Creative problem solving is the art of finding multiple solutions to an existing problem, and taking a decision on which one will be most effective. It’s a set of steps that need to be taken every time somebody faces a complex issue. Be it a student, employee or entrepreneur, at work or at home. We all struggle with little problems in daily life, but success and living a good life all come down to how well we cope with them.
If you learn more about creative problem solving, its stages and techniques, and get better at it, you’ll see progress in all areas of life in no time. Let’s define the term first.
What is Creative Problem Solving?
The art of problem solving is related to clearly defining a problem, gathering all the necessary information, analyzing and summarizing it. Then coming up with possible options to solve it, taking other people’s opinion into consideration, and making a decision that’s favorable for anyone involved.
It’s a mental process and you can easily master it over time. Creative problem solving starts with a problem. And ends not just with finding a solution, but also analyzing the outcome. It requires creative thinking, but also following some logical steps and organizing information in your mind. These are the creative problem solving steps. Let’s go through them right now.
The Creative Problem Solving Stages
The problem solving process is a set of steps. You need to follow these if you want to get things right from the beginning, make sure you don’t miss anything important, and come up with an effective solution. Here they are.
1. Define the problem.
If you don’t describe the problem clearly enough, you won’t find the best solution for it. So take your time now.
Summarize the big picture first. Then get specific. Try to view this from different angles too, especially if there are other people involved.
Ask yourself some problem solving questions. Make them open-ended so that there are many possible answers. This will help you extract information about the issue more easily. And will become the foundation of the rest of the creative problem solving process.
2. Have a goal in mind.
To help you be focused and do this right, have an end goal and work with it. That gives you purpose and you’re less likely to be distracted by pursuing many outcomes at once.
2. Gather information.
Get your hands on anything you can that’s related to the problem. Don’t think about solving it now. Forget about the other creative problem solving techniques too. This stage is all about doing an extensive research, talking to others, finding details.
3. Analyze the data.
Here’s the time to categorize, prioritize and focus on the possible outcomes that will be most beneficial.
4. List solutions.
For the first draft, write down every possible thing you can think of. Even if some sound impossible, that’s alright. Keep your goal in mind. You’ll make the list shorter in a minute. But now let your creativity flow and use your imagination. It’s creative problem solving, after all.
5. Choose a solution to the problem.
Now’s the time to make a decision. You’ve done what you could to prepare, have all the facts and options to go from here on, so let’s decide and take action.
If you want to make the creative problem solving process as effective as possible, choose a solution that makes everyone in this situation happy. Which meets the goal, won’t require too much time or resources, and also doesn’t have any serious consequences.
In the end, take action and don’t overthink it. But do make sure you analyze the results and even document the journey. This way you’ll get better at creative problem solving and will be better prepared next time.
Techniques to Get Better at Solving Problems Creatively
Now that you’re familiar with the creative problem solving stages, and will follow each step whenever you face a challenge and are looking for a solution, you can make use of some of the following problem solving techniques.
1. Use tools and templates.
There’s so much free content available online, together with resources to help you get anything done much faster.
Some cool problem solving solutions that you can google, download and put into practice right away are:
Project tracking template – free visual aid to organize your thoughts and steps when starting a new project. You can track goals, time, tasks, priorities, and the progress you see.
Mind map – start with one central idea, find the associated topics, and from there think of all other things related to it. Mind maps is basically a diagram, representing concepts that are linked somehow, and are all related to the main idea written in the centre.
2. Means-ends analysis.
The means-ends analysis aims to help you identify the steps that will lead you in the right direction. It strategically controls the search process of creative problem solving.
3. Hurson’s Productive Thinking Model.
This model is a structured framework consisting of 6 questions to ask yourself to begin the creative problem solving process.
The 6 steps are:
- Ask “What is going on?”
- Ask “What is success?”
- Ask “What is the question?”
- Generate answers.
- Forge the solution.
- Align resources.
4. 5 Why’s.
You might have heard of this one. It’s a problem solving method where you’re literally asking yourself ‘why’ over and over again (for different specific aspects of the problem) until you have clearly defined it. It helps you drill down to identify the underlying cause.
Here’s a video explaining the process:
Hope these creative problem solving techniques, together with learning a bit about the steps of the process, are enough to help you deal easier with anything you face in life from here on.
What are your thoughts on this?
Which one of the stages of creative problem solving would you find most difficult? Why?