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.