Creative Problem Solving
When I first learnt about Creative Problem Solving (CPS) techniques, I thought it was all a bit crazy and could never work in the real world.
I WAS VERY WRONG.
THEY WORK – I would urge everybody to give it a try
Over the last 10 years, when dealing with business problems, and seeking some real breakthroughs to what seemed to be insurmountable barriers, I have found it very beneficial to use these CPS techniques to free your mind and develop new ideas that may not instantly come to mind.
I have laid out here a specific technique that has worked very well on a number of these occasions. It is based on the Synectics technique as originally developed by William Gordon and George Prince.
The starting point is an initial meeting of the owners of the problem, usually the directors of the business, (but not always), and to agree a time and place to meet with a small group of people from the organisation, anywhere between 4 and 8, who it is felt will immerse themselves in the process, and provide valuable input. This is not necessarily the sole preserve of senior management! A moderator will also be appointed.
2. Starting the meeting – Icebreaker exercise
This is important to relax the participants, most of who will not have experienced this methodology and are likely to have some level of scepticism. This will also have the effect of getting these people away from the day job and opening up some creative right brain thinking.
There are many icebreakers you can use shown on the internet, or you can always make up your own.
3. Opening up the problem – Divergence
The moderator of the meeting will ask the owner(s) of the problem to broadly describe the problem to the attendees and his or her wishes for the future. The team members will then be asked to develop as wide a range of ideas as possible related to the problem and the leader will note these either on a large white board or on individual post it notes. The members will then be asked to develop a number of these ideas into ‘Springboards’ for jumping on to the next stage.
4. Focussing on the problem – Convergence (this is where it starts to get really crazy!)
The group will then select a small set of interesting Springboards and identify a set of problems to be resolved in each.
The next step is to ask the problem owner(s) to choose one of these ‘Springboards’, more based on interest rather than practicality.
I would then ask the whole team to review the chosen Springboard and ask them to look at creative ways of addressing the problems raised. I would use a number of imaging and story telling techniques
Asking everyone to draw pictures of the ‘Current Reality’ relating to the problem, followed by their ‘Vision of the Future’.
I would then seek to move this on to a Story Board that seeks to fill in the missing stages to achieve the Vision of the Future.
To maximise the creative inputs I would then use some form of role play such as the Disney technique, created by Robert Dilts one of the founders of NLP, in which the Dreamer character ‘feels every expression, every reaction’, i.e. has a completely subjective orientation. The moderator will note down every Positive aspect of this Springboard.
5. Reality check
Having got this far I would then ask the developer of this Springboard to carry on with the Disney technique and become the Realist and the Critic. I would ask the other members of the group, including the Problem Owner, to do the same.
If by the end of this session the Problem Owner(s) are not happy with the outcome we go back to Stage 4 and choose another Springboard to work on.
If they are happy with the developed Springboard we would move to:
I would ask the Problem Owner to draw up a list of all potential Stakeholders, and make contact with them to discuss the proposed changes.
This process will assist in bullet proofing the proposals against any subsequent attack from the said Stakeholders.
It may be that you have a specific Change model that you would use for implementation, if not my preferred model is the 8 step process as produced by Dr John Kotter.
This methodology can be used for solving business problems, creating new products and services, or even creating a turnaround strategy.
I would urge you to give it a go – it will be worth it.
If you have any comments on this article or would like to discuss any aspect of it please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0845 689 8750.
John Thompson is Managing Director and founder of Trans Capital Associates
Image by: One Squiggly Line