Creative Problem Solving Process

Creative Problem Solving Process

Learn more about this CPS innovation methodology here.

When it comes to developing innovative solutions to unique organizational challenges or your own life, using tried and true methods to brainstorm ideas and find the best possible solution can be a great way to achieve your goals. One such methodology is creative problem solving, which will be defined and explored in this latest article from Innovation Training.

What is creative problem solving?

Creative problem solving is a method for solving problems or identifying opportunities in an innovative way. The methodology was developed by Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes in the 1940s as the “Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process”. This initial thought process has led to later models, including the 2011 Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Learner’s Model from the Creative Education Foundation. Despite its long history, creative problem solving is still incredibly valuable today and is used in many creative pursuits and industries. 

Why you may want to use creative problem solving

Overcoming challenges and finding new ways of doing things is difficult and can be costly. Using a trusted approach like creative problem solving can help you develop the ability to find these innovative solutions and generate many different ideas to use in your project or challenge. 

CPS helps you think in new ways by separating divergent and convergent thinking. While divergent thinking, or brainstorming, generates lots of potential possibilities, convergent thinking involves evaluating and choosing the most promising one. Oftentimes, we suffer by combining these two processes into one, stifling idea generation. By thinking of them as separate processes, you can generate more ideas and evaluate them more fairly later on. 

Four principles of creative problem solving

CPS is based on a few key assumptions:

  1. Divergent and convergent thinking must be balanced
  2. Problems are open-ended questions with multiple possibilities
  3. Judgment and assumptions should be suspended in the brainstorming process
  4. Focus on “Yes and” versus “No but” 

This last principle refers to the idea that it is better to use language such as “yes and” that allows continuation and expansion, versus a word such as “but” that negates and closes the conversation. 

How to use creative problem solving techniques

The simplest form of the creative problem solving process involves four steps:

  1. Clarify – define the objectives, the problem, the facts, and the opportunity to achieve
  2. Ideate – brainstorm many possible solutions or approaches
  3. Develop – further develop your ideas by turning them into experiments
  4. Implement – create a plan and move forward with next steps

From an innovator’s perspective, we tend to add a few more steps in the mix that help further establish the problem and allow for evaluation and experimentation of ideas. The process therefore can look like this:

  1. Clarify – define the objectives, the problem, the facts, and the opportunity to achieve
  2. Research – learn more about the problem, stakeholders, and other involved entities
  3. Generate ideas – brainstorm many possible solutions or approaches
  4. Combine and evaluate – review ideas and narrow in on the best opportunities
  5. Solve – further develop your “winning” ideas by turning them into experiments
  6. Iterate – test your best idea and get feedback, iterate based on what you find out
  7. Implement – create a plan and move forward with next steps for the “winning” solution

Creative Problem Solving Process Conclusion

In this article, we explored the creative problem solving process (CPS) and how to use the technique to solve your own innovation challenges. Want personalized help using this method in your workshop or innovation event? Reach out to us online today about a creative problem solving training workshop.