I have been working with creative problem solving (CPS) since the early 90 ties, and have facilitated many groups using CPS. I have also used some of the techniques in other ways, with people one to one and as part of a facilitated workshop on change. The reason I am passionate about this approach is that it works!

OK, so not everyone ‘gets it’ and not every problem needs it. However if you are working with an issue that could be described as complex, messy, involves people and emotions then creative problem solving can be very effective.

Creative problem solving is an approach that makes use of cycles of divergent and convergent techniques so that there is challenge at each stage of the process to open up to new ways of seeing/thinking. The 3 stage approach which is based upon the work of Osborne and Parne starts by exploring the problem, then looking for solutions and finally working on implementation.

There are certain fundamental requirements for this form of problem solving to be effective and I list some of them here, Please note that this list is my overview and I am sure that it can be extended considerably.

  • CPS requires an open, positive approach. We all make assumptions and build up mind sets based upon these. It is important in seeing things differently that these assumptions are challenged. Negativity in this process can be harmful and can shut ideas down. Yes and… is a useful phrase here rather than yes, but.
  • CPS works best when more time is spent on the early stages of exploring the problem. What we assume to be the problem may not be at all. It may be possible to re-frame the problem and by doing so, change the nature of the problem, or even see it disappear!
  • CPS works best when people are being playful, and experimenting with new ideas. This, for me means taking it out of the boardroom, away from desks and chairs!
  • CPS works best with a group of people from diverse backgrounds as this can be very helpful in creating the challenging atmosphere that CPS needs.
  • CPS takes time, however I would argue that we often address problems by assuming we understand them and then immediately looking for solutions. This means that we spend endless time on solutions that don’t work and trying to solve the wrong problem.

From your experience what would you add to this list?