It was widely reported that in 2016 the World Economic Forum cited creativity as one of the top 3 skills organisations would need by 2020. The top skill which has been consistent in their reporting is critical problem solving.
Critical problem solving is much improved when a dose of creativity is added because many organisations get stuck in loops of thinking. The saying, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ is so true.
Creative problem solving is an approach that offers opportunities to develop both critical thinking and creative approaches to problems. The result is that better and different solutions may be identified.
What is Creative Problem Solving (CPS)?
If you are working with an issue that could be described as complex, messy, involves people and emotions then CPS can be very effective.
It is an approach that fully explores the nature of the problem before diving into solutions. When this doesn’t happen, and we leap straight into solutions, we tend to solve the wrong problem because it may be the more obvious one, or even the more easily solvable.
CPS is an open approach to problem solving which works in cycles of divergent and convergent thinking. Opening up to fully explore the problem before closing down on selecting the problem to explore, before opening again to explore solutions. This is illustrated in the 3 stage approach which is based upon the work of Osborne and Parne. At each stage there is a phase of divergent and convergent thinking with suitable techniques chosen for each phase.
I have listed here some of the fundamental requirements for this form of problem solving to be effective:
- CPS requires an open, positive approach. We all make assumptions and build up mind sets based upon these assumptions. It is important in seeing things differently that these assumptions are challenged. Negativity in this process can be harmful and can shut ideas down. ‘Yes and’… is a useful phrase here rather than ‘yes, but‘.
- CPS works best when more time is spent on the early stages of exploring the problem. What we assume to be the problem may not be the problem or not all of the problem. It may be possible to re-frame the problem and change the nature of the problem, or even see it disappear!
- CPS works best when people are being playful, and experimenting with new ideas. This, for me means taking it out of the boardroom, away from desks and chairs!
- CPS works best with a group of people from diverse backgrounds as this can be very helpful in creating the challenging atmosphere that CPS needs.
For more information about this approach and techniques that can be used in the process, do take a look at the book I have co-authored with Dr Tracy Stanley.
Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. which covers the process of CPS and techniques that can help challenge assumptions.