Creative Problem Solving

December 8th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity | Problem Solving

We are faced with problems and challenges in our work and personal lives, daily. A problem occurs when a present state is unsatisfactory and we wish to change the present state to a more desirable state. The model of a problem is outlined below:


However, finding the appropriate solution path is not always easy and straight forward, requiring a number of different options and meandering pathways, as represented by the diagram below:

A number of different approaches and processes have been documented to solve problems. However, in addition to the process, the right mindset (attitude) is also required for successful problem solving. A simple problem solving process, involving a sequence of steps, was presented by Herbert Simon in 1978 and is outlined below:

The process begins with the realisation that an undesirable state (problem) exists which needs to be analyzed and defined. The next step, design, involves the development of potential solutions to solve the problem. This step is followed by selecting the most suitable solution to the problem and implementing the solution. Finally, a review activity is undertaken to ensure that the solution implemented was effective in solving the problem.

A more detailed Rational Problem Solving process was described by Kepner and Tregoe in 1981 and involved nine discrete steps, as outlined in the diagram below:

Although it became widely used as a rational and systematic approach to problem solving, it did not incorporate creative thinking tools or approaches to solve more complex problems. Having used a number of different problem solving processes, I developed a novel six step Creative Problem Solving process in 1996 that combines a number of creative and analytical tools with a rational approach to problem solving. The process is summarised in the table below:

I also developed a Problem Solving Worksheet that can be used with the above six step Creative Problem Solving process. By using the approach outlined above I have found that both simple and complex problems can be resolved with minimal effort, but at the same time achieve effective and long-term solutions.

Dr John Kapeleris

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6 Responses

  • We have found that many folks are not doing there homework in Step 1 and therefore often end up with a limited solution set. They are not willing to put in the hard work to become knowledgeable enough to provide quality solutions and we often just get ideas “off the top” of their heads, which is not where the good answers lie.

    Reply
    • John Kapeleris says:

      I agree with your comment Richard. The problem needs to be clearly investigated, defined and diagnosed to determine the root cause of the problem. In other words you need to do your upfront homework to better understand the nature of the the problem. In many cases the quick solution that is chosen (off the top of your head) only solves the symptoms of the problem, and the problem has a tendency to recur.

      Regards,

      John

      Reply
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  • admin says:

    Another Creative Problem Solving (CPS) approach can be found at link to members.optusnet.com.au.

    Reply
  • Jen says:

    I’m looking at this as part of my MBA as well as writing about it, and so thank you for your article. Do you think the process is more of a cycle and could be presented as such?

    Reply
    • John Kapeleris says:

      Hi Jen,

      I agree that the process is more of a cycle. I have presented the Creative Problem Solving process in a table format with specific steps to emphasize the major activity with all the sub activities that include creative thinking techniques to make it easier for people to follow. However, when using the process I have found that you do go back to earlier steps either entering through Step 1, Step 2 or Step 5 after you initially complete all the Steps. Feedback loops exist at each Step that can take you back to previous Steps or in some rare cases jumping forward to Steps.

      Regards,
      John

      Reply


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