Do You Need A Problem to Initiate Creative Problem Solving?

It’s important not to stop once action is taken, re-evaluation is necessary to be sure you are consistently have the best solution to the problem.

Do you need a problem to initiate creative problem solving?   A short time ago I would not have hesitated to say “Yes.”   After all it seems pretty clear, it’s not, creative “everything is hunky-dory” solving after all.  One of the reasons I selected a course in creativity for  my Communications degree plan was I felt that one of the biggest opportunities for miscommunication arises when an organization is faced with a problem.  Emotions are high, people feel responsible (or worse distance themselves from responsibility),  there is often a financial aspect which makes the guys up stairs all nervous and then the panic starts to set in.  I’ve been there are once the panic takes hold, suddenly communication, at a time when it is crucial, is a train-wreck.   I thought if I could gain some understanding into the creative process it would inevitably come in handy.

First of all there are several models one can choose from if you want to tackle a problem “creatively”.  One such way is using the Simplex Process created by Dr. Min Basadur, describes a cyclical process with eight steps.  Now I would have thought the first step would be to state the problem, well that is actually the third step in this process.  I was skeptical but open-minded.  It seems in this model you first need to find what the problems are or could be.  Yes could be, as in the future.  There are several questions that are posed like “What would our customers complain about?” and “What slows down our work?” that are meant to get the team thinking about problems that exist but no one really is paying attention to.  Rather proactive in my opinion.  Once you have found some problems to solve, you move on to Fact-Finding, then Problem-Definition.  The rest of the steps are shown in the graphic.

I have to say I’ve been mostly prone to solving problems once they too big to ignore.  I haven’t thought much about looking for them.  It’s like a problem solving game of hide and seek, once you find the problem it becomes “it” and you get to go back to the fun part.  I found this to be really eye opening.  If teams could work through this method on a regular basis, it could potentially solve problems when they are rather small.  It also puts the organization in a position of strength being able to look ahead and actually be innovative as opposed to being on the defensive.   From a communication standpoint  bringing a working as a team from the beginning fosters a much better exchange of ideas.  If done in a safe environment where the members feels they can brainstorm freely in a divergent manner, the problem solving becomes a positive experience.  Once a problem has been defined, the group is invested and able to employ convergent thinking to analyze and refine ideas to reach a successful outcome.

The steps seem simple and straight forward but requires a leader that is willing to look closely at a seemingly smooth sailing ship and ask the question:  “Is she really sea-worthy?”   Would you like to know have much of a creative problem solver you are?  Fill out the Simplex Inventory, and best of luck Captain.


Connectivism is All About Connecting


All rights reserved James Braun used with permission from Creative Commons.

I have been doing a fair amount of reading about Connectivist Theory.  Until recently I did not know very much at all about this theory at all.  I have to say that I’m still a little unsure exactly what it all means, but I this is what I have come to understand so far.  The theory of Connectivism indicates the way in which we acquire, interpret, use and share knowledge.  George Siemens believes the method in which we learn is more important than what we learn.  Learning happens when we recognize that there is a connection.  Under this theory, knowledge or information is not like a solid object you can own.  It is viewed as a series of connections, each piece of knowledge relating to another which will likely connect further. It is for all intents and purposes endless.  In An Introduction to Connected Knowledge, Stephen Downes illustrates the theory in a way that made a lot of sense to me.  He uses the following example.

A poll, for example, gives us
probabilistic information; it tells us how many people would vote today, and by inference,
would vote tomorrow. But the fact that Janet would vote one way, and I would vote one
way, tells us nothing about how Janet and I interact.
Connective knowledge requires an interaction. More to the point, connective knowledge
is knowledge of the connection. If Janet votes a certain way because I told her to, an
interaction has taken place and a connection has been established. The knowledge thus
observed consists not in how Janet and I will vote, nor in how many of us will vote, but
rather, in the observation that there is this type of connection between myself and Janet.

This example helped me to better understand this rather intimidating theory and now I’m beginning to see that it isn’t something new at all, but rather how we instinctively go about gathering new information in a world where information is just a click away.   This example brought to mind the blog I read also by Stephen Downes Seven Habits of Highly Connected People. His Seven Habits are 

1. Be Reative

2. Go with the Flow

3. Connection Comes First

4. Share

5. RTFM (Read the Fine Manual)

6. Cooperate

7. Be Yourself

These speak to the way in which many of us already interact in many social media venues.  Listening, understanding the rules of the group, sharing thoughts, and being authentic are key to being accepted in an online social group.  These same habits easily apply to learning of all types. Whether it be a facebook, google+ or LinkedIn group, a MOOC or a formal online course, the opportunities to gain knowledge are endless.  The more you connect to other people, the greater the opportunity for recognizing connections between the information that is shared.