While ideation is a critical aspect of CPS, the original method sometimes focused too heavily on generating ideas without adequate attention to other stages, such as problem clarification, solution development, and implementation. FourSight offers a more balanced approach across all stages of the CPS process.
  • Enhanced Problem Definition : FourSight places a particular emphasis on the Clarify stage, which involves defining the problem or challenge. This is an important step to ensure that the problem is well-understood and properly framed before proceeding to ideation and solution development.
  • Research-Based Approach : The development of FourSight was influenced by extensive research on thinking styles and creativity. By incorporating these research insights into the CPS process, FourSight provides a more evidence-based and comprehensive approach to creative problem-solving.

Stages of FourSight Creative Problem Solving

FourSight Creative Problem Solving consists of four thinking stages, each associated with a specific thinking preference:

  • Clarify : In this stage, the focus is on gaining a clear understanding of the problem or challenge. Participants define the problem statement, gather relevant information, and identify the key objectives and desired outcomes. This stage involves analytical thinking and careful examination of the problem’s context and scope.
  • Ideate : The ideation stage involves generating a broad range of ideas and potential solutions. Participants engage in divergent thinking, allowing for a free flow of creativity and encouraging the exploration of unconventional possibilities. Various brainstorming techniques and creativity tools can be utilized to stimulate idea generation.
  • Develop : Once a pool of ideas has been generated, the next stage is to develop and refine the selected ideas. Participants shift into a convergent thinking mode, evaluating and analyzing the feasibility, practicality, and potential impact of each idea. The emphasis is on refining and shaping the ideas into viable solutions.
  • Implement : The final stage is focused on implementing the chosen solution. Participants develop an action plan, define specific steps and timelines, assign responsibilities, and identify the necessary resources. This stage requires practical thinking and attention to detail to ensure the successful execution of the solution.

Throughout the FourSight framework, it is recognized that individuals have different thinking preferences. Some individuals naturally excel in the Clarify stage, while others thrive in Ideate, Develop, or Implement.

By understanding these preferences, the FourSight framework encourages collaboration and diversity of thinking styles, ensuring a well-rounded approach to problem-solving and innovation.

The FourSight process can be iterative, allowing for feedback loops and revisiting previous stages as needed. It emphasizes the importance of open communication, respect for different perspectives, and leveraging the collective intelligence of a team to achieve optimal results.

4 Thinking Profiles in FourSight

In the FourSight model, there are four preferences that individuals can exhibit. These preferences reflect where individuals tend to focus their energy and time within the creative problem-solving process.

The four preferences in FourSight are:

  • Clarifier : Individuals with a Clarifier preference excel in the first stage of the creative problem-solving process, which is about gaining clarity and understanding the problem. They are skilled at asking questions, gathering information, and analyzing data to define the problem accurately.
  • Ideator : Individuals with an Ideator preference thrive in the second stage, which involves generating a wide range of ideas. They are imaginative thinkers who excel at brainstorming, thinking outside the box, and generating creative solutions. Ideators are known for their ability to explore multiple perspectives and come up with diverse ideas.
  • Developer : Individuals with a Developer preference excel in the third stage of the process, which focuses on refining and developing ideas. They are skilled at evaluating ideas, analyzing their feasibility, and transforming them into actionable plans or solutions. Developers excel in taking promising ideas and shaping them into practical and effective strategies.
  • Implementer : Individuals with an Implementer preference shine in the final stage of the process, which is about planning for action and executing the chosen solution. Implementers are skilled at organizing tasks, creating action plans, and ensuring successful implementation. They focus on turning ideas into tangible outcomes and are known for their ability to execute projects efficiently.

It’s important to note that while individuals may have a primary preference, everyone is capable of participating in all stages of the creative problem-solving process.

However, the FourSight model suggests that individuals tend to have a natural inclination or preference towards one or more of these stages. Understanding one’s preferences can help individuals leverage their strengths and work effectively in a team by appreciating the diversity of thinking preferences.

Right Hand vs. Left Hand

The FourSight model is a way to understand how people approach the creative process. It measures our preferences for different stages of creativity.

A good analogy for this is writing with your right or left hand. Think about writing with your right or left hand. Most of us have a dominant hand that we use for writing. It’s the hand we’re most comfortable with and it comes naturally to us. But it doesn’t mean we can’t write with our non-dominant hand. We can still do it, but it requires more effort and focus.

Similarly, in the creative process, we have preferred stages or parts that we enjoy and feel comfortable in. These are our peak preferences. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t work on the other stages. We can make a conscious effort to spend time and work on those stages, even if they don’t come as naturally to us.

Combinations of FourSight Profiles

Your FourSight profile is determined by four scores that represent your preferences in the creative process. Your profile reveals where you feel most energized and where you may struggle.

If you have a single peak in your profile, refer back to the description of that preference. If you have two or more peaks, continue reading to understand your tendencies when engaging in any kind of innovation.

Here are how the combinations show up, along with their labels:

2-Way Combinations

  • High Clarifier & High Ideator = “Early Bird
  • High Clarifier & High Developer = “Analyst”
  • High Clarifier & High Implementer = “Accelerator”
  • High Ideator & High Developer = “Theorist”
  • High Ideator & High Implementer = “Driver”
  • High Developer & High Implementer = “Finisher”

3-Way Combinations

  • High Clarifier, Ideator & Developer = “Hare”
  • High Clarifier, Ideator & Implementer = “Idea Broker”
  • High Clarifier, Developer & Implementer = “Realist”
  • High Ideator, Developer & Implementer = “Optimist”

4-Way Combination Nearly Equal for All Four Preferences = “Integrator”

Where to Go for More On FourSight

  • FourSight Home
  • FourSight Thinking Profile Interpretive Guide PDF
  • FourSight Technical Manual PDF

Basadur’s Innovative Process

The Simplex Process, developed by management and creativity expert Min Basadur, gained recognition through his influential book “The Power of Innovation” published in 1995.

It consists of a sequence of eight steps organized into three distinct stages:

  • Problem Formulation
  • Solution Formulation
  • Solution Implementation

You might hear Bsadur’s Innovative Process referred to by a few variations:

  • Simplex Creative Problem Solving
  • Basadur SIMPLEX Problem Solving Process
  • Basadur System of innovation and creative problem solving
  • Simplexity Thinking Process

What is Basadur’s Innovative Process

Here is how Basadur.com explains Basadur’s Innovation Process :

“The Basadur Innovation Process is an innovative thinking & creative problem solving process that separates innovation into clearly-defined steps, to take you from initial problem-finding right through to implementing the solutions you’ve created.

Its beauty is that it enables everyone to participate in an unbiased, open-minded way.

In the absence of negativity, people can think clearly and logically, building innovation confidence. A wide range of ideas can be proposed and the best ones selected, refined and executed in a spirit of openness and collaboration.

“That’s a great idea, but…”

How often have you heard this phrase? In most group decision-making processes, ideas are killed off before they’ve even got off the ground. With The Basadur Process on the other hand, judgment is deferred. Put simply, opinions on ideas don’t get in the way of ideas.”

3 Phases and 8 Steps of Basadur’s Innovative Process

The Basadur’s Innovative Process consists of three phases, subdivided into eight steps:

Phase 1: Problem Formulation

Problem Formulation : This phase focuses on understanding and defining the problem accurately. It involves the following steps:

  • Step 1 : Problem Finding . Actively anticipate and seek out problems, opportunities, and possibilities. Maintain an open mind and view problems as opportunities for proactive resolution. Identify fuzzy situations and recognize that they can open new doors.
  • Step 2 : Fact Finding . Gather relevant information and facts related to the fuzzy situation. Seek multiple viewpoints, challenge assumptions, listen to others, and focus on finding the truth rather than personal opinions. Utilize different lines of questioning to clarify the situation.
  • Step 3 : Problem Definition . Define the problem accurately and objectively. View the problem from different angles and consider new perspectives. Uncover fresh challenges and recognize that the perceived problem might not be the real issue.

Phase 2: Solution Formulation

Solution Formulation . Once the problem is well-defined, this phase revolves around generating and evaluating potential solutions.  The steps involved are:

  • Step 4 : Idea Finding . Generate ideas to solve the defined problem. Continuously seek more and better ideas, build upon half-formed ideas, and consider ideas from others. Fine-tune seemingly radical or impossible ideas to make them workable solutions.
  • Step 5 : Evaluate & Select . Evaluate and select the most promising ideas to convert them into practical solutions. Consider multiple criteria in an unbiased manner, creatively improve imperfect solutions, and re-evaluate them.

Phase 3: Solution Implementation

Solution Implementation . In the final phase, the focus shifts to implementing and executing the selected solution effectively. The steps in this phase include:

  • Step 6 : Plan Devise specific measures and create a concrete plan for implementing the chosen solution. Visualize the end result and motivate others to participate and support the plan.
  • Step 7 : Acceptance Gain acceptance for the solutions and plans. Communicate the benefits of the solution to others, address potential concerns, and continuously revise and improve the solution to minimize resistance to change.
  • Step 8 : Action Implement the solutions and put the plan into action. Avoid getting stuck in unimportant details, adapt the solutions to specific circumstances, and garner support for the change. Emphasize the need for follow-up to ensure lasting and permanent changes.

The SIMPLEX process recognizes that implementing a solution can reveal new problems, opportunities, and possibilities, leading back to Step 1 and initiating the iterative problem-solving and innovation cycle again.

Where to Go for More on Basadur’s Innovation Process

  • Basadur’s Innovative Process Home
  • Simplexity Thinking Explained
  • Ambasadur Affiliate Program

Synectics is a problem-solving and creative thinking approach that emphasizes the power of collaboration, analogy, and metaphorical thinking. It was developed in the 1960s by George M. Prince and William J.J. Gordon.

Synectics is based on the belief that the most innovative ideas and solutions arise from the integration of diverse perspectives and the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.

The Story of Synetics

Here is the story of Syentics according to SyneticsWorld.com:

“Back in the 1950s, our founders Bill Gordon, George Prince and their team studied thousands of hours of tape recorded innovation sessions to find the answer to

‘What is really going on between the people in the group to help them create and implement successfully?’

They called the answer the Synectics Creative-Problem-Solving Methodology, which has expanded into the Synecticsworld’s expertise on how people work creatively and collaboratively to create innovative solutions to some of the world’s most difficult challenges.

The unique Synecticsworld innovation process to the art of problem solving has taken us to many different destinations. We have worked on assignments in both the public and private sectors, in product and service innovation, business process improvement, cost reduction and the reinvention of business models and strategies.

It is our on-going goal to guide and inspire our clients to engage the Synectics innovation process to create innovative ideas, innovative solutions, and activate new, powerful, and innovative solutions.”

Why Synetics?

Synectics addresses challenges of the original Creative Problem Solving process by introducing a unique set of tools and techniques that foster creative thinking and overcome mental barriers.

Here’s how Synectics addresses some common challenges of the original Creative Problem Solving process:

  • Breaking Mental Barriers : Synectics recognizes that individuals often have mental blocks and preconceived notions that limit their thinking. It tackles this challenge by encouraging the use of analogies, metaphors, and connections to break through these barriers. By exploring unrelated concepts and drawing parallels, participants can generate fresh perspectives and innovative solutions.
  • Promoting Divergent Thinking : The original CPS process may sometimes struggle to foster a truly divergent thinking environment where participants feel comfortable expressing unconventional ideas. Synectics creates a safe and non-judgmental space for participants to freely explore and share their thoughts, regardless of how unusual or unconventional they may seem. This encourages a wider range of ideas and increases the potential for breakthrough solutions.
  • Enhancing Collaboration : Synectics emphasizes the power of collaboration and the integration of diverse perspectives. It recognizes that innovation often emerges through the interaction of different viewpoints and experiences. By actively engaging participants in collaborative brainstorming sessions and encouraging them to build upon each other’s ideas, Synectics enhances teamwork and collective problem-solving.
  • Stimulating Creative Connections : While the original CPS process focuses on logical problem-solving techniques, Synectics introduces the use of analogy and metaphorical thinking. By encouraging participants to find connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, Synectics stimulates creative thinking and opens up new possibilities. This approach helps overcome fixed thinking patterns and encourages participants to explore alternative perspectives and solutions.
  • Encouraging Unconventional Solutions : Synectics acknowledges that unconventional ideas can lead to breakthrough solutions. It provides a framework that supports the exploration of unorthodox approaches and encourages participants to think beyond traditional boundaries. By challenging the status quo and embracing innovative thinking, Synectics enables the generation of unique and impactful solutions.

Synectics complements and expands upon the original CPS process by offering additional tools and techniques that specifically address challenges related to mental barriers, divergent thinking, collaboration, creative connections, and unconventional solutions.

It provides a structured approach to enhance creativity and problem-solving in a collaborative setting.

Synetic Sessions

In the Synectics process, individuals or teams engage in structured brainstorming sessions, often referred to as “synectic sessions.”

These sessions encourage participants to think beyond conventional boundaries and explore novel ways of approaching a problem or challenge.

The approach involves creating an open and non-judgmental environment where participants feel free to express their ideas and build upon each other’s contributions.

Synectics incorporates the use of analogies and metaphors to stimulate creative thinking. Participants are encouraged to make connections between unrelated concepts, draw parallels from different domains, and explore alternative perspectives.

This approach helps to break mental barriers, unlock new insights, and generate innovative ideas.

Steps of the Synetics Process

The Synectics process typically involves the following steps:

  • Problem Identification : Clearly defining the problem or challenge that needs to be addressed.
  • Idea Generation: Engaging in brainstorming sessions to generate a wide range of ideas, including both conventional and unconventional ones.
  • Analogy and Metaphor Exploration : Encouraging participants to explore analogies, metaphors, and connections to stimulate new ways of thinking about the problem.
  • Idea Development: Refining and developing the most promising ideas generated during the brainstorming process.
  • Solution Evaluation : Assessing and evaluating the potential feasibility, effectiveness, and practicality of the developed ideas.
  • Implementation Planning : Creating a detailed action plan to implement the chosen solution or ideas.

Synectics has been used in various fields, including business, design, education, and innovation. It is particularly effective when addressing complex problems that require a fresh perspective and the integration of diverse viewpoints.

Example of How Synetics Explores Analogies and Metaphors

Here’s an example of how Synectics utilizes analogy and metaphor exploration to stimulate new ways of thinking about a problem:

Let’s say a team is tasked with improving customer service in a retail store. During a Synectics session, participants may be encouraged to explore analogies and metaphors related to customer service. For example:

  • Analogy : The participants might be asked to think of customer service in terms of a restaurant experience. They can draw parallels between the interactions between waitstaff and customers in a restaurant and the interactions between retail associates and shoppers. By exploring this analogy, participants may uncover insights and ideas for enhancing the customer experience in the retail store, such as personalized attention, prompt service, or creating a welcoming ambiance.
  • Metaphor : Participants could be prompted to imagine customer service as a journey or a road trip. They can explore how different stages of the journey, such as initial contact, assistance during the shopping process, and follow-up after purchase, can be improved to create a seamless and satisfying experience. This metaphorical exploration may lead to ideas like providing clear signage, offering assistance at every step, or implementing effective post-purchase support.

Through analogy and metaphor exploration, Synectics encourages participants to think beyond the immediate context and draw inspiration from different domains .

By connecting disparate ideas and concepts , new perspectives and innovative solutions can emerge.

These analogies and metaphors serve as creative triggers that unlock fresh insights and generate ideas that may not have been considered within the confines of the original problem statement.

SCAMPER is a creative thinking technique that provides a set of prompts or questions to stimulate idea generation and innovation. It was developed by Bob Eberle and is widely used in problem-solving, product development, and brainstorming sessions.

SCAMPER provides a structured framework for creatively examining and challenging existing ideas, products, or processes.

Recognizing the value of Alex Osterman’s original checklist, Bob Eberle skillfully organized it into meaningful and repeatable categories. This thoughtful refinement by Eberle has made SCAMPER a practical and highly effective tool for expanding possibilities, breaking through creative blocks, and sparking new insights.

By systematically applying each prompt, individuals or teams can generate a wide range of possibilities and discover innovative solutions to problems or opportunities.

What Does SCAMPER Stand For?

Each letter in the word “SCAMPER” represents a different prompt to encourage creative thinking and exploration of ideas.

Here’s what each letter stands for:

  • S – Substitute : Consider substituting a component, material, process, or element with something different to generate new ideas.
  • C – Combine : Explore possibilities by combining or merging different elements, ideas, or features to create something unique.
  • A – Adapt : Identify ways to adapt or modify existing ideas, products, or processes to fit new contexts or purposes.
  • M – Modify : Examine how you can modify or change various attributes, characteristics, or aspects of an idea or solution to enhance its functionality or performance.
  • P – Put to another use : Explore alternative uses or applications for an existing idea, object, or resource to uncover new possibilities.
  • E – Eliminate : Consider what elements, features, or processes can be eliminated or removed to simplify or streamline an idea or solution.
  • R – Reverse or Rearrange : Think about reversing or rearranging the order, sequence, or arrangement of components or processes to generate fresh perspectives and uncover innovative solutions.

Example of SCAMPER

Let’s take a simple and relatable challenge of improving the process of making breakfast sandwiches. We can use SCAMPER to generate ideas for enhancing this routine:

  • S – Substitute : What can we substitute in the breakfast sandwich-making process? For example, we could substitute the traditional bread with a croissant or a tortilla wrap to add variety.
  • C – Combine : How can we combine different ingredients or flavors to create unique breakfast sandwiches? We could combine eggs, bacon, and avocado to create a delicious and satisfying combination.
  • A – Adapt: How can we adapt the breakfast sandwich-making process to fit different dietary preferences? We could offer options for gluten-free bread or create a vegan breakfast sandwich using plant-based ingredients.
  • M – Modify : How can we modify the cooking method or preparation techniques for the breakfast sandwich? We could experiment with different cooking techniques like grilling or toasting the bread to add a crispy texture.
  • P – Put to another use : How can we repurpose breakfast sandwich ingredients for other meals or snacks? We could use the same ingredients to create a breakfast burrito or use the bread to make croutons for a salad.
  • E – Eliminate : What unnecessary steps or ingredients can we eliminate to simplify the breakfast sandwich-making process? We could eliminate the need for butter by using a non-stick pan or omit certain condiments to streamline the assembly process.
  • R – Reverse or Rearrange : How can we reverse or rearrange the order of ingredients for a unique twist? We could reverse the order of ingredients by placing the cheese on the outside of the sandwich to create a crispy cheese crust.

These are just a few examples of how SCAMPER prompts can spark ideas for improving the breakfast sandwich-making process.

The key is to think creatively and explore possibilities within each prompt to generate innovative solutions to the challenge at hand.

Design Thinking

Design thinking provides a structured framework for creative problem-solving, with an emphasis on human needs and aspirations .

It’s an iterative process that allows for continuous learning , adaptation , and improvement based on user feedback and insights.

Here are some key ways to think about Design Thinking:

  • Design thinking is an iterative and human-centered approach to problem-solving and innovation. It’s a methodology that draws inspiration from the design process to address complex challenges and create innovative solutions.
  • Design thinking places a strong emphasis on understanding the needs and perspectives of the end-users or customers throughout the problem-solving journey.
  • Design thinking is a collaborative and interdisciplinary process . It encourages diverse perspectives and cross-functional collaboration to foster innovation. It can be applied to a wide range of challenges, from product design and service delivery to organizational processes and social issues.

What is the Origin of Design Thinking

The origin of Design Thinking can be traced back to the work of various scholars and practitioners over several decades.

While it has evolved and been influenced by multiple sources, the following key influences are often associated with the development of Design Thinking:

  • Herbert A. Simon : In the 1960s, Nobel laureate Herbert A. Simon emphasized the importance of “satisficing” in decision-making and problem-solving. His work focused on the iterative nature of problem-solving and the need for designers to explore various alternatives before arriving at the optimal solution.
  • Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber : In the 1970s, Rittel and Webber introduced the concept of “wicked problems,” which are complex and ill-defined challenges that do not have clear solutions. They highlighted the need for a collaborative and iterative approach to tackling these wicked problems, which aligns with the principles of Design Thinking.
  • David Kelley and IDEO : Design firm IDEO, co-founded by David Kelley, played a significant role in popularizing Design Thinking. IDEO embraced an interdisciplinary and human-centered approach to design, focusing on empathy, rapid prototyping, and iteration. IDEO’s successful design projects and methodologies have influenced the development and adoption of Design Thinking across various industries.
  • Stanford University : Stanford University’s d.school (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design) has been instrumental in advancing Design Thinking. The d.school has developed educational programs and frameworks that emphasize hands-on experiential learning, collaboration, and empathy in problem-solving. It has played a significant role in spreading the principles of Design Thinking globally.

While these influences have contributed to the emergence and development of Design Thinking, it’s important to note that Design Thinking is an evolving and multidisciplinary approach.

It continues to be shaped by practitioners, scholars, and organizations who contribute new ideas and insights to its principles and methodologies.

Key Principles of Design Thinking

Here are key principles of Design Thinking:

  • Empathy : Design thinking begins with developing a deep understanding of the needs, emotions, and experiences of the people for whom you are designing solutions. Empathy involves active listening, observation, and engaging with users to gain insights and uncover unmet needs.
  • Define the Problem : In this phase, the problem is defined and reframed based on the insights gained through empathy. The focus is on creating a clear problem statement that addresses the users’ needs and aspirations.
  • Ideation : The ideation phase involves generating a wide range of ideas without judgment or criticism. It encourages divergent thinking, creativity, and the exploration of various possibilities to solve the defined problem.
  • Prototyping : In this phase, ideas are translated into tangible prototypes or representations that can be tested and evaluated. Prototypes can be physical objects, mock-ups, or even digital simulations. The goal is to quickly and cost-effectively bring ideas to life for feedback and iteration.
  • Testing and Iteration : Prototypes are tested with end-users to gather feedback, insights, and validation. The feedback received is used to refine and iterate the design, making improvements based on real-world observations and user input.
  • Implementation : Once the design has been refined and validated through testing, it is implemented and brought to life. This phase involves planning for execution, scaling up, and integrating the solution into the intended context.

Where to Go for More on Design Thinking

There are numerous resources available to learn more about design thinking. Here are three highly regarded resources that can provide a solid foundation and deeper understanding of the subject:

  • “Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work” (Book) – Nigel Cross: This book offers a comprehensive overview of design thinking, exploring its history, principles, and methodologies. Nigel Cross, a renowned design researcher, delves into the mindset and processes of designers, providing insights into their approaches to problem-solving and creativity.
  • IDEO U : IDEO U is an online learning platform created by IDEO, a leading design and innovation firm. IDEO U offers a range of courses and resources focused on design thinking and innovation. Their courses provide practical guidance, case studies, and interactive exercises to deepen your understanding and application of design thinking principles.
  • Stanford d.school Virtual Crash Course : The Stanford d.school offers a free Virtual Crash Course in design thinking. This online resource provides an introduction to the principles and process of design thinking through a series of videos and activities. It covers topics such as empathy, ideation, prototyping, and testing. The Virtual Crash Course is a great starting point for beginners and offers hands-on learning experiences.

These resources offer diverse perspectives and practical insights into design thinking, equipping learners with the knowledge and tools to apply design thinking principles to their own projects and challenges.

Additionally, exploring case studies and real-life examples of design thinking applications in various industries can further enhance your understanding of its effectiveness and potential impact.

Dr. John Martin on “Psychological” vs. “Procedural” Approach

Dr. John Martin of the Open University in the UK offers an insightful perspective on how various Creative Problem Solving and Brainstorming techniques differ.

In his notes for the Creative Management module of their MBA Course in 1997, he states:

“In practice, different schools of creativity training borrow from one another. The more elaborate forms of creative problem-solving, such as the Buffalo CPS method (basically brainstorming), incorporate quite a number of features found in Synectics.

However there is still a discernible split between the ‘psychological’ approaches such as Synectics that emphasize metaphor, imagery, emotion, energy etc. and ‘procedural’ approaches that concentrate on private listings, round robins etc.. Of course practitioners can combine these techniques, but there is often a discernible bias towards one or other end of the spectrum”

Brainstorming was the original Creative Problem-solving Technique, developed in the 1930s by Alex Osborn (the O of the advertising agency BBDO) and further developed by Professor Sidney Parnes of the Buffalo Institute.

The Osborn-Parnes model is the most widely practised form of brainstorming, though the word has become a generic term for any attempt to generate new ideas in an environment of suspending judgement. It may include elements of other techniques, such as de Bono’s Lateral Thinking.”

Creative Problem Solving vs. Brainstorming vs. Lateral Thinking

Creative Problem Solving, brainstorming, and lateral thinking are distinct approaches to generating ideas and solving problems. Here’s a summary of their differences:

Creative Problem Solving:

  • Involves a systematic approach to problem-solving, typically following stages such as problem identification, idea generation, solution development, and implementation planning.
  • Focuses on understanding the problem deeply, analyzing data, and generating a wide range of potential solutions.
  • Encourages both convergent thinking (evaluating and selecting the best ideas) and divergent thinking (generating multiple ideas).
  • Incorporates structured techniques and frameworks to guide the problem-solving process, such as the Osborn-Parnes model.


  • A specific technique within Creative Problem Solving, developed by Alex Osborn, which aims to generate a large quantity of ideas in a short amount of time.
  • Involves a group of individuals openly sharing ideas without judgment or criticism.
  • Emphasizes quantity over quality, encouraging participants to build upon each other’s ideas and think creatively.
  • Typically involves following guidelines, such as deferring judgment, encouraging wild ideas, and combining and improving upon suggestions.

Lateral Thinking (Edward de Bono’s Lateral Thinking):

  • Introduced by Edward de Bono, lateral thinking is a deliberate and structured approach to thinking differently and generating innovative ideas.
  • Involves deliberately challenging traditional thinking patterns and assumptions to arrive at unconventional solutions.
  • Encourages the use of techniques like random stimulation, provocative statements, and deliberate provocation to shift perspectives and break fixed thought patterns.
  • Focuses on generating out-of-the-box ideas that may not arise through traditional problem-solving methods.

While there can be overlaps and combinations of these approaches in practice, each approach has its distinct emphasis and techniques.

Creative Problem Solving provides a structured framework for problem-solving, brainstorming emphasizes idea generation within a group setting, and lateral thinking promotes thinking outside the box to arrive at unconventional solutions.

Creative Problem Solving Empowers You to Change Your World

The Creative Problem Solving process is a valuable framework that enables individuals and teams to approach complex problems with a structured and creative mindset.

By following the stages of clarifying the problem, generating ideas, developing solutions, implementing the chosen solution, and evaluating the outcomes, the process guides participants through a systematic and iterative journey of problem-solving.

Throughout this deep dive, we’ve explored the essence of Creative Problem Solving, its key stages, and variations. We’ve seen how different methodologies, such as Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving, FourSight Thinking Profiles, Basadur’s Innovative Process, Synectics, SCAMPER, and Design Thinking, offer unique perspectives and techniques to enhance the creative problem-solving experience.

By embracing these frameworks and techniques, individuals and teams can tap into their creative potential , break free from conventional thinking patterns, and unlock innovative solutions.

Creative Problem Solving empowers us to approach challenges with curiosity, open-mindedness, and a collaborative spirit , fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Remember, creative problem solving is a skill that can be developed and honed over time. By adopting a flexible and adaptable mindset , embracing diverse perspectives, and applying various creativity tools, we can navigate the complexities of problem-solving and uncover solutions that drive positive change.

Let’s enjoy our creative problem-solving journey by embracing the unknown and transforming challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation.

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Creative Problem Solving: How to Turn Challenges into Opportunities

What if we can turn problems faced in projects into opportunities? There are various examples show that understanding the problem and provide a creative solution for it can lead to successful products such as the Apple iPods and e-book readers. These products have implemented the Creative Problem Solving approach to see their consumers’ needs as an opportunity for new products.

When we face a problem inside the company or the market, we tend to place all the effort and resources to only solving it. This is totally normal as it reflects the nature of the human being when facing a threat or a challenge. However, this problem may also present an opportunity. For example, Airbnb was able to find an opportunity in the market by solving people problem to find affordable living places for a short term during their trips. The creative problem solving can help companies to explore both the solutions and opportunities related to the problem.

Related articles:

  • Problem-Solving Using Cause and Effect Diagram
  • Practice Guide to Solve Problems with TRIZ
  • A Guide to the SCAMPER Technique for Creative Thinking
  • What Does the Systems Thinking Teach us About the Problems of Problem-Solving Practice

What is the Creative Problem Solving?

The creative problem solving (CPS) is a process that is used to solve problems and find opportunities. The process aims to go beyond the traditional thinking in problem-solving to find creative solutions. While there are different problem-solving models, the core difference between them and the creative problem solving is that it applied a divergent and convergent thinking at each stage. The divergent part aims to collect data and explore ideas when the convergent part aims to evaluate and test these ideas.

The idea behind creative problem solving was there for more than 60 years.There were different suggestions to the stages of the creative problem solving, yet all meet with the process introduced by Osbon and Parnes, the founder of the Creative Education Foundation. Other models were also inspired from Osbon and Parnes such as the CPS Learners’ Model, which is developed by Dr. Gerard J. Puccio, Marie Mance, and co-workers.

creative problem solving

Generally, the principles behind the creative problem-solving process include the following:

  • Separate both the divergent and convergent thinking in each stage. This helps to clearly define the two types of thinking during the meetings and ensure the balance between them. The divergent thinking aims to collect ideas without any judgment regardless their quality. The convergent thinking aims to analyze the ideas, compare it with the objectives, and improve it.
  • Avoid judgment during the brainstorming and analyzing the ideas. This helps the team to explore different related ideas and inspire from each others’ ideas. The judgment stage is deferred to the convergent thinking stage to evaluate the process.
  • Highlight the problems in a form of questions. These questions are using during the different stages as challenges in order to find solutions

When to Use the Creative problem Solving?

As mentioned earlier, the creative problem solving can be used in two main situations:

  • Finding solutions for problems. The product or the company face a problem, all the stakeholder involved in the development process meet and go through the creative problem solving different stages in order to find a viable solution for their problem
  • Exploring opportunities. Companies are in a rat race to compete in the market, yet this can’t be achieved without evolving their products to meet the customers’ needs and technology trends.

How to Use the Creative Problem Solving process?

As mentioned earlier, the creative problem solving evolved through the years with different models. Generally, the below CPS Learning Model by the Creative Education Foundation provides an easy to follow a model that includes four main stages; Clarify, Ideate, Develop, and Implement. It is very similar to the design thinking and the critical thinking models. ( click the figure below to see the model in larger size ).

creative problem solving

Stage 1: Clarify

The Clarify stage aims to understand the problem and formulate it in a form of questions. Therefore, it consists of three part:

Explore the Vision

At the beginning, the team should define the main challenge that needs to be addressed during the problem-solving process. In order to achieve this goal, different tools can be used based on either divergent or convergent thinking. The divergent tools include mind mapping , storytelling , storyboarding, collage, and visualization. The convergent tools include the 3 ”I”s and Post & Cluster.

Gather Data

Once the problem or the challenge is defined, the team start to use research methods to collect information and present it to the stakeholders during the divergent part of the session in a form of empathy map , mind maps , storyboard, and storytelling . In order to converge the ideas, the team can use tools such as the 3 “I”s.

Formulate Questions

After understanding the problem, the team formulates their understanding in a form of questions that highlighted the problems or the challenges that need to be addressed.

Stage 2: Ideate

This stage aims to explore different ideas that may qualify to be a solution for the problem. The ideas here are based on the questions that were developed in the first stage. The divergent tools in this stage include mind mapping , SCAMPER , Visualization, and Pictures as Metaphors. The convergent methods include 3 “I”s and Post & Cluster.

Stage 3: Develop

In this stage, the ideas are formed as a solution for the problem, product, or service and prepared to be evaluated. The divergent tools here are very similar to the previous stage, yet the convergent tools include more evaluation tools in order to decide the most convenient tools to use and implement. These tools include the Evaluation Matrix , How-How Diagram, and Visualization.

Stage 4: Implement

This stage includes turning the selected idea into viable solutions in a form of an action plan. This action plan involved all the stakeholders associated with the problem. Also, it includes details of the implementation such as the task assignments, timeline, and budget.

Very similar to the different critical thinking and design thinking process. The creative problem solving is an iterative process where the feedback is collected after the implementation process in order to evaluate the solution and its impact. In order to find more details, the CPS learning Model toolkit provides full information about each stage, the used tools, and extended resources.

The creative problem-solving process helps us to escape the traditional thinking about problems through implementing critical thinking techniques. The process helps us to clearly define the problem in order to avoid any misunderstanding to the situation in hand. Also, it extends the chance to reach creative ideas through the implementation of divergent and convergent thinking.

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Dr Rafiq Elmansy

As an academic and author, I've had the privilege of shaping the design landscape. I teach design at the University of Leeds and am the Programme Leader for the MA Design, focusing on design thinking, design for health, and behavioural design. I've developed and taught several innovative programmes at Wrexham Glyndwr University, Northumbria University, and The American University in Cairo. I'm also a published book author and the proud founder of Designorate.com, a platform that has been instrumental in fostering design innovation. My expertise in design has been recognised by prestigious organizations. I'm a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the Design Research Society (FDRS), and an Adobe Education Leader. Over the course of 20 years, I've had the privilege of working with esteemed clients such as the UN, World Bank, Adobe, and Schneider, contributing to their design strategies. For more than 12 years, I collaborated closely with the Adobe team, playing a key role in the development of many Adobe applications.

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Nice article Rafiq

challenges in creative problem solving

Thanks Papisetty!

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How to Use Creativity in Problem-Solving

challenges in creative problem solving

Using creativity in problem-solving is a dynamic process that involves seeing challenges from unique perspectives, generating novel solutions , and redefining the status quo. It requires going beyond traditional methodologies and employing inventive thinking.

Table of Contents

Techniques such as brainstorming, lateral thinking, and mind mapping can help ignite your creative sparks. By cultivating a culture of creativity, you empower yourself and others to tackle issues innovatively, ensuring that the problem-solving process is effective but also exciting and rewarding.

What is the Role of Creativity in Problem-Solving?

Creative problem-solving is an approach that combines imagination, innovation, and a broad sense of flexibility to find solutions to problems. It’s about shunning the traditional mindset that restricts our thoughts to only known and accepted techniques and methods . Instead, it encourages thinking outside the box, leveraging all cognitive resources, and pushing beyond the boundaries of standard methodologies to arrive at unique and often more effective solutions.

At the heart of creative problem-solving is the understanding that problems are often not what they initially appear to be. An issue may seem like a stumbling block. Still, with creative problem-solving , it can be transformed into an opportunity for innovation and growth. It’s about not accepting the immediate, apparent problem at face value but delving deeper into uncovering the root cause and addressing that, often leading to a more comprehensive and long-lasting solution.

Stages of Creative Problem-Solving

To appreciate what is creative problem-solving, it is crucial to recognize its critical stages. First is problem identification, which involves understanding the problem from different angles and perspectives. This stage lays the groundwork for the creative process by opening up many possibilities.

Next comes idea generation. This stage is the crux of the creative process, where traditional thinking is left behind, and innovative ideas can flourish. Techniques like brainstorming, free writing, and mind mapping are commonly used to spur creativity and encourage various possible solutions.

Finally, there’s the evaluation and implementation of the solution. This stage involves critically assessing the proposed solutions, selecting the best one, and implementing them. It’s important to remember that the solution’s effectiveness should be evaluated and adjustments made, if necessary, to ensure the problem is resolved.

In essence, creative problem-solving is a process that welcomes innovation, embraces change, and turns problems into opportunities for creative growth. It’s not about finding a solution but about using creativity to discover the best solution. The beauty of creative problem-solving is that honing this skill is possible and can be developed, ultimately leading to better decision-making and problem-solving abilities in all areas of life.

How to Harness Creativity in Problem-Solving

Harnessing creativity is the cornerstone of innovative problem-solving. This involves challenging our usual thought patterns and opening ourselves to new ways of thinking. But how do we activate this creative engine within us? The answer lies in asking the right creative problem-solving questions.

Creative Problem-Solving Questions

Questions are the fuel that ignites the engine of creativity. They challenge our assumptions, expand our perspectives, and drive us to think outside the box. In problem-solving, creative questions can illuminate unseen possibilities and pathways toward innovative solutions.

The first step in harnessing creativity for problem-solving is understanding the problem in-depth. Questions such as “What is the core issue?” or “Why is this a problem?” can help identify the root cause rather than just dealing with symptoms. Understanding the problem at a granular level often reveals unique angles and opportunities for innovative solutions.

Once we deeply understand the problem, it’s time to generate ideas. Here, creative problem-solving questions are designed to push our thinking beyond usual boundaries. Questions like “What if the impossible were possible?” or “How would this problem be solved in a completely different context?” can spark unconventional ideas and unlock creative potential.

The next stage is about evaluating the solutions. Questions such as “What could be the potential impacts of this solution?” or “How can we improve this idea?” ensure we critically assess the proposed solutions from various angles. It’s vital to constructively challenge each idea’s viability, promoting further creativity and refinement.

Finally, we come to the implementation of the chosen solution. Questions like “What resources are needed to execute this solution?” and “What could be potential roadblocks, and how can we overcome them?” enable us to foresee any practical issues and address them proactively, thus ensuring a smooth execution of the solution.

Asking creative problem-solving questions can help unlock our inherent creative capabilities. By harnessing our creativity, we can drive innovative problem-solving and find solutions that are not just effective but also genuinely novel and groundbreaking. These questions are more than just tools; they are the catalysts that transform problems into opportunities for creative innovation.

Person using computer to learn about creativity in problem-solving

What is the Connection between Creativity and Problem-Solving?

Creativity is an invaluable tool in the problem-solving process. It empowers us to develop unique solutions that resolve the issue and provide opportunities for growth and innovation. But how is creativity used in problem-solving? Let’s dive into the nuances of this connection.

At its core, problem-solving is about finding solutions to obstacles or challenges. Traditional problem-solving techniques often focus on logical reasoning and proven methodologies. However, these techniques may only sometimes be sufficient, especially when dealing with complex or unprecedented problems. This is where creativity steps in.

How is Creativity Used in Problem-Solving

Creativity in problem-solving starts with reframing the problem. It prompts us to see beyond the apparent and understand the problem from different perspectives. This is particularly helpful when dealing with intricate issues, as it helps identify underlying patterns and relationships that might not be immediately apparent.

Once the problem is reframed, the next step is idea generation. This is where the power of creativity truly shines. Creative thinking encourages us to break free from conventional thinking patterns and explore a broader spectrum of possibilities. Brainstorming, mind mapping, or even daydreaming can help stimulate creative thoughts and generate innovative ideas.

Creativity also plays a critical role in evaluating and selecting the best solution. It allows us to envision how each potential solution might play out, assess the risks and benefits, and choose the most effective and innovative option.

Finally, creativity is instrumental in the implementation of the solution. It encourages us to think on our feet, adapt to unexpected challenges, and continuously refine the solution until the problem is fully resolved.

Creativity fuels each stage of the problem-solving process, transforming it from a mundane task into an exciting journey of discovery and innovation. So, whether you’re dealing with a minor hiccup or a major hurdle, remember to tap into your creative side. You might be surprised at the great solutions that emerge.

How to Explore Techniques for Fostering Creativity in Problem-Solving

In the dynamic and competitive business world, a creative approach to problem-solving can be a significant differentiator. Now businesses require innovative solutions to keep up with rapidly changing environments and customer expectations. Here, we’ll explore techniques for fostering creative problem-solving in business.

How to Use Creative Problem-Solving in Business

Firstly, it’s crucial to cultivate an environment that encourages creativity. An open-minded culture supporting risk-taking and diverse perspectives can significantly enhance creative thinking. This includes welcoming all ideas during brainstorming sessions, regardless of how unconventional they seem, and celebrating successes and learning opportunities from failures.

Secondly, divergent thinking is a powerful tool for creative problem-solving. It involves generating multiple possible solutions to a problem rather than following a linear, logical path. Techniques like brainstorming or lateral thinking can stimulate divergent thinking, leading to more innovative problem-solving.

Another technique uses creative problem-solving frameworks, like the SCAMPER model (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse). These frameworks provide structured methods for thinking creatively and can be particularly useful in a business setting.

Also, fostering creativity requires constant learning and development . Encouraging continuous learning, such as attending seminars, workshops, or online courses on creativity and innovation, can significantly enhance creative problem-solving skills. Also, exposure to different industries, cultures, and ways of thinking can provide new perspectives and ideas.

Creativity can also be enhanced by embracing technology. AI and machine learning, for example, can provide insights and patterns that would be hard to spot otherwise, opening new avenues for creative solutions.

Lastly, it’s essential to recognize the power of rest in fostering creativity. Downtime, hobbies, or simple walks in nature can rejuvenate the mind and often lead to ‘Eureka’ moments when least expected.

Fostering creative problem-solving in business is not a one-size-fits-all process. It requires a blend of culture, techniques, learning, technology, and well-being that suits your team’s unique needs and dynamics. However, the rewards – innovative solutions, competitive advantage, and team satisfaction – make it an investment worth making.

challenges in creative problem solving

What are Some Successful Implementations of Creativity in Problem-Solving?

Applying creativity in problem-solving has led to groundbreaking solutions in various fields. In this context, we will explore several instances of creative problem-solving that resulted in successful and innovative outcomes.

Examples of Creative Problem-Solving

Accommodation: Let’s look at a classic example from the business world: Airbnb. In its early days, the company needed help to gain traction. The founders identified a key issue: the quality of listing photos could have been better, deterring potential renters. In a creative problem-solving move, they hired professional photographers to take pictures of the rentals. This innovative approach significantly improved the appeal of the listings, and the rest is history. Airbnb’s success illustrates how a creative solution can transform a problem into an opportunity.

Motor Industry: Consider the example of the automobile industry’s Tesla Motors . Confronted with the problem of fossil fuel dependency and its environmental impact, Tesla disrupted the conventional solution of tweaking existing fuel technologies. Instead, they creatively focused on developing high-performance electric vehicles, changing the industry’s perception and leading towards sustainable transportation.

Healthcare: Another example can be found in healthcare, particularly in the fight against polio. In the 1950s, the ‘iron lung’ was the primary treatment for polio-induced respiratory failure. It was a cumbersome and expensive solution. Dr. Bjørn Aage Ibsen , confronted with a polio outbreak, creatively proposed a new method: positive pressure ventilation. This involved manually ventilating the patient with a tube inserted into their trachea. This became the precursor to modern mechanical ventilation, demonstrating the impact of creative problem-solving in healthcare.

Education: Lastly, consider the example from education: the Khan Academy . Recognizing that traditional classroom education could not cater to each student’s pace and learning style, Salman Khan saw an opportunity to teach differently. He used technology creatively to provide free online educational videos, fundamentally transforming the access and delivery of education on a global scale.

The Impact of Creative Problem-Solving

In these cases, the key to successful problem-solving was applying creative thinking. These examples of creative problem-solving underscore the power of innovative thinking in transforming challenges into opportunities for growth and advancement. The ability to think creatively in problem-solving is a valuable skill and, in many cases, a game-changer.

How to Overcome Obstacles in Creativity in Problem-Solving

While creative problem-solving offers incredible potential for innovative solutions, it’s not without its challenges. However, these obstacles can often be overcome with a structured approach, such as the creative problem-solving model (CPS).

Creative Problem-Solving Model

The CPS model, initially developed by Alex Osborn and Sidney Parnes, provides a clear framework for navigating challenges that can arise during creative problem-solving. This model consists of four main steps: Clarify, Ideate, Develop, and Implement.

The first step, ‘Clarify,’ involves identifying the problem accurately and comprehensively. It’s easy to rush into solving a problem based on initial perceptions, which often results in treating symptoms rather than addressing the underlying issue. The CPS model emphasizes the importance of dedicating time to deeply understand the problem before jumping to solutions.

The second step, ‘Ideate,’ is generating various possible solutions. It’s common to experience blocks during this stage, such as sticking to familiar ideas or fearing judgment for unconventional thoughts. This step encourages divergent thinking, pushing past the initial, most apparent ideas to reach more unique and creative solutions.

Next, the ‘Develop’ stage involves converging on the most promising ideas and fleshing them into actionable solutions. Sometimes, the most creative ideas can seem risky or unrealistic. This stage, however, reminds us that these ideas often hold the most potential for innovative solutions and should be explored and developed rather than dismissed.

Finally, ‘Implement’ is about turning the solution into reality. Implementation can face many obstacles, from resistance to change, lack of resources, or unforeseen challenges. But the CPS model treats these not as dead ends but as parts of the problem-solving journey to be creatively overcome.

The creative problem-solving model provides a powerful tool to deal with the challenges of creative thinking. It offers a structured approach that fosters creativity, keeps the problem-solving process on track, and ultimately leads to innovative and effective solutions.

Person reading about creativity in problem-solving

What are Some Tools and Strategies for Enhancing Creativity in Problem-Solving?

Creative problem-solving is a critical skill in today’s dynamic and complex world. It helps us navigate challenges with innovative and effective solutions. Various tools and strategies can enhance this process. Here, we delve into some of these creative problem-solving tools.

Creative Problem-Solving Tools


Brainstorming is the most familiar tool. It’s a freewheeling method to generate many ideas without immediate judgment or criticism. It invites and encourages wild and divergent thoughts, which are later sifted and refined. This tool is particularly effective in groups where diverse perspectives can spark unique ideas.

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping, another powerful tool, visually represents thoughts and their interconnections. You can reveal unexpected connections by mapping the problem and related ideas and fostering innovative solutions. It’s an excellent tool for complex problems that involve multiple dimensions or for situations where a holistic view is needed.

The SCAMPER Method

The SCAMPER method (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse) prompts users to ask specific questions about the problem. Each word in the acronym poses a different way to manipulate and think about the problem, leading to fresh insights and solutions.

Six Thinking Hats Technique

Then there’s the Six Thinking Hats technique by Edward de Bono. This tool urges users to assume different ‘hats’ or roles (like the optimist, devil’s advocate, creative, etc.) during problem-solving. This strategy ensures a comprehensive approach, capturing different perspectives and reducing bias in decision-making.

Alongside these tools, specific strategies can cultivate creativity in problem-solving. Encouraging a culture of openness, where diverse thoughts are valued, can lead to more prosperous, more creative problem-solving. Creating a safe space where risks are welcomed is beneficial, and failures are seen as learning opportunities rather than setbacks.

Moreover, taking regular breaks and engaging in different activities can stimulate creativity. Often, stepping away from a problem allows our subconscious minds to work on it, leading to unexpected insights.

Regularly practicing and using these tools and strategies can dramatically improve creative problem-solving abilities. They stimulate innovative thinking and help structure the process, making it more effective and efficient. By leveraging these creative problem-solving tools, we can transform how we approach problems, turning challenges into opportunities for innovation.

What is the Future of Creativity in Problem-Solving?

As we navigate through a world that is becoming progressively more complex and unpredictable, the importance of creativity in problem-solving cannot be overstated. While still valuable, traditional problem-solving methods often must catch up when dealing with unprecedented challenges. Creativity injects flexibility, innovation, and adaptability into problem-solving, making it a vital skill for the future. Here, we explore some trends and predictions of creativity in problem-solving.

Growing Creative Problem-Solving

Firstly, we will likely see greater recognition of the role of creativity in problem-solving across various sectors. From businesses to education systems, there’s a growing understanding that generating and implementing innovative solutions to problems for survival and growth is crucial. We can see more emphasis on fostering creativity in leadership roles and at all levels.

Tech-Enhanced Creative Solutions

Secondly, technology will continue to play a significant role in enhancing creativity in problem-solving. Advanced technologies like AI and machine learning can provide us with more data and insights, enabling us to understand problems better and develop more creative solutions. At the same time, technology can facilitate the creative problem-solving process through tools that stimulate creative thinking and collaboration.

However, as we increasingly rely on technology, there’s also a danger that we might limit our creativity by depending too much on algorithms and predefined solutions. Therefore, balancing technology and human creativity will be essential to future problem-solving.

Additionally, we expect to see more integration of diverse perspectives in problem-solving. As we face global problems across various fields and cultures, it’s becoming clear that the most creative and effective solutions often come from interdisciplinary and diverse teams.

Dynamic Problem Adaptation

Finally, resilience and adaptability in problem-solving will be emphasized as we move toward a more uncertain future. Creative problem-solving will be less about finding the correct answer and more about continuous learning and adapting to evolving situations.

The future of creativity in problem-solving looks bright, promising, and exciting. By recognizing the importance of creativity and harnessing it effectively, we can equip ourselves to navigate future challenges with innovative and effective solutions.

What is the role of creativity in problem-solving?

Creativity in problem-solving allows for the generation of unique, practical solutions. It involves thinking outside the box, challenging traditional assumptions, and viewing the problem from various perspectives. Creativity is crucial in problem-solving as it fosters innovation and adaptability.

How can creativity be harnessed in problem-solving?

Creativity can be harnessed in problem-solving by promoting a culture that supports risk-taking and values diverse perspectives, employing techniques like divergent thinking and creative problem-solving frameworks, engaging in continuous learning and development, embracing technology, and prioritizing well-being and rest.

What is the connection between creativity and effective problem-solving?

Creativity contributes to effective problem-solving by enabling the generation of numerous possible solutions, encouraging novel perspectives, and fostering flexibility and adaptability. These aspects, in turn, lead to more comprehensive and innovative solutions.

What challenges might one encounter in creative problem-solving?

Challenges in creative problem-solving include rushing to solve the problem without fully understanding it, experiencing blocks during the ideation stage, dismissing seemingly unrealistic or risky ideas, and encountering resistance or unforeseen challenges during the implementation stage.

How might the future of creativity in problem-solving look like?

The future will likely see greater recognition of the role of creativity in problem-solving across various sectors. Technology will play a significant role in enhancing creativity, but maintaining a balance with human creativity will be necessary. Integrating diverse perspectives and emphasis on resilience and adaptability will also characterize future problem-solving.

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10 Problem-solving strategies to turn challenges on their head

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What is an example of problem-solving?

What are the 5 steps to problem-solving, 10 effective problem-solving strategies, what skills do efficient problem solvers have, how to improve your problem-solving skills.

Problems come in all shapes and sizes — from workplace conflict to budget cuts.

Creative problem-solving is one of the most in-demand skills in all roles and industries. It can boost an organization’s human capital and give it a competitive edge. 

Problem-solving strategies are ways of approaching problems that can help you look beyond the obvious answers and find the best solution to your problem . 

Let’s take a look at a five-step problem-solving process and how to combine it with proven problem-solving strategies. This will give you the tools and skills to solve even your most complex problems.

Good problem-solving is an essential part of the decision-making process . To see what a problem-solving process might look like in real life, let’s take a common problem for SaaS brands — decreasing customer churn rates.

To solve this problem, the company must first identify it. In this case, the problem is that the churn rate is too high. 

Next, they need to identify the root causes of the problem. This could be anything from their customer service experience to their email marketing campaigns. If there are several problems, they will need a separate problem-solving process for each one. 

Let’s say the problem is with email marketing — they’re not nurturing existing customers. Now that they’ve identified the problem, they can start using problem-solving strategies to look for solutions. 

This might look like coming up with special offers, discounts, or bonuses for existing customers. They need to find ways to remind them to use their products and services while providing added value. This will encourage customers to keep paying their monthly subscriptions.

They might also want to add incentives, such as access to a premium service at no extra cost after 12 months of membership. They could publish blog posts that help their customers solve common problems and share them as an email newsletter.

The company should set targets and a time frame in which to achieve them. This will allow leaders to measure progress and identify which actions yield the best results.


Perhaps you’ve got a problem you need to tackle. Or maybe you want to be prepared the next time one arises. Either way, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the five steps of problem-solving. 

Use this step-by-step problem-solving method with the strategies in the following section to find possible solutions to your problem.

1. Identify the problem

The first step is to know which problem you need to solve. Then, you need to find the root cause of the problem. 

The best course of action is to gather as much data as possible, speak to the people involved, and separate facts from opinions. 

Once this is done, formulate a statement that describes the problem. Use rational persuasion to make sure your team agrees .

2. Break the problem down 

Identifying the problem allows you to see which steps need to be taken to solve it. 

First, break the problem down into achievable blocks. Then, use strategic planning to set a time frame in which to solve the problem and establish a timeline for the completion of each stage.

3. Generate potential solutions

At this stage, the aim isn’t to evaluate possible solutions but to generate as many ideas as possible. 

Encourage your team to use creative thinking and be patient — the best solution may not be the first or most obvious one.

Use one or more of the different strategies in the following section to help come up with solutions — the more creative, the better.

4. Evaluate the possible solutions

Once you’ve generated potential solutions, narrow them down to a shortlist. Then, evaluate the options on your shortlist. 

There are usually many factors to consider. So when evaluating a solution, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will my team be on board with the proposition?
  • Does the solution align with organizational goals ?
  • Is the solution likely to achieve the desired outcomes?
  • Is the solution realistic and possible with current resources and constraints?
  • Will the solution solve the problem without causing additional unintended problems?


5. Implement and monitor the solutions

Once you’ve identified your solution and got buy-in from your team, it’s time to implement it. 

But the work doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor your solution to see whether it actually solves your problem. 

Request regular feedback from the team members involved and have a monitoring and evaluation plan in place to measure progress.

If the solution doesn’t achieve your desired results, start this step-by-step process again.

There are many different ways to approach problem-solving. Each is suitable for different types of problems. 

The most appropriate problem-solving techniques will depend on your specific problem. You may need to experiment with several strategies before you find a workable solution.

Here are 10 effective problem-solving strategies for you to try:

  • Use a solution that worked before
  • Brainstorming
  • Work backward
  • Use the Kipling method
  • Draw the problem
  • Use trial and error
  • Sleep on it
  • Get advice from your peers
  • Use the Pareto principle
  • Add successful solutions to your toolkit

Let’s break each of these down.

1. Use a solution that worked before

It might seem obvious, but if you’ve faced similar problems in the past, look back to what worked then. See if any of the solutions could apply to your current situation and, if so, replicate them.

2. Brainstorming

The more people you enlist to help solve the problem, the more potential solutions you can come up with.

Use different brainstorming techniques to workshop potential solutions with your team. They’ll likely bring something you haven’t thought of to the table.

3. Work backward

Working backward is a way to reverse engineer your problem. Imagine your problem has been solved, and make that the starting point.

Then, retrace your steps back to where you are now. This can help you see which course of action may be most effective.

4. Use the Kipling method

This is a method that poses six questions based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “ I Keep Six Honest Serving Men .” 

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is the problem important?
  • When did the problem arise, and when does it need to be solved?
  • How did the problem happen?
  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • Who does the problem affect?

Answering these questions can help you identify possible solutions.

5. Draw the problem

Sometimes it can be difficult to visualize all the components and moving parts of a problem and its solution. Drawing a diagram can help.

This technique is particularly helpful for solving process-related problems. For example, a product development team might want to decrease the time they take to fix bugs and create new iterations. Drawing the processes involved can help you see where improvements can be made.


6. Use trial-and-error

A trial-and-error approach can be useful when you have several possible solutions and want to test them to see which one works best.

7. Sleep on it

Finding the best solution to a problem is a process. Remember to take breaks and get enough rest . Sometimes, a walk around the block can bring inspiration, but you should sleep on it if possible.

A good night’s sleep helps us find creative solutions to problems. This is because when you sleep, your brain sorts through the day’s events and stores them as memories. This enables you to process your ideas at a subconscious level. 

If possible, give yourself a few days to develop and analyze possible solutions. You may find you have greater clarity after sleeping on it. Your mind will also be fresh, so you’ll be able to make better decisions.

8. Get advice from your peers

Getting input from a group of people can help you find solutions you may not have thought of on your own. 

For solo entrepreneurs or freelancers, this might look like hiring a coach or mentor or joining a mastermind group. 

For leaders , it might be consulting other members of the leadership team or working with a business coach .

It’s important to recognize you might not have all the skills, experience, or knowledge necessary to find a solution alone. 

9. Use the Pareto principle

The Pareto principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — can help you identify possible root causes and potential solutions for your problems.

Although it’s not a mathematical law, it’s a principle found throughout many aspects of business and life. For example, 20% of the sales reps in a company might close 80% of the sales. 

You may be able to narrow down the causes of your problem by applying the Pareto principle. This can also help you identify the most appropriate solutions.

10. Add successful solutions to your toolkit

Every situation is different, and the same solutions might not always work. But by keeping a record of successful problem-solving strategies, you can build up a solutions toolkit. 

These solutions may be applicable to future problems. Even if not, they may save you some of the time and work needed to come up with a new solution.


Improving problem-solving skills is essential for professional development — both yours and your team’s. Here are some of the key skills of effective problem solvers:

  • Critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Communication skills , including active listening
  • Decision-making
  • Planning and prioritization
  • Emotional intelligence , including empathy and emotional regulation
  • Time management
  • Data analysis
  • Research skills
  • Project management

And they see problems as opportunities. Everyone is born with problem-solving skills. But accessing these abilities depends on how we view problems. Effective problem-solvers see problems as opportunities to learn and improve.

Ready to work on your problem-solving abilities? Get started with these seven tips.

1. Build your problem-solving skills

One of the best ways to improve your problem-solving skills is to learn from experts. Consider enrolling in organizational training , shadowing a mentor , or working with a coach .

2. Practice

Practice using your new problem-solving skills by applying them to smaller problems you might encounter in your daily life. 

Alternatively, imagine problematic scenarios that might arise at work and use problem-solving strategies to find hypothetical solutions.

3. Don’t try to find a solution right away

Often, the first solution you think of to solve a problem isn’t the most appropriate or effective.

Instead of thinking on the spot, give yourself time and use one or more of the problem-solving strategies above to activate your creative thinking. 


4. Ask for feedback

Receiving feedback is always important for learning and growth. Your perception of your problem-solving skills may be different from that of your colleagues. They can provide insights that help you improve. 

5. Learn new approaches and methodologies

There are entire books written about problem-solving methodologies if you want to take a deep dive into the subject. 

We recommend starting with “ Fixed — How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem Solving ” by Amy E. Herman. 

6. Experiment

Tried-and-tested problem-solving techniques can be useful. However, they don’t teach you how to innovate and develop your own problem-solving approaches. 

Sometimes, an unconventional approach can lead to the development of a brilliant new idea or strategy. So don’t be afraid to suggest your most “out there” ideas.

7. Analyze the success of your competitors

Do you have competitors who have already solved the problem you’re facing? Look at what they did, and work backward to solve your own problem. 

For example, Netflix started in the 1990s as a DVD mail-rental company. Its main competitor at the time was Blockbuster. 

But when streaming became the norm in the early 2000s, both companies faced a crisis. Netflix innovated, unveiling its streaming service in 2007. 

If Blockbuster had followed Netflix’s example, it might have survived. Instead, it declared bankruptcy in 2010.

Use problem-solving strategies to uplevel your business

When facing a problem, it’s worth taking the time to find the right solution. 

Otherwise, we risk either running away from our problems or headlong into solutions. When we do this, we might miss out on other, better options.

Use the problem-solving strategies outlined above to find innovative solutions to your business’ most perplexing problems.

If you’re ready to take problem-solving to the next level, request a demo with BetterUp . Our expert coaches specialize in helping teams develop and implement strategies that work.

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Maximize your time and productivity with strategies from our expert coaches.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

8 creative solutions to your most challenging problems

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creative problem solving

How You Can Use Creative Problem Solving at Work

Lucid Content

Reading time: about 4 min

How many times have you tried to solve a problem only to get stuck in the process? In a business setting, this is a common occurrence. You’re faced with issues that traditional problem solving methods can’t solve. But you still need to find a way to fix the issue to move a project forward or resolve a conflict. This is when you may need to get creative to solve the problem at hand.

What is creative problem solving?

The definition of creative problem solving (CPS) will vary between organizations. At its core, CPS involves approaching a problem in an imaginative, innovative, and unconventional way. The process encourages you to find new, creative ways of thinking that can help you overcome the issue at hand more quickly.

7 steps of the creative problem solving process

The CPS process can be broken down into seven steps.

1. Identify the goal

Before solving the problem, you need to fully understand the problem you’re trying to solve. You may have overlooked or misunderstood some details. Take some time to analyze the conflict and clear up any confusion.

2. Gather data

Once you know what the problem is, you need to learn all you can about it. Who does the problem affect? Who is involved in solving the issue? Gather all the knowledge you can to gain a better understanding of the issue and to solve it.

3. Formulate challenge questions

After you’ve gathered the details, turn the problem into a question. Word the question in a way that encourages suggestions or ideas. It should be short, concise, and only focus on a single issue. Once you’ve created one or two questions, start trying to answer them.

4. Explore ideas

This step is where the brainstorming begins. You’ll be creating possible ideas or solutions to the problem you’re facing. This is usually when the creativity really starts to flow. With so many ideas flowing, it’s crucial that you write each of them down—even the stupid ones. Even if the idea you come up with has little to no chance of working, write it down. Trying to sort out bad ideas from the good ones during this step can squash creativity.

5. Come up with solutions.  

Weed out the average ideas from the winners by testing each one. See if the possible solution actually solves the problem and if you can implement it successfully. If the potential solution doesn’t resolve the issue, move on to the next idea. Evaluating each idea will help you zero in on the perfect solution.

6. Create an action plan 

Now that you have the perfect solution, you’ll need to create an action plan outlining implementation steps. Consider what resources you’ll need and how long it will take. Then write it all down. Once you create the plan, communicate the approach to the rest of the team so they’re aware of what’s happening.

To help you create an organized and detailed plan, you can use swimlanes in Lucidchart.

7. Take action

With your plan created and your team on board, it’s time to implement your solution and resolve the problem.

CPS techniques

Just knowing the process behind CPS isn’t enough. You’ll want to know about the common creative problem solving ideas or techniques that you can use to be more successful during each phase. Below are a few of the techniques you can use to help you through the CPS process:

Synectics:  This technique helps to inspire thoughts that you might not be aware of. It is a way to approach creativity in a logical, rational manner.

TRIZ methodology (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving):  This problem solving methodology is based on logic, data, and research—not intuition. It involves adapting existing solutions to your particular problem.

Brainstorming:  Using this technique allows you to collect a number of ideas that can be a potential solution to a problem and can be used in either a group or individual setting.

Mind mapping:  Mind mapping helps keeps your ideas organized by representing them in a graphical manner.

mind map

Reversal of problem:  Trying to solve a problem using traditional problem solving methods can sometimes end in roadblocks.This technique forces you to think about a problem from a new perspective.

Looking beyond something’s function:  Thinking about how you can use something beyond its typical function is a common CPS technique.

SCAMPER:  This acronym can help you come up with new ideas. Each letter stands for a way you can manipulate an original idea to come up with something new:

  • S ubstitute
  • P ut to other uses

Why use CPS

No matter what profession you’re in, you will face challenges. There will be times when traditional problem solving techniques just don’t do the trick. That’s when you can take advantage of CPS to help uncover the best solution to your problem.

About Lucidchart

Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidchart.com.

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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

  • Tips for more effective problem-solving

Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

challenges in creative problem solving

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
  • Open Space Technology

1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

  • One Breath Feedback
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

challenges in creative problem solving

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

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The Joy of Creative Problem-Solving

Shows Nermeen Dashoush standing next to figure from tv series

Nermeen Dashoush with Stu, one of the characters from PBSKIDS’ Lyla in the Loop . Photo courtesy of Nermeen Dashoush

Nermeen Dashoush, an advisor for PBS KIDS’ Lyla in the Loop , talks about helping kids become better scientific thinkers

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Nermeen Dashoush is enthusiastic about taking dense STEM concepts—for example, algorithms, the design process, and computational thinking—and showing people how they actually use these seemingly sophisticated problem-solving skills in their everyday lives.

A clinical assistant professor of early childhood at BU Wheelock, Dashoush brought her enthusiasm for popularizing science concepts to the PBS KIDS series Lyla in the Loop . As the lead advisor to the program, Dashoush used her skills as a science educator to structure the academic content of the program, define learning objectives, and create tip sheets for parents to discuss the show’s main lessons with their children. (BU Wheelock’s Scott Solberg also worked on the series as an advisor on the representation of careers and career development.)

Dashoush spoke to us about working on Lyla in the Loop and what she hopes viewers will take away from it.

BU Wheelock: As an advisor to Lyla in the Loop , what excites you most about working on the series?

Nermeen Dashoush: As a science educator, I’m excited about seeing problem-solving, the design process, and computational thinking every day. It’s also about the racial representation. It’s also funny and cute, and the characters are so joyful.

BU Wheelock: What skills can children learn from watching Lyla ?

Nermeen Dashoush: Our main focus is on how to solve problems by breaking things down into parts and making them more manageable. We take computational thinking skills that are the precursor to computer science—for example, algorithms and decomposition—and present them in a way that’s part of our everyday lives, since we all solve problems every day.

BU Wheelock: There’s a perception that studying science is a solitary activity. What does Lyla show kids about this notion?

Nermeen Dashoush: The misconception that science is a solo process has to be broken in many ways. Science isn’t a solo process; it’s a social process. So we show how people interact to solve problems, like Lyla, her family, and her friends. We’re working on it from the teacher ed perspective, but we also need to work on it in informal learning as well, such as in museums, on TV shows, and in technology.

BU Wheelock: Lyla features a Black protagonist alongside a very diverse cast of family, friends, and neighbors. How did the team ensure such rich representation?

Nermeen Dashoush: Lyla’s family is Black, and her mother is Jamaican. We also have a Vietnamese family on the show. We wanted to make sure we captured authentic stories, voices, names, and the designs of homes in every step of the process. To help do that, we had a diversity, equity, and inclusion advisor. Our team was diverse behind the scenes, too: our lead writer is Black, and we have multiple Black writers.

BU Wheelock: What impact is the diversity represented on the show having so far?

Nermeen Dashoush: We’ve heard from kids: “She looks like me,” “She has my hair,” and so on. My daughter, for example, recognizes that the characters have curly hair and sleep with bonnets. She said, “She has a bonnet just like me.” The show is powerful in creating a mirror and window into a child’s life that was really missing in kids’ media.

BU Wheelock: Are there any lessons in the work you’re doing on Lyla for students working toward degrees in education?

Nermeen Dashoush: Learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom. We can also use our degrees and expertise to influence informal learning spaces as well, such as technology and the media. When students learn about curriculum design or teacher education materials, they can transfer those skills to scripts, animation, illustrations, or family engagement material. I used my skills in communicating concepts to parents through media, implementing learning objectives, developing lesson plans as an advisor to the show, and advising on multiple apps that are developed to accompany the series. I’d love to see my students reading something like this and see how those skills from their degrees transfer.

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Falling in Love With Problems Worth Solving: Tackling the Climate Crisis With Design Thinking

Falling in Love With Problems Worth Solving: Tackling the Climate Crisis With Design Thinking

challenges in creative problem solving

As sustainability tops the agenda for many global companies, it’s no secret that green business is good business. In response to the climate crisis, the UN Sustainable Development Goals are a call to action for governments and business leaders globally.

At Hult, we recognize the fundamental role business must play in building a sustainable future. There’s an urgent need for innovative, creative, and ethical leadership to navigate tomorrow’s business challenges. Through the integration of design thinking principles into our curriculum, we’re helping to foster this new generation of creative change-makers who are ready to make a meaningful impact on business and society.

Harnessing design thinking for innovation

Design thinking quite literally means thinking like a designer. It involves using creative thinking to approach complex customer problems from different angles—truly thinking outside of the box. It is a human-centered, collaborative, and iterative approach to problem-solving.

Design Thinking for Innovation , a core course for master’s students at Hult, harnesses the skill of creative problem-solving for world-changing impact. Led by Dr. Henrik Totterman, the course is structured to guide students through a comprehensive learning journey, starting with understanding the fundamentals of design thinking and progressing toward its practical application in developing innovative solutions.

Henrik Totterman lecturing in Class

Each session delves into key topics within the design thinking methodology, such as understanding and truly empathizing with customer needs, mapping the customer journey, undertaking thorough market research, product prototyping, and user testing. Through a hands-on learning approach, students engage in team assignments that require them to apply design thinking principles to real-world challenges.

Students in Design Thinking for Innovation

The course aims to cultivate the ability to identify business challenges and apply creative solutions using the principles of design thinking. The focus is always on human-centric innovation, using design thinking to reframe problems, come up with alternatives, and iterate toward improved solutions.

  “For me, design thinking is the process of developing a truly customer-centric solution to a problem, while always questioning how the solution can be even better.” Linus Horn, MIB Class of 2024, Fooga team member

Design thinking in action: The Greener Business Challenge

The Greener Business Challenge is a team-based project at the heart of Dr. Totterman’s course, worth 30% of the final grade. The challenge tasks students with accelerating the green transition, using the principles of design thinking to create and pitch sustainable business solutions that address some of today’s most pressing environmental concerns, aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Student building a prototype

Teams are responsible for undertaking market research, prototyping their ideas, and demonstrating the viability and scalability of their proposed venture. Along with an executive summary and explainer video, teams also needed to produce a business development pitch deck and present it to multiple executives.

Sometimes we want to hurry to find a solution to a problem when we don’t really understand the problem at all. We need to invest time in trying to deeply understand the problem to be able to come up with a solution. Juan Fernández Fernández, MIB Class of 2024, Build Green team member

Design thinking presentation

Student-ideated solutions ranged from businesses designed to tackle plastic waste and move towards a circular economy, to 3D-printed fashion and AI-assisted cosmetic purchasing. By identifying environmental issues and crafting solutions balancing viability and ecological stewardship, this project develops the core competencies needed for tomorrow’s ethical businesspeople.

Here’s an overview of just three unique, student-scoped concepts:

Fooga: Redefining Food Sustainability

The problem: Excessive food consumption leads to massive waste, with the US alone wasting an estimated 40% of food.

The solution: Fooga offers high-quality excess food at reduced prices to low-income households while composting perishables to create nutrient-rich soil for local farmers. This innovative approach not only reduces waste but also promotes community well-being.

Watch the video to see Fooga in action and understand the design thinking process behind their solution:

EcoGlam: Revolutionizing the Cosmetics Industry

The problem: The cosmetics industry generates substantial waste through single-use packaging.

The solution: EcoGlam introduces cosmetic refill stations, in-store wellness experiences, and a gamified app to incentivize environmentally conscious consumers. By promoting sustainability and consumer engagement, EcoGlam sets a new standard for eco-friendly beauty practices.

See how the EcoGlam concept works:

Build Green: Shaping the Future of Sustainable Construction

The problem: Buildings account for a significant portion of global carbon emissions and energy consumption, yet sustainable materials remain costly.

The solution: Build Green leverages technology to reduce household energy consumption and innovative designs to drive sustainable new home construction and renovations. Through strategic alliances and tech-focused solutions, Build Green paves the way for eco-conscious living.

Build Green Logo

“One of my biggest takeaways from the course is that we should use our creativity not just to create a profitable business but also one that gives back to the community. Maria Camila Aguirre Giraldo, MIB Class of 2024, Fooga team member

At Hult, we’re committed to nurturing business leaders who are not only prepared to navigate the complexities of the global landscape but are also equipped to drive positive change in both business and society. We couldn’t be more proud to showcase the achievements of Dr. Totterman’s master’s students, as just a small example of what Hultians can achieve if they quite literally put their minds to it.

“To ‘fall in love with the problem’ before attempting to find a solution, is a mantra that’s been ingrained in me ever since I had the privilege of being in Dr. Totterman’s class.” Firas Bidawi, MIB Class of 2024, EcoGlam team member

Design thinking is more than just a methodology; it is a philosophy that fosters innovation by placing the human experience at the center of problem-solving. So, can we think our way out of the climate crisis? The collective creative brainpower of a Hult classroom suggests we can.

challenges in creative problem solving

Katie Reynolds

Related posts, why design thinking is an essential competency for business students in 2024, drip by drip—the first non-profit organization addressing the wastewater problem in the textile industry from hult alum amira jehia, the best dual degree combinations for the job you want, the future of finance: adapting to new technologies, generations, and esg, alumni success story: peter windischhofer and kilian kaminski of refurbed, best & worst super bowl 2024 ads: lessons in brand strategy.

More From Forbes

The Art Of Solving Difficult Challenges As An Entrepreneur

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For many, entrepreneurship is about more than starting a company – it’s about finding innovative ways to solve seemingly impossible problems to improve the world. The very essence of entrepreneurship involves tackling these difficult challenges – issues that stretch the imagination require profound innovation, and demand relentless perseverance. While it might feel daunting at times, finding ways to push through and bring the impossible to reality is essential for entrepreneurs looking to make their mark on the world.

In addition to noticeably improving lives, innovation is essential for small businesses looking to grow. 85% of innovative small businesses have grown over the last five years, in contrast to just 67% of non-innovative companies, as reported by Zipdo. The question is how entrepreneurs can solve impossible challenges to benefit the people and communities they serve.

The Power Of A Problem-Solving Mindset

The first step in overcoming daunting challenges is adopting the right mindset. “The entrepreneurs who thrive and make a difference are those who don’t see problems as barriers but as opportunities to innovate and differentiate their business from the competition. This mindset doesn’t always come naturally – you need to have a blend of optimism and realism where you acknowledge the difficulty of a challenge but remain confident in your ability to solve it. It's about seeing the glass half full, even when others doubt that there's anything in the glass at all,” explains Gareth Sheridan, CEO of Nutriband (NASDAQ: NTRB), which has developed an abuse-deterrent opioid patch using patented technology.

“Adopting a problem-solving mindset doesn’t mean you won’t face setbacks or that everything will always go your way. Trying to solve impossible challenges inherently involves failure, and you have to be willing to accept that. So entrepreneurs must cultivate resilience. This allows them to come back from failures by learning important lessons so they can charge forward with an even stronger resolve,” adds Sheridan.

“The job of the entrepreneur is to have delusional optimism; that’s how your business succeeds. You are the visionary who believes that without a shadow of a doubt, your business is not only needed but is required, making that vision a reality is the work,” says Jenna Tanenbaum, Founder of Ostrich , a creative ad agency. She advises to start with a really aggressive forecast and focus on bringing that forecast into reality.

Your Best Look Yet At The New iPhone 16

Hundreds of russian troops gathered out in the open they didn t know the ukrainians had aimed four atacms rockets at them, the richest person in every state 2024, staying hyper-focused is key.

Entrepreneurs often like being busy and have many great ideas to implement. However, they need to find their focus and try to solve only one problem at a time. “The entrepreneur can tackle only one or two opportunities and problems. Therefore, just as a parent should focus more on a toddler’s motor skills than on his or her social skills, the entrepreneur must distinguish critical issues from normal growing pains,” explains Amar Bhidé .

“Focus is essential for gaining a deep understanding of the problem at hand. It allows problem solvers to delve into the specifics of a challenge, scrutinizing details and uncovering underlying causes. Without focus, it's easy to skim the surface of an issue without ever grasping the roots, which are often hidden beneath layers of complexity,” adds Sheridan. “When you start getting off track, remind yourself of your target goal and redirect your attention.”

Foster A Culture Of Innovation

Innovation is the tool that dismantles the impossible. It inherently requires a level of creativity. “You cannot innovate without creativity. Innovation is the process that combines ideas and knowledge into new value. Without innovation, an enterprise and what it provides quickly become obsolete,” said researchers Sheu-Usman Akanbi and Isaac Aun . Leaders must foster a company culture that encourages creativity and experimentation to create a fertile ground for innovative ideas to flourish. This involves empowering team members to challenge the status quo and bring diverse perspectives.

“As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure your team is as fired up as you are about solving one big problem,” says Sheridan. “Our team believes it’s possible to improve and even save lives with technology that reduces overdoses, hospitalizations, and accidental drug exposure. Other entrepreneurs who want to solve a seemingly impossible challenge should encourage a fail-fast approach, where quick, cost-effective trials are conducted to test new ideas to help refine solutions and reduce the risks associated with innovation.”

Tackling impossible challenges is at the heart of entrepreneurship. It requires a unique blend of resilience, creativity, collaboration, and adaptability. By mastering the art of turning obstacles into opportunities, entrepreneurs enhance their chances of success and contribute to innovation and progress in their industries. As they continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, they inspire all of us to rethink our limits and strive for greater heights.

Jia Rizvi

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Anand Mahindra says ‘there’s always a solution’; 6 strategies to become an efficient problem solver

Organisational psychologist and hr consultant at that culture thing, gurleen baruah, says, “consistent efforts and creative problem-solving often lead to successful outcomes..

challenges in creative problem solving

In a recent post on X, Anand Mahindra, a business leader, highlighted a fundamental truth about problem-solving: it takes patience, persistent effort, and creative thinking to overcome obstacles. 

“At first glance, most problems seem unresolvable. There’s always a solution,” he wrote.

challenges in creative problem solving

Whether you’re facing personal dilemmas, professional hurdles, or societal issues, the principles of consistency and creativity can serve as guiding lights.

At first glance, most problems seem unresolvable. There’s always a solution. All problems take patience, consistent effort—and some alternative thinking to resolve. #MondayMotivaton pic.twitter.com/IPcCfKC70N — anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) April 29, 2024

Organisational psychologist and HR consultant at That Culture Thing, Gurleen Baruah, agrees, “Consistent efforts and creative problem-solving often lead to successful outcomes. Understanding the problem thoroughly before implementing solutions is crucial . By spending time and considering different perspectives, one can gain a holistic understanding of the issue at hand.”

Individuals who cultivate resilience, she adds, are better equipped to navigate challenges, overcome obstacles, and ultimately achieve successful outcomes in their problem-solving endeavors.

Let’s delve into six strategies that harness these principles to tackle problems effectively, as suggested by Baruah:

Festive offer

Start with diagnostics

It’s crucial to first understand the problem from various levels. Imagine going to the doctor, what does the doctor do? They ask you about your symptoms, where it hurts, and to assess, give out tests so that they get the data on what’s really happening. A doctor never prescribes without diagnosing a problem. Similarly, in any problem or challenge, start with diagnosing the issue. Talk to stakeholders, get into the history of it, what led to the problem, and try to get to the root cause of it. Use the “5 whys” method for it.

Hypothesise and brainstorm solutions  

The next step would entail designing a hypothesis around the issue. When you identify the root cause of an issue, try to come up with potential solutions that if a set of solutions is implemented, will lead to desired results. Make sure that you think through things and logically try to propose potential solutions . It usually takes brainstorming and divergent thinking. For brainstorming purposes, I recommend the “6 thinking hats” method where participants think through problems and solutions from 6 various standpoints.

problem solving, Anand Mahindra

Learn to work within constraints and think outside and inside the box

We’ve all heard of out of the box thinking, right? But does it really work? Imagine a problem and you have solutions but it costs a lot of money but your budget is a fraction of your idea. So no matter how great or out of the box the idea is, it cannot be implemented because there’s less budget . Hence start with boundaries, start with a box (like a boundary) and lay out the limitations and constraints first, and then think of novel ways to solve it.

Stand on the shoulders of giants  

Many times you don’t need to think of a solution from scratch. To reach a good solution, take inspiration from history, and research on similar areas, there might be already formed good solutions, like in open source, build on top of that. Use your creativity and imagination on the well-laid-out foundation.

Adopt a growth and learning mindset  

In a fast-paced world, skills become redundant overnight. In order to be successful problem solvers, make sure that you adopt a growth mindset . Be open to learning, fail and get up again. Your quickness to learn will be and is a crucial skill in the 21st century.

Perseverance and a persistent attitude  

You may witness failures and not apt solutions. It’s ok, get up and try again. Most known problem solvers failed many times before they got successful. Persevere, try again and don’t lose hope. Sometimes we are so close to problem solving when we give up. A little more push and you’re already there. So keep consistently working on it.

  • Anand Mahindra

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Share this article, download a pdf version., subscribe to our newsletter, 10 effective tools and problem-solving methods for manufacturers.


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Adeline de Oliveira

• April 30, 2024

Worker wearing a safety helmet, surrounded by machines, looking into the distance while holding a tablet

Variability of demand, quality management, equipment maintenance, and integration of new technologies : problems are frequent and inevitable, and manufacturers face challenges very often. Acknowledging this reality enables teams to remain vigilant, quickly identify and resolve these difficulties, and constantly improve processes and products alike.

Why focus on problem-solving? In the Lean philosophy , a problem isn't just a problem; it's also, and above all, an opportunity to do better. Rather than hiding or ignoring what's not working, the idea is to face up to it, to find structured methods for optimizing efficiency and quality. For this, there are a number of possible solutions and tools available.

What are the different stages of problem-solving? Which methods and tools are most effective in production environments? And how do you use them? 

This article provides all the answers and problem-solving tips.

Key takeways:

  • By scrutinizing every action and aspect of processes, it is crucial to distinguish between activities that bring value and those that don't , in order to reduce or eliminate waste.
  • Involving employees in identifying problems and suggesting solutions strengthens their sense of ownership, and improves team cohesion and efficiency.
  • Root Cause Analysis (RCA) helps to identify the underlying causes of problems to find more sustainable solutions and prevent problems from recurring.
  • The use of tools such as the PDCA cycle and the 5S method, as well as techniques such as Six Sigma , is essential for optimizing processes and improving quality and efficiency.
  • It is essential to monitor implemented changes and continuously improve them to maintain and increase Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

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Key steps of a problem-solving process in a factory

To better understand each of these steps, let's take the example of a factory manufacturing automotive components, faced with a sudden rise in the number of defective parts.

Graphic showing the 6 steps of the problem-solving process, each with a short explanation

1. Identify the problem

The first step is to recognize that a problem exists. This involves observing the symptoms and identifying the gaps between the current state and the desired goal.

The QQOQCCP tool enables you to identify the problem by collecting factual information on incidents.

  • Observation: Abnormal increase in the number of defective parts at the quality inspection station.
  • Action: Collect data on the number of defective parts, the types of defects, and the times when they occur.

2. Define the problem

After identification, you need to precisely define the problem. This involves determining its scope (using the Four A’s method, for example), representing it clearly, and understanding its impact on operations.

  • Analysis: 10% of parts produced have surface defects (higher than the acceptable standard of 2%).
  • Action: Clearly define the problem as a significant increase in surface defects on automotive parts.

3. Find the root cause of the problem

This step aims to analyze the factors contributing to the problem in order to identify its root cause. This is a critical process requiring in-depth examination to avoid treating symptoms alone. 

  • Investigation: After using the 5 Whys method, the root cause turns out to be premature machine wear.
  • Action: Examine maintenance records and machine operating parameters to confirm this cause.

4. Brainstorm solutions

Once the root cause has been identified, it's time to focus on finding solutions. This phase encourages creative problem-solving and innovation from the whole team. They have to explore existing ideas and generate new ones.

  • Brainstorming: Several potential solutions are considered, such as replacing tools more frequently or modifying machine parameters. 
  • Action: Evaluate the advantages, disadvantages, and feasibility of each solution using the PDCA method.

5. Test your solutions

Before implementing a solution on a large scale, it is essential to test it in a controlled environment. This enables you to assess its effectiveness in real-life situations and adjust the action plan.

  • Experimentation: Replace tools more frequently to see if this reduces the defect rate.
  • Action: Implement the test plan over a set period using the "Do" phase of PDCA, then collect data on the impact of this change.

6. Standardize and document the chosen solution

Once you’ve found the best solution, it must be standardized and integrated into the organization's procedures. Documenting the process helps prevent the problem from recurring and facilitates employee training .

  • Implementation: After confirmation that more frequent tool replacement reduces defects, this practice is standardized across the entire production line using the DMAIC method.
  • Action: Document the new process using the 8Ds, train operators in the new practice, and integrate the change into standard operating procedures.

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5 Useful problem-solving strategies for manufacturing

1. 8d (eight disciplines problem solving).

8D is a quality approach to solving complex problems requiring in-depth analysis and lasting corrective action.

The method comprises eight steps:

  • Prepare the 8D process
  • Describe the problem
  • Identify and implement immediate actions
  • Identify the real causes
  • Identify and implement permanent corrective actions
  • Validate permanent corrective actions
  • Prevent recurrence
  • Congratulate the team

Use case in the manufacturing industry

Problem: Recurrent failure of a major piece of equipment, leading to costly production stoppages.

8D would enable a multi-disciplinary team to systematically identify, analyze, and eliminate the root cause of the failure while implementing sustainable corrective actions.

2. PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

Also known as the Deming wheel, this systematic, iterative model comprises four stages or cycles: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

The PDCA method helps companies test changes under controlled conditions, evaluate the results, and then implement improvements progressively to optimize production and ensure consistent product quality.

Problem: Variation in the quality of the finished product, which does not always meet standards.

PDCA would address this problem by planning improvements, testing them, evaluating their effectiveness, and adjusting the production process to stabilize product quality.

Circle-shaped graphic describing a step of the PDCA method in each quadrant

3. DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control)

This Six Sigma method is highly effective in optimizing production processes, reducing variation, and eliminating defects by focusing on data and statistical analysis.

It involves clearly defining the problem (Define), measuring (Measure), and analyzing process data to identify root causes (Analyze), then implementing improvements (Improve) and controlling processes to ensure sustainable quality gains (Control).

Problem: High scrap and rework rates on an assembly line.

DMAIC would be used to specify the problem, measure performance, analyze data to find the cause, implement improvements, and control the process to reduce defects.

4. QRQC (Quick Response Quality Control)

This fast, effective method inspired by Lean Management, consists in identifying, analyzing and solving problems directly on the shop floor. It is particularly well suited to fast-paced production environments where immediate detection and resolution are necessary to maintain production continuity and efficiency.

Problem: Frequent safety incidents in the workplace.

QRQC would enable rapid reaction to identify and resolve the causes of such incidents immediately, thereby reducing their frequency and improving overall safety.

5. Four A’s

The Four A’s method is a structured approach that is designed to systematically address and solve problems within an organization. 

  • Assess: This step involves identifying and understanding the problem. 
  • Analyze: Once the problem is assessed, the next step is to analyze it to find the root causes.  
  • Address: With a clear understanding of the root causes, the third “A” involves developing and implementing solutions to address these causes.  
  • Act: The final “A” focuses on standardizing the correct solution and integrating it into the organization’s processes.   

It is used where problems need to be solved quickly and efficiently while ensuring that lessons learned are integrated into standard practices.

Problem: Missed delivery deadlines due to production bottlenecks.

The Four A’s method would help to quickly detect bottlenecks, analyze their causes, find and implement effective solutions, and then integrate these changes into regular operations to improve on-time delivery.

How to choose the right problem-solving method

The choice of problem-solving method depends on several factors:

  • The nature and complexity of the problem: Before choosing a problem-solving approach, you need to understand exactly what is wrong. If it's a complex and multifactorial problem, structured, in-depth methods such as 8D or DMAIC may be appropriate. For more immediate or quality-related problems, QRQC or Four A’s may be more appropriate.
  • Company objectives: Look at the big picture; align the method with your strategic objectives, such as improving quality, reducing costs, or increasing customer satisfaction. For example, DMAIC is often chosen for defect reduction and process optimization objectives.
  • Available resources: Think about the resources you can allocate to problem-solving processes (time, skills, budget). For example, PDCA can be implemented more quickly when resources are limited.
  • Team expertise and problem-solving skills: Use a method that matches your team's qualifications. Training may be required for more complex approaches such as DMAIC or 8D.
  • The need for standardization and documentation: If documentation and standardization of processes are essential, opt for methods that integrate these aspects, such as 8D or DMAIC.

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5 Tools for structuring your problem-solving methods

Now it's time for the problem-solving tools! These will help structure the process and keep it moving in the right direction.

1. The 5 Whys

This problem-solving technique, created by Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda, involves repeatedly asking the question "Why?" until the root cause of a given problem is revealed. It's a simple but powerful tool for finding root causes.

A factory has a problem with late delivery of finished products:

  • Why is the plant experiencing delays in the delivery of finished products? Because the production of final units is often late.
  • Why is the production of final units behind schedule? Because assembly takes longer than expected.
  • Why does assembly take longer than expected? Because parts needed to complete assembly are often missing.
  • Why are parts often missing? Because supplies regularly arrive late from the supplier.
  • Why do supplies arrive late from the supplier? Because orders are placed too late, due to an inefficient procurement process.

2. The Ishikawa diagram (5M)

Also known as the "fishbone diagram" or "5M", this tool developed by Kaoru Ishikawa helps to systematically visualize all the potential causes of a specific problem, as well as the contributing factors.

Causes are divided into 5 main categories.

A factory encounters a problem with a drop in product quality:

  • Problem or "Effect" (fish head): Decline in product quality
  • Categories of causes (main branches):
  • Manpower: Operator skills , training, motivation.
  • Methods: Work procedures, quality standards, operating instructions.
  • Materials: Raw material quality, batch variability, supplier specifications.
  • Environment: Working conditions, temperature, humidity, dust.
  • Equipment: Equipment wear, machine calibration, maintenance. 

This evolution of the Ishikawa diagram focuses on not five, but seven major problem areas: Manpower, Method, Materials, Environment, Equipment, Management, Measurement.

A factory is experiencing machine failure problems:

  • Manpower: Inadequate operator training, human error due to fatigue, or lack of experience.
  • Methods: Obsolete production processes, and lack of standardized operating and maintenance procedures.
  • Materials: Inconsistent quality of raw materials, premature wear of spare parts.
  • Environment: Unsuitable working conditions, disturbances due to excessive noise or vibration.
  • Equipment: Outdated equipment, neglected or inadequate preventive maintenance.
  • Management: Inadequate decision-making, and insufficient communication between departments.
  • Measurement: Uncalibrated or faulty measuring instruments, lack of regular quality controls.

4. The Pareto principe

The Pareto or 80/20 principle is very useful for focusing on the problems that will have the greatest impact once solved, and for making informed decisions.

In a factory producing electronic components, 80% of production defects stem from just 20% of the manufacturing processes.

By analyzing production data, the company could discover that the majority of defects are linked to errors in the soldering and PCB inspection stages. These two stages, although representing a small part of the total manufacturing process, are crucial and require special attention to reduce the overall number of defects.

Two circular diagrams displayed side-by-side, showing the 80/20 rule


This tool helps gather comprehensive information on a problem by answering these key questions: Who, What, Where, When, How, How much, Why. Thus, it provides an in-depth understanding of the situation.

There is a delay in production at a furniture manufacturing plant:

  • Who is affected by the problem? Assembly line operators and production managers are directly affected by the delay.
  • What exactly is the problem? Deliveries of finished furniture to customers are several days behind schedule.
  • Where exactly is the problem occurring? The problem occurs in the final assembly shop, where the furniture is prepared for shipment.
  • When was the problem detected or when does it occur? The delay has been observed over the past two weeks, mainly during the third shift.
  • How does the problem occur? The delay is due to a bottleneck in the finishing and packing stage, where there is a lack of personnel and problems with the packing equipment.
  • How often has the problem occurred, or what is the scale of the problem? The problem caused a 30% delay in orders during this period.
  • Why does the problem occur? The problem could be due to inadequate staff planning and recurring packaging equipment failures.

Other tools can also be useful for structuring problem-solving methods:

  • Brainstorming
  • Gemba Walks
  • SWOT analysis
  • Control charts
  • Prioritization matrices

Tips for effective implementation of problem-solving techniques

Integrate problem-solving into daily routines.

Instead of seeing problem-solving as a separate activity, integrate it into daily routines. For example, set up SIM meetings to discuss ongoing problems as a group and monitor progress on solutions.

Use technology for your benefit

Adopt a Daily Management System (DMS) like UTrakk to quickly identify problems, track corrective actions, facilitate collaboration between teams, and document solutions in a centralized repository.

Develop specific key performance indicators for problem resolution

Define Lean KPIs that measure the effectiveness of the problem-solving process (average time to solve the problem, problem recurrence rate, and impact of solutions on business performance).

Practice problem-solving on the shop floor

To understand problems, you need to go where value is created. Encourage managers to go on the shop floor to directly observe processes, interact with operators, and identify possible improvements.

Create cross-functional problem-solving groups

Form teams with members from different departments to tackle complex problem-solving. Integrating different angles, perspectives, and expertise broadens the point of view on the subject, enriches the analysis, and generates more creative ideas.

Adopt a coaching approach to skills development

In addition to basic training, use mentoring and coaching to develop problem-solving skills . Experienced employees can guide less experienced ones, sharing their know-how.

Conduct post-mortem reviews

When a problem is solved, conduct a post-mortem to discuss what went well, what didn't, and how processes can be improved.

Tracking and evaluating each solution implemented allows you to adjust strategies as needed, learn from past experiences, and foster continuous improvement .


UTrakk: Your ally in structuring and optimizing problem-solving

Using organized methods and analytical tools to tackle challenges is essential for manufacturers seeking to improve operational efficiency and product quality. UTrakk DMS is the perfect solution for this structured approach to daily problem-solving. With its multiple functionalities – rituals, actions, dashboards, and more – this Daily Management System can adapt to any problem-solving method to optimize every step of the process. Once a solution is standardized, it can be documented in UTrakk’s Knowledge Center to ensure compliance and prevent recurrence.

Adopting these problem-solving techniques not only enables manufacturers to respond effectively to today's challenges, but it also lays the foundations for continuous improvement, ensuring their competitiveness in an ever-changing industrial environment .

FAQ on problem-solving methods

What are the key problem-solving methods for manufacturers.

The key problem-solving methods for manufacturers include Lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, and the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle. These methodologies focus on eliminating waste, optimizing processes, and implementing continuous improvement to enhance operational efficiency.

How can manufacturers effectively implement Lean principles?

Manufacturers can effectively implement Lean principles by identifying and eliminating waste, optimizing workflows, and improving overall efficiency through techniques like Kanban and 5S. Training employees and involving them in the continuous improvement process are also critical steps​.

What is the importance of Six Sigma in manufacturing?

Six Sigma is important in manufacturing because it provides a data-driven approach for reducing defects and variability in processes. This methodology helps in improving product quality and operational efficiency by following the DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) framework.

Can technology enhance problem-solving in manufacturing?

Technology plays a crucial role in enhancing problem-solving in manufacturing. Digital twins, augmented reality, and collaborative robotics are technologies that help improve precision, efficiency, and safety, facilitating better decision-making and process optimization​.

What benefits do continuous improvement practices offer to manufacturers?

Continuous improvement practices offer several benefits, including increased operational efficiency, reduced waste and costs, and improved employee engagement and customer satisfaction. These practices encourage a proactive approach to addressing inefficiencies and fostering innovation.

Turn your production challenges into opportunities for improvement!

In addition to providing the UTrakk solution, Proaction International supports you in implementing the best problem-solving methods and helps you achieve operational excellence.

Adeline de Oliveira

Writer and editorial manager for about 15 years, Adeline de Oliveira is passionate about human behavior and communication dynamics. At Proaction International, she covers topics ranging from Industry 5.0 to operational excellence, with a focus on leadership development. This expertise enables her to offer insights and advice on employee engagement and continuous improvement of managerial skills.


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    S. olving. CPS is a proven method for approaching a problem or a challenge in an imaginative and innovative way. It helps you redefine the problems and opportunities you face, come up with new, innovative responses and solutions, and then take action. If you search the Internet for "Creative Problem Solving," you'll find many variations ...

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    Humans are innate creative problem-solvers. Since early humans developed the first stone tools to crack open fruit and nuts more than 2 million years ago, the application of creative thinking to solve problems has been a distinct competitive advantage for our species (Puccio 2017).Originally used to solve problems related to survival, the tendency toward the use of creative problem-solving to ...

  8. What is Creative Problem-Solving?

    An introduction to creative problem-solving. Creative problem-solving is an essential skill that goes beyond basic brainstorming. It entails a holistic approach to challenges, melding logical processes with imaginative techniques to conceive innovative solutions. As our world becomes increasingly complex and interconnected, the ability to think ...

  9. Creative Problem Solving: 5 Tips for Creative Problem-Solving

    Teaches Being a Band. Teaches the Power of Storytelling. Teaches Drumming & Creative Collaboration. Teach Creative Collaboration and Fashion. Critical Leadership Training. Small Habits that Make a Big Impact on Your Life. Rewriting the Rules of Business and Life. Using Humor to Make Your Mark. Think Like a Boss, Live Like a Legend.

  10. Creative Thinking: Innovative Solutions to Complex Challenges

    Susan is a senior faculty member at the Creative Problem Solving Institute, where she teaches and trains creative problem solving and innovative thinking. Her work includes designing innovation discovery processes, facilitating ideation sessions, customer insight and co-creation, and leading strategic meetings.

  11. Creative Problem Solving Explained

    Creative problem solving is based on the belief that everyone is creative and can enhance their creative abilities with discipline. Creative problem solving is a deliberate approach to solving complex problems. While creativity is an innate part of creative problem solving, the process uses a variety of steps and strategies designed to bring to ...

  12. Harnessing Creativity in Problem-Solving

    Innovative Approaches to Problem-Solving through Creativity. Now that we understand the importance of creativity in problem-solving, let's explore innovative approaches that can help you harness your creative potential to overcome challenges.. 1. Design Thinking. Design thinking is a problem-solving framework that places empathy at its core.

  13. Creative Problem-Solving Approach: Skills, Framework, 3 Real-life

    Some essential skills for creative problem-solving include: Flexibility: Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and consider multiple perspectives. Open-mindedness: Being open to new ideas and willing to challenge assumptions. Curiosity: Seek more information by questioning and better understanding the problem.

  14. Creative Problem Solving: from complex challenge to innovative solution

    The Creative Problem Solving process, sometimes referred to as CPS, is a proven way to approach a challenge more imaginatively. By redefining problems or opportunities, it becomes possible to move in a completely new and more innovative direction. Dr Donald Treffinger described Creative Problem Solving as an effective way to review problems ...

  15. Creative Problem Solving

    The PISA 2012 Creative Problem Solvingassessment advanced large-scale, competency-based assessment beyond the traditional scope of literacy and numeracy. It focused on the general cognitive processes involved in problem solving, rather than on students' ability to solve problems in particular school subjects.

  16. 8 creative solutions to your most challenging problems

    Whether on a team or as an individual, defining a problem is like, as Amy says, peeling back an onion's layers and getting closer to the root cause each time. 2. Check your mindset. In addition to viewing the problem as an opportunity, try approaching it with curiosity.

  17. What is Creative Problem Solving?

    The Creative Problem Solving (CPS) framework is a systematic approach for generating innovative solutions to complex problems. It's effectively a process framework. It provides a structured process that helps individuals and teams think creatively, explore possibilities, and develop practical solutions.

  18. 10 Creative Skills for Problem-Solving and How to Improve Them

    Creative thinking versus critical thinking . Although creative and critical thinking are both used in problem-solving, the two skills are marked by key differences.. Creative thinking is the catalyst for generating innovative ideas and crafting novel approaches to the challenges around them.

  19. Creative Problem Solving: How to Turn Challenges into Opportunities

    The creative problem solving (CPS) is a process that is used to solve problems and find opportunities. The process aims to go beyond the traditional thinking in problem-solving to find creative solutions. While there are different problem-solving models, the core difference between them and the creative problem solving is that it applied a ...

  20. How to Use Creativity in Problem-Solving

    Creative problem-solving is a critical skill in today's dynamic and complex world. It helps us navigate challenges with innovative and effective solutions. Various tools and strategies can enhance this process. Here, we delve into some of these creative problem-solving tools. Creative Problem-Solving Tools Brainstorming

  21. 10 Problem-solving strategies to turn challenges on their head

    One of the best ways to improve your problem-solving skills is to learn from experts. Consider enrolling in organizational training, shadowing a mentor, or working with a coach. 2. Practice. Practice using your new problem-solving skills by applying them to smaller problems you might encounter in your daily life.

  22. How You Can Use Creative Problem Solving at Work

    The CPS process can be broken down into seven steps. 1. Identify the goal. Before solving the problem, you need to fully understand the problem you're trying to solve. You may have overlooked or misunderstood some details. Take some time to analyze the conflict and clear up any confusion. 2.

  23. 35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

    The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it's common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process.

  24. The Joy of Creative Problem-Solving

    The Joy of Creative Problem-Solving Nermeen Dashoush, an advisor for PBS KIDS' Lyla in the Loop, talks about helping kids become better scientific thinkers. ... Nermeen Dashoush: Our main focus is on how to solve problems by breaking things down into parts and making them more manageable. We take computational thinking skills that are the ...

  25. What is Wicked Problem Solving?

    Wicked Problem Solving Practitioner is an online course and tool kit developed specifically to hone the creative problem-solving and collaboration skills of changemakers and to bring design thinking to everyday work. The course takes 15-18 hours to complete and contains videos and activities accompanied by either a physical or a virtual tool kit.

  26. Falling in Love With Problems Worth Solving: Tackling the Climate

    It is a human-centered, collaborative, and iterative approach to problem-solving. Design Thinking for Innovation, a core course for master's students at Hult, harnesses the skill of creative problem-solving for world-changing impact. Led by Dr. Henrik Totterman, the course is structured to guide students through a comprehensive learning ...

  27. The Art Of Solving Difficult Challenges As An Entrepreneur

    The Power Of A Problem-Solving Mindset. The first step in overcoming daunting challenges is adopting the right mindset. "The entrepreneurs who thrive and make a difference are those who don't ...

  28. Anand Mahindra says 'there's always a solution'; 6 strategies to become

    In a recent post on X, Anand Mahindra, a business leader, highlighted a fundamental truth about problem-solving: it takes patience, persistent effort, and creative thinking to overcome obstacles. "At first glance, most problems seem unresolvable. There's always a solution," he wrote. Whether ...

  29. Johns Hopkins Student Engineering Teams Creative Problem-Solving

    "This is a difficult problem to solve, and there is no commercially available solution," said Shenkelman. "Creating a system that makes patients more comfortable is very rewarding to me and the team as engineers." "They made a really great prototype," Rigsby said. "We've been utilizing it ever since."

  30. 10 Effective Problem-Solving Methods for Manufacturers

    Key steps of a problem-solving process in a factory. To better understand each of these steps, let's take the example of a factory manufacturing automotive components, faced with a sudden rise in the number of defective parts. 1. Identify the problem. The first step is to recognize that a problem exists.