The Creative Problem Solving Process

James Higgins - 101 Creative Problem Solving Techniques

The Handbook of New Ideas for Business

Higgins describes eight basic stages in the creative problem solving process:

  1. Analysing the environment
  2. Recognising a probelm
  3. Identifying the problem
  4. Making assumptions
  5. Generating alternatives
  6. Choosing among alternatives
  7. Implementing the Chosen Solution
  8. Control

1 - Analysing the environment

You need to be constantly searching for problems including opportunities. Being able to recognise problems and opportunities as they arise are essental for success. This phase involves gathering information on the organisation, market, competition, economy, customers, personnel, processes, assumptions, weak signals, internal and external organisation environments. What is happening that might lead to problems or opportunities?

2 - Recognising a problem

Using the information gathered in the first step an awareness of problems or opportunities is formed.

3 - Identifying the problem

This stage involves ensuring that efforts are directed to solving the real problem rather than merely eliminating symptoms, and establishing the objectives of the problem-solving process. What will constitute evidence that the problem has been solved? The outcome of this stage is a set of decision criteria for evaluating various options. Rational and Intuitive thinking will be used at this stage.

4 - Making assumptions

It is necessary to make assumptions about the condition of future factors in the problem situation, eg state of the economy. Assumptions can be a major constraint on the potential success of a solution, or overestimating the potential of an alternative.

5 - Generating alternatives

Generating alternatives involves cataloging the known options (a rational act) and generating additional options (a rational and intuitive act. It is at this stage where most of the creativity processes are found. It is important to generate many alternatives for the next stage of choosing among alternatives. Techniques can be grouped into individual techniques and group techniques.

6 - Choosing among alternatives

This stage should be based on a systematic evaluation of the alternatives against the criteria established in the third stage. A rational part of this exercise is determining the possible outcomes of the various alternatives.

7 - Implementing the Chosen Solution

Once you have a clear idea of what you want to do and a plan for accomplishing it, you can take action. Set goals, target dates, gain support from others and map out the detailed steps. Implementation is a series of problems and opportunities.

8 - Control

Evaluating results is the final, and often over-looked state in the creative- processing process. The purpose of this stage is to determine how well the actions you took have solved the problem, and can feed directly back into the environmental analysis stage, beginning a new cycle of creative problem solving. It is important to recognise deficiencies in your own solutions if necessary. There are no specific techniques. Refer back to the first technique of Analysing the Environment.

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