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

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