Some time ago in my working life as an employee I initiated a change process which made excellent use of creative tools. I will come back to this example in future blog.

Since then I have been using creative tools in my work in a variety of contexts as well as teaching them to managers and leaders. I am convinced of the value of using creative thinking tools in order to work through the change process.

So what does this mean?

Well take an example of a situation where there is some dissatisfaction in an organisation and for some people a sense that change is needed but no-one is clear what this would mean.

What exists then is a messy problem (or wicked problem as defined by Rittel). In problem solving terms messy problems require a creative approach rather than a logical rational approach because they involve many possibilities, can be seen from many perspectives and there is no clear one answer.

Here are some of the ways in which Rittell described wicked problems:

  • There is no definitive formulation of the problem
  • There is no stopping rule
  • Solutions are not true or false, but good or bad
  • There is no immediate test or ultimate test of a solution
  • Every solution is a one-shot solution, there is no trial and error possibility ( the solution can open up other wicked problems)
  • There is no exhaustive set of possible solutions
  • Every wicked problem is unique
  • Every wicked problem can be seen as a symptom of another wicked problem

For example a typical problem that I have come across with leaders has been: ‘employees are not taking responsibility for their mistakes and are not engaged and this needs to change’.

If the parameters above are applied here then it would certainly fall into the wicked problems category.

There is no one right answer, the problem is unique within the context of the organisation and its culture and environment, there are many possible ways of solving the problem once the problem has been fully explored and understood.

So for this reason I would advocate a creative problem solving approach to facilitating the change process.

If this is something you have experience in and/or are interested in please share with me your stories here.