Creative Problem Solving Tools

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* To our dearest followers, this past post (Augustus 8 2014) has been enhanced with new ideas and updates. We hope you enjoy it!  

Creative Problem Solving Tools That You Can Apply Directly at Work

I think that we have more problems today than we have solutions. Being caught in a middle of a problem with no solution in sight can be stressful, but there are ways to solve a problem if you know when, where, what and how to look. Often, we get too confined with our own perspective that we lose touch of our creative selves. This is where creative problem solving comes in. It is a process of solving problems that allows you to view the issue in more than one ways, excluding your own, so you may reach a wide array of solutions. Creative problem solving is an important skill in the workplace in order to come up with novel and practical solutions. However, these thought processes may not come naturally to us under usual circumstance, thus practicing these tools and techniques can be beneficial if you are confronted with a roadblock.

Creative problem solving is best undertaken by using these tools and methods. These are logically ordered to keep you focused on the problem and not stray away from the real issue. Apply them directly at work and see the great impact they can bring.

Creative Problem Solving: Define the problem.

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the answer, I would spend the first 55 minutes figuring out the proper questions to ask. For if I knew the proper questions, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes. A. Einstein

We all encounter problems. Problems may come in trivial forms such as what pen color to use to huge dilemmas such as how to increase employee retention despite the low training resources you have. Defining the problem is not as easy as it looks to be. Looking at the problem differently will lead you to different, unconventional but ingenious solutions. Defining the real problem should address what’s really wrong or lacking in the picture. For instance, fixing a battery with a lifespan of one year is not the best solution to keep your gadget going. The repairs may only further damage the battery. What about you replace the battery before it hits its one year mark to ensure your gadget’s optimal performance?

Treating the symptom is not the solution.

This is often the lazy way of getting things done. Would you rather have a bucket to catch dripping water from your rooftop every time it rains rather than climb the roof and cover the hole with a waterproof sealant? The second option addresses the problem for good, doesn’t it? In this case, it is best to eliminate redundancy and repeatable work by addressing the issue once and for all.

The next step would be to generate ideas and solutions.

Brainstorming is the popular way of generating ideas, especially if you are going after the quantity. You also need to get past through different blocks in idea generation such as emotional blocks (fear of rejection or humility); mental blocks (limiting the scope of the problem and stereotyping); and expressive blocks (you have the ideas but you do not know how to express them in a way that can easily be understood).

Aside from brainstorming a number of ideas, you can also try other techniques such as:

  • Random simulation – generating ideas from a randomly chosen word. Use a newspaper or a dictionary close your eyes and choose a word randomly. If this word is not helping you start again.
  • In other people’s shoes – what other people would probably do in your situation
  • Getting a breather – do not get yourself too isolated with the problem. Take a break, a short walk and drive inspiration from non-work related items. When I’m facing a problem I go for a jogging in the woods and I always come back with new perspectives on the issue.

Taking a course of action.

After generating and laying out the ideas on the table, it is now time that you decide which course of action will best meet the needs of your problem. The Creative Problem Solving for example allows us to solve problem situations through an equipped process, structured into 8 major stages.

Each stage includes alternatively:

  • One divergence period with play stimulation to unlock creativity and open the options field as widely as possible.
  • One convergence period with logical approaches to screen options brought up during the divergence time and make appropriate choices. In this phase the courses of action can be undertaken through prioritizing your ideas as High, Medium and Low. Furthermore, you can also prioritize by determining the urgency, trend and impact of your chosen solution.

Creative Problem Solving Process

Implementation.

I find this stage a rather tricky part in creative problem solving. Many organizations fail in their solutions because they limit implementation by simply announcing a new policy which they expect employees to follow right away.

Creative problem solving implementation can further more subdivided into four stages:

  1. Approval – get the desired course of action approved by the CEO, department head, or voted among employees, whichever is more appropriate to your organization.
  2. Planning – when, where and how do you plan to implement the solution? Who are involved? For how long is it going to take place?
  3. Carry through – act on the implementation of the solution
  4. Follow up – evaluate if the solution is giving you the desired results

Creative problem solving requires employees to look at the problem in unconventional ways. It should also not be limited to these four tools; proper evaluation, checking for accuracy, tenacity and viability should be proven time and again to be effective. To recap, creative problem solving entails:

  1. Defining the problem – looking for the real problem and not merely treating the symptoms
  2. Generating ideas or solutions – can be conducted through brainstorming and other related activities (divergence period).
  3. Choosing a course of action – narrowing down the most viable solutions and choosing one that has the most appeal and impact to the organization (convergence period).
  4. Implementation – should follow the proper pattern of approval, planning, carrying through and follow up.

In conclusion, creative problem solving is all about looking for new horizons. We should not contend ourselves with what have been used to and limit our options to what’s readily available. Practicing creative problem solving is about having the guts of taking risks and the courage to defy what’s usual.

And keep in mind “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them.” A. Einstein

THINKING PROCESS - small size

 

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