Last month I wrote about the Creative Problem Solving process (CPS) and its importance in tackling complex problems. Picking up from there, I will now review the first stage of the CPS process, which is to gain an understanding of the problem. This stage consists of a divergent followed by a convergent phase as shown in the diagram here.
This is crucial because often the wrong problem is ‘solved’ if there is not enough time spent on determining the true nature of the problem.
A typical example could be the following:
You have been told that there is a problem with the productivity of a team who also have a high level of absenteeism. The team leader has assumed that the problem is to do with levels of motivation. She has asked for them to be offered an increase in pay as a solution as this team are crucial in the setting up of a new product line. After a process of fully exploring the problem, it is established that the levels of motivation are low. However this is considered to be an effect, not the cause of the problem. The cause is that the team have been recruited with a low level of competencies needed for the current tasks they are performing.
It was widely reported that in 2016 the World Economic Forum cited creativity as one of the top 3 skills organisations would need by 2020. The top skill which has been consistent in their reporting is critical problem solving.
Critical problem solving is much improved when a dose of creativity is added because many organisations get stuck in loops of thinking. The saying, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ is so true.
Creative problem solving is an approach that offers opportunities to develop both critical thinking and creative approaches to problems. The result is that better and different solutions may be identified.
What are Assumptions?
On a daily basis we all make assumptions. Some are conscious however many of them are unconscious. Those that are unconscious have become habitual ways of thinking.
Assumptions serve a useful purpose
They provide a short cut in our thinking. For example, I assume that health professionals care about my health when I go to see them. I don’t need to think this through, although with any new practitioner I may be wary and check out my assumptions in advance by seeking feedback from others. On the other hand if I am walking down a city street at night and I hear footsteps coming up behind me I assume that I could be in danger and start to react.
What happens when we make assumptions?
We often receive self-confirming feedback. Perhaps not always in the case of the danger at night, thank goodness. However, if we assume that someone is going to act towards us in a positive way then we show this in our attitude towards them and it normally gets reciprocated. Equally if we assume someone will be hostile, our actions show this and this is also often reciprocated.
The Ladder of Inference
I have written previously about assumptions and referred to a framework called a Ladder of Inference first proposed by Chris Argyris. (more…)
An article in the New York Times last year suggested that creativity is the new cure for mid-life crises. By taking up a creative activity, it stated that we often get in touch with a passion we may have forgotten about or not had the time to fully explore. In doing this, we can find a new meaning to life in a way which buying a new car could not achieve.
Recently I have facilitated three creative workshops, 2 which were focused on creative problem solving and one which was a process of personal development. The common denominator in each was not just that they were creative but that I used drawing, images and collage as tools in the process. The results underline the value in using image based work in problem solving and change. (more…)
It may be helpful firstly to define being creative.
One definition from the Collins English dictionary offers ‘ having the ability to create, characterized by originality of thought; having or showing imagination, characterized by sophisticated bending of the rules or conventions ‘ (more…)