Tag Archives: creative problem solving

What’s the Problem?

Problem clarification plays a large role in Creative Problem Solving (CPS). This is the space where we explore the terrain of our goals, wishes, and challenges, before we move forward into generating ideas.

The CPS model shown below depicts three major phases, with six process steps distributed across them. You can see how fully half of the process steps take place during the first phase.

Creative Problem Solving

If it feels like heavy lifting at times, it’s because there’s a natural tendency to want to rush ahead and begin generating ideas. The research is very convincing, however, on the important role that problem identification or problem construction plays in the quality of the final outcome. The more time we spend upfront figuring out what the real (or the most important, or the most interesting) problem is, the better the ideas and solutions that follow. As philosopher John Dewey famously said: a problem well-stated is half-solved.

So the next time you’re in a session where lots of energy is being spent trying to come up with answers, check to see if adequate attention has been paid to the first and most important question: what is the problem?

 Creative Problem Solving graphic adapted from Roger L. Firestien, Ph.D. – Innovation Resources, Inc.   www.rogerfirestien.com

Creating a Business

Last fall I gave a short workshop on small business development for my local SCORE chapter — a wonderful community resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners. The content was focused on using the creative process deliberately as a tool for business development. It came to me as a result of my recent Master’s work in applied creativity and innovation, and as a sort of “stumbled-upon” process which I discovered I had intuitively fallen into in the course of my own entrepreneurial marching-forth.

When I set out to form a consulting business based on theatre practices, I had a wish to bring to organizations some of the things I’d learned from years being an actor. It took me awhile — talking to people, taking classes, partnering with others, etc. — before I realized I wanted to target leadership and organizational development, and creativity. Once I knew this, I was in the course of playing around with ideas on programs to offer, how to describe my work, how to improve my skills, etc. — when I went back to school and got my Master’s. Strengthened by the teachings, and able to incorporate the content directly into my programs, I then set forth planning how I would continue to move my work out into the world.

What I just described took about 4 years. It also followed, more or less and through no deliberate intention of my own, the classic model of Creative Problem Solving: from Exploring a Goal, Wish or Challenge, through Generating Ideas and Planning for Action, plus it’s six internal process steps — with some looping back and forth for good measure. Had I known the process model at the beginning of my journey, would it have gone by any more quickly or efficiently? Quite possibly.

But that’s not so much the point I want to make here, as much as to draw attention to the natural sequence of entrepreneurial efforts, and how well they match to CPS. This was the topic of my presentation. My audience was a room full of SCORE counselors, who donate their time to helping small businesses come into the world and flourish. They appreciated the connection between a deliberate process of creative thinking, and the sequence of steps a small business goes through in its various stages from conception to execution. At a time when job creation and healthy business development is so sought after, it makes sense to channel the natural entrepreneurial instincts through a tried-and-true model of deliberate creativity. From actresses-turning-consultants, to the next best gizmo, to the new coffee shop down the street, small business development benefits from Creative Problem Solving.

image by Gilles Chiroleu