Principles to Apply Creative Problem Solving

Regardless of whether brainstorming or brainwriting procedures are used, there are other considerations involved in using Creative Problem Solving (CPS) methods. For companies that plan to use off-the-shelf programs or design their own in-house programs, there are certain rules of thumb that, if followed, can help maximize the benefit from CPS techniques. In this regard, the follow¬ing guidelines should prove useful.

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1. Develop a plan. As with any new program or project, careful plan¬ning is necessary to use CPS tech¬niques effectively. First, you should answer several questions: How fast should the program be introduced into the company? How should it be introduced? Who should be included in the program and why? How much time is available for the program? What is the level of commitment to the program? Are the required re¬sources (money, materials, informa¬tion and so on) available to ensure program success?

In general, the three most impor¬tant planning considerations are: 1) determining the level of program commitment by top-level decision makers, 2) selecting volunteer partic¬ipants, and 3) introducing the pro¬gram gradually, preferably on an experimental basis using only a fewsmall groups.

2. Treat CPS as a process. Many people believe, incorrectly, that creativity involves only divergent thinking and generation of ideas. In¬stead, you should view CPS as a proc¬ess involving such stages as problem analysis and redefinition, idea gener¬ation, idea evaluation and selection, and implementation.

Most CPS tech¬niques can be used with all these stages, although perhaps the first one is the most important. How a problem is analyzed and defined usually will be the most critical problem-solving activity. In fact, many groups find that problem analysis and redefini¬tion often results in the identification of many potential solutions.

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3. Start with simple techniques. For most people, CPS methods require a new way of thinking; thus, it’s often difficult to internalize the principles involved. For persons unfamiliar with CPS methods, a program should begin with simple exercises illustrating basic principles.

After they gain some understanding about the principles, introduce a few simple techniques. Then, by testing for understanding through practice, the group can pro¬gress to more complex techniques. Ideally, the group should master such techniques as Reversals, Morphologi¬cal Analysis, Checklists and the Brainwriting Pool before it moves on to slightly more sophisticated tech¬niques, such as Synectics.

4. Use a group monitor. Groups using a technique for the first time will generally perform better if one member is assigned a facilitating role. This person should help keep the group on track by informing members of where they are in the process, keep¬ing track of time and enforcing pro¬visions for withholding initial evalu¬ation of suggested ideas. No special skills are required for this person, who probably should be someone other than the group’s leader.

5. Withhold criticism and judgment. When using brainstorming techniques, a creative solution is much more likely if the group’s at¬titude is nonjudgmental. Such an attitude will help to increase both the variety and number of solutions by reducing inhibitions; also, members can use the available time more effi¬ciently. Evaluation can come later, after the solutions have been generated.

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