Explore creative problem solving techniques, activities, and articles.

If you find your organization or business stuck in a rut, unable to evolve or adapt to changes in your industry or customer expectations, it may be time to try a new approach. Using innovative techniques can help you develop better solutions to problems your organization faces. One such approach is creative problem solving, a methodology focused on divergent thinking. Learn more about this methodology and discover creative problem solving techniques, activities, and more articles to read below.
Creative Problem Solving Process

What is Creative Problem Solving?

Creative problem solving (CPS) is a method that encourages you to find new perspectives and come up with innovative solutions. Conventional thinking is countered with looking at the problem in a different way. 

Founded in the 1940s by Alex Osborn (founder of the Creative Education Foundation), creative problem solving is often a valuable tool in your innovation arsenal. In the later half of the 2010s, this model was reworked to four steps that can be used to generate innovative, effective solutions for organizations and businesses.

Principles of Creative Problem Solving

  • Divergent and convergent thinking must be balanced – know when to practice each one
  • Rephrase problems as open-ended questions 
  • Defer or suspend judgement – let the ideas flow 
  • Focus on “yes, and” rather than “no, but” language

4 Steps of the Creative Problem Solving Process

  • Clarify: explore the challenge and gather data
  • Ideate: brainstorm and explore ideas
  • Develop: evaluate ideas and formulate solutions
  • Implement: develop a plan of action

Creative Problem Solving Techniques & Activities

There are many techniques and activities that can be used to apply the creative problem solving methodology to your unique challenge. Here are a few basic techniques to get started:

1. Ask Compelling Questions

Phrase your challenge or problem in different ways. Use “what if” “why not”, etc.

2. Explore Context

Make sense of your challenge by examining it from many angles and putting it in context.

3. Switch Roles

Shift your perspective in order to see the challenge or possible solutions in a new light. For example, put on a “marketing hat” if you are an engineer.

4. Take a Break

Sometimes you need to walk away from the challenge and give your mind some time to reflect and think in the background.

5. Generate Many Ideas

Generate as many ideas or thoughts as you can related to the challenge. Don’t eliminate anything (even ideas that at first glance seem incorrect) until after you are done with the ideation process.

6. Get Visual with an Action Plan

Draw up an action plan with the simple, basic steps you’d need to take in order to implement your idea. Make it visual and break down these steps into more complex tasks and requirements.

7. Prototype and Test Solutions

One mistake many organizations make is not properly testing their ideas before implementation. Take the time to prototype your identified solution. Get real feedback from the people who would be impacted by the solution if possible.

Creative Problem Solving Articles

Want to learn more about creative problem solving? These articles and books are from top innovation resources that can help. 

1. How You Define the Problem Determines Whether You Solve It

This Harvard Business Review article outlines how memory and the way you define or explain a problem can help you find the right solution.

2. Behind Every Breakthrough is a Better Question

This downloadable guide provides a framework for asking better questions and re-framing problems to lead to a better solution.

3. Be a Great Boss by Being a Creative Leader

Creativity starts from the top. This article covers how leaders can get better at unlocking their team’s creative problem solving abilities.

4. There is Always Another Idea

Feel like you’ve run out of new ideas? Impossible! This article explains why there is always another idea – and how to find it.

5. The Creative Thinking Handbook

This step-by-step guide provides practical tools and strategies to unlock creativity and develop your problem solving skills.

6. Design Thinking: A Guide to Creative Problem Solving for Everyone

This book covers creative problem solving and design thinking in an easy-to-understand and implement way. Apply these frameworks to solve organizational challenges or problems.

Creative Problem Solving Templates can also be helpful for the “doing” part of creative solving. Challenge yourself to go beyond reading to real problem solving.

Creative Problem Solving Techniques Training Conclusion

Creative problem solving is an innovative methodology that can help your organization find new and evolutionary solutions to your questions or problems. If your organization needs help implementing creative problem solving training, contact us today to get started. View our innovation workshops and design thinking training workshops to see more of what we teach and coach.