Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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In this article we will be discussing one of the important management concepts called Creative Problem Solving techniques. In this article we will be answering the basic question of what is Creative Problem solving. We will then move to the Different methods of Creative Problem Solving and finally the tools that can be used for creative problem solving. The topics that are covered in this article are mentioned below.

  • What is Creative Problem Solving?
  • What is Not Creative Problem Solving?
  • When to use the Technique of Creative Problem Solving?
  • What to expect to achieve at the end of the discussion?
  • How much time should be spending to reach to reasonable solution?
  • How many can be part of the discussion?
  • Different types of Creative Problem Solving methods?  – We will cover 7 methods of creative Problem Solving
  • What are the Tools required for to do this exercise of creative problem Solving?
  • Other Info on creative Problem Solving – Author names and Book information


I. What is Creative Problem Solving?

What is Creative Problem Solving

Creative problem solving is the mental process of creating a solution to a problem. It is a special form of problem solving in which the solution is independently created rather than learned with assistance. Creative problem solving always involves creativity.  Creativity requires newness or novelty as a characteristic of what is created, but creativity does not necessarily imply that what is created has value or is appreciated by other people. This technique is mostly used by project leads, project manager, and Team leads, to identify an alternate solution to a given situation. We will be discussing steps involved in creative problem solving technique. Here I will be sharing few of my experience which I learnt over many years.

To qualify as creative problem solving

  • The solution must either have value,
  • Clearly solve the stated problem,
  • Or be appreciated by someone for whom the situation improves.

The situation prior to the solution does not need to be labeled as a problem. Alternate labels include a challenge, an opportunity, or a situation in which there is room for improvement.

II. What is not creative problem solving?

What is not creative problem Solving

Solving school-assigned homework problems does not usually involve creative problem solving because such problems typically have well-known solutions. If a created solution becomes widely used, the solution becomes an innovation and the word innovation also refers to the process of creating that innovation.  “All innovations are creative solutions, but not all creative solutions become innovations.
Inventing is a special kind of creative problem solving in which the created solution qualifies as an invention because it is a useful new object, substance, process, software, or other kind of marketable entity.

III. When to use this Technique

This technique is normally used when you are looking for alternative, creative views on a situation or a subject.

IV. What do you expected to achieve at the end of the discussion?

What to expect at the end of the discussion

You will be able to have a fresh look at the issues from a different perspective.

  • Creativity techniques designed to shift a person’s mental state into one that fosters creativity.
  • Creativity techniques designed to re-frame the problem. For example, reconsidering one’s goals by asking “What am I really trying to accomplish?” can lead to useful insights.
  • Creativity techniques designed to increase the quantity of fresh ideas. This approach is based on the belief that a larger number of ideas increase the chances that one of them has value. Some of these techniques involve randomly selecting an idea, thinking about similarities with the undesired situation, and hopefully inspiring a related idea that leads to a solution.
  • Creative-problem-solving techniques designed to efficiently lead to a fresh perspective that causes a solution to become obvious. This category is useful for solving especially challenging problems. Some of these techniques involve identifying independent dimensions that differentiate (or separate) closely associated concepts. Such techniques can overcome the mind’s instinctive tendency to use “oversimplified associative thinking” in which two related concepts are so closely associated that their differences, and independence from one another, are overlooked.

V. How much time required to achieve a result?

It normally takes one to three hours to provide a useful output. and arrive at a good result

VI. How many can be Part of the discussion?

A Group 10 to 15 people, can be part of the discussion we should have a Minimum of five normally to proceed and achieve an Outcome.

VII. Types of Creative problem Solving methods

1. Random Input -Making creative leaps.

Random Input

Random Input is a lateral thinking tool. It is very useful when you need fresh ideas or new perspectives during problem solving.
Benefits: It offers new perspectives on a problem, fosters creative leaps, and permits escape from restrictive thinking patterns.
For many types of problem solving, we tend to think by recognizing patterns. We react to these patterns based on past experience and extensions to that experience. Sometimes, though, we get stuck inside them. Within a particular pattern there may be no good solution to a particular sort of problem.
How: Select a random noun, whether from a prepared set, from the dictionary, or one’s own list of 60 words. It is helpful to get new insight by selecting a word from outside the field being studied. List the word’s attributions or associations, and then apply each to the problem at hand. With persistence, at least one of these may catalyze a creative leap
Example: Students thinking about reducing car pollution have so far considered all the conventional solutions, e.g. catalytic conversion and clean fuels. Selecting a random noun from the titles of books in a bookcase, a student may see “Plants.” Brainstorming from this, the class could generate a number of new ideas, such as planting trees on the side of roads or passing exhaust gases through a soup of algae, to reduce carbon dioxide.

2. Metaphorical Thinking – Using comparisons to express ideas and solve problems.

Metaphorical thinking or forced analogies are techniques that give new perspectives and insights for problem solving. The idea is to compare a situation with something that, on the surface, might appear to have little in common, but allows the team to examine a problem in a completely different way.

Time is Money
Time is money. How often have heard that statement? Probably many times and in various contexts. By thinking about time as money, you can create some powerful images. Time wasted is money down the drain. Time well spent is an investment. The seconds are ticking away.
A direct comparison between two unrelated or indirectly linked things is called a metaphor. And as we see in the example of Time is money, metaphors can create strong images that can be used to great effect in everyday communications and thinking. The manager who stands up in front of his team and says, “We need to finish this work quickly”, creates considerably less impact that the manager who opens his comments using the metaphor: As we all know, time is money.
The English language is littered with metaphors, and this is testimony to the power. So metaphors can be used to improve communications: They can add impact or can help you explain a difficult concept by association with a more familiar one.

3. Provocation – Carrying Out Thought Experiments

The essence of formal provocation is that it is different from what is expected. Provocation is an important lateral thinking technique. It works by moving your thinking out of the established patterns that you use to solve problems. There is no value at all in the provocation except that it allows the thinker to ‘move’ forward (using the mental operation of ‘movement’) to a new idea that does have value.


In the process of carrying out the mental operation of ‘movement’ the thinker can come to a concept that is obviously different from the normal concept.
Once you have made the Provocation, you can use it in a number of different ways, by examining:

  • The consequences of the statement
  • What the benefits would be
  • What special circumstances would make it a sensible solution
  • The principles needed to support it and make it work
  • How it would work moment-to-moment
  • What would happen if a sequence of events was changed

4. Reversal -Improving products and services

Reversal is a good tool for improving a product or a service. To use it, ask the opposite of the question you want to ask, and apply the results.


What Does Reversal Mean?
When we consider how aha really happens? the traditional method we use for generating creative ideas, brainstorming, has flaws.  Ask your friends, when do they have their best ideas? They will seldom answer, ‘during a brainstorming session’. Most likely it was in the shower, while driving and stuck in traffic or while daydreaming.
The fact of the matter is ‘we can’t schedule creativity’ because we don’t know when that ‘aha’ will strike. Yet despite this basic human process we find that managers schedule a specific time for teams to come up with creative ideas.

Different Approach to Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming helps you solve problems with a combination of brainstorming and reversal techniques. By combining these, you can extend your use of brainstorming to draw out even more creative ideas. To use this technique, you start with one of two “reverse” questions:
Instead of asking, “how do I solve or prevent this problem?” ask, “how could I possibly cause the problem?”
Instead of asking “how do I achieve these results?” ask, “how could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?”

How to use the tool

  • Clearly identify the problem or challenge, and write it down.
  • Reverse the problem or challenge by asking:
  • How could I possibly cause the problem?, or How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?
  • Brainstorm the reverse problem to generate reverse solution ideas. Allow the brainstorm ideas to flow freely. Do not reject anything at this stage.
  • Once you have brainstormed all the ideas to solve the reverse problem, now reverse these into solution ideas for the original problem or challenge.
  • Evaluate these solution ideas. Can you see a potential solution? Can you see attributes of a potential solution?

Ruby is the manager of a health clinic and she has the task of improving patient satisfaction.
There have been various improvement initiatives in the past and the team members have become rather sceptical about another meeting on the subject. The team is overworked, team members are trying their best and they are cynical about the likely success of yet another “top-down” initiative.
So she decides to use some creative problem solving techniques she has learned. This, she hopes, will make the team meeting more interesting and engage people in a new way. Perhaps it will reveal something more than the usual “good ideas” that no one has time to act on.
To prepare for the team meeting, Ruby thinks carefully about the problem and writes down the problem statement:
“How do we improve patient satisfaction?” Then she reverses problem statement: “How do we create make more patients dissatisfied?”
Immediately she starts to see how the new angle could reveal some surprising results. At the team meeting, everyone gets involved in an enjoyable and productive reverse brainstorming session. They draw on both their work experience with patients and also their personal experience of being patients and customers of other organizations. Luciana helps ideas flow freely, ensuring people to not pass judgment on even the most unlikely suggestions. Here are just a few of the “reverse” ideas:

  • Double book appointments
  • Remove the chairs from the waiting room
  • Put patients who phone on hold (and forget about them)
  • Have patients wait outside in the car park
  • Discuss patient’s problems in public

and so on. When the brainstorming session runs dry, the team has a long list of the “reverse” solutions. Now it’s time to look at each one in reverse into a potential solution. As you will see, resulting discussions are quite revealing. Ruby  concluded: “It was enlightening and fun to looking at the problem in reverse. The amazing thing is, it’s helped us become more patient-friendly by stopping doing things rather than creating more work”.

Hope you will have great time Solving your Business Challenges using the tools mentioned in this article “Creative Problem Solving Tools and Technique. We Will Continue the remaining Content in our next Part.

Creative Problem Solving Tools and Technique (Part 2/2).

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