Creativity - An Overview/Creative Problem Solving

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Creative problem solving is the mental process of creating a solution to a problem. It is a special form of problem solving in which the solution is independently created rather than learned with assistance.

Creative problem solving always involves creativity. However, creativity often does not involve creative problem solving, especially in fields such as music, poetry, and art. Creativity requires newness or novelty as a characteristic of what is created, but creativity does not necessarily imply that what is created has value or is appreciated by other people.

To qualify as creative problem solving the solution must either have value, clearly solve the stated problem, or be appreciated by someone for whom the situation improves.[1]

The situation prior to the solution does not need to be labeled as a problem. Alternate labels include a challenge, an opportunity, or a situation in which there is room for improvement.[1]

Solving school-assigned homework problems does not usually involve creative problem solving because such problems typically have well-known solutions.[1]

If a created solution becomes widely used, the solution becomes an innovation and the word innovation also refers to the process of creating that innovation. A widespread and long-lived innovation typically becomes a new tradition. "All innovations [begin] as creative solutions, but not all creative solutions become innovations."[1] Some innovations also qualify as inventions.[1]

Inventing is a special kind of creative problem solving in which the created solution qualifies as an invention because it is a useful new object, substance, process, software, or other kind of marketable entity.[1]

Techniques and tools[edit | edit source]

Many of the techniques and tools for creating an effective solution to a problem are described in creativity techniques and problem solving.

Creative-problem-solving techniques can be categorized as follows:

  • Creativity techniques designed to shift a person's mental state into one that fosters creativity. These techniques are described in creativity techniques. One such popular technique is to take a break and relax or sleep after intensively trying to think of a solution.
  • Creativity techniques designed to reframe the problem. For example, reconsidering one's goals by asking "What am I really trying to accomplish?" can lead to useful insights.
  • Creativity techniques designed to increase the quantity of fresh ideas. This approach is based on the belief that a larger number of ideas increases the chances that one of them has value. Some of these techniques involve randomly selecting an idea (such as choosing a word from a list), thinking about similarities with the undesired situation, and hopefully inspiring a related idea that leads to a solution. Such techniques are described in creativity techniques.
  • Creative-problem-solving techniques designed to efficiently lead to a fresh perspective that causes a solution to become obvious. This category is useful for solving especially challenging problems.[1] Some of these techniques involve identifying independent dimensions that differentiate (or separate) closely associated concepts.[1] Such techniques can overcome the mind's instinctive tendency to use "oversimplified associative thinking" in which two related concepts are so closely associated that their differences, and independence from one another, are overlooked.[1]

The following formalized and well-known methods and processes combine various creativity and creative-problem-solving techniques:

  • TRIZ, which is also known as Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TIPS), was developed by Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues based on examining more than 200,000 patents. This method is designed to foster the creation and development of patentable inventions, but is also useful for creating non-product solutions.
  • Mind mapping is a creativity technique that both reframes the situation and fosters creativity.
  • Brainstorming is a group activity designed to increase the quantity of fresh ideas. Getting other people involved can help increase knowledge and understanding of the problem and help participants reframe the problem.
  • Edward de Bono has published numerous books that promote an approach to creative problem solving and creative thinking called lateral thinking.
  • The Creative Problem Solving Process (CPS) is a six-step method developed by Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes that alternates convergent and divergent thinking phases.

A frequent approach to teaching creative problem solving is to teach critical thinking in addition to creative thinking, but the effectiveness of this approach is not proven. As an alternative to separating critical and creative thinking, some creative-problem-solving techniques focus on either reducing an idea's disadvantages or extracting a flawed idea's significant advantages and incorporating those advantages into a different idea.[1]

Creative-problem-solving tools typically consist of software or manipulatable objects (such as cards) that facilitate specific creative-problem-solving techniques. Electronic meeting systems provide a range of interactive tools for creative-problem-solving by groups over the Internet.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d e f g h i j Richard Fobes, The Creative Problem Solver's Toolbox: A Complete Course in the Art of Creating Solutions to Problems of Any Kind (1993) ISBN 0-96-322210-4

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Alex Osborn, Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving, Creative Education Foundation Press, 1953/2001, ISBN 0-930222-73-3
  • Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking : Creativity Step by Step, Harper & Row, 1973, trade paperback, 300 pages, ISBN 0-06-090325-2
  • Altshuller, Henry. 1994. The Art of Inventing (And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared). Translated by Lev Shulyak. Worcester, MA: Technical Innovation Center. ISBN 0-9640740-1-X
  • McFadzean, E.S. (1996), New Ways of Thinking: An Evaluation of K-Groupware and Creative Problem Solving, Doctoral Dissertation, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex.
  • McFadzean, E.S. (1997), “Improving Group Productivity with Group Support Systems and Creative Problem Solving Techniques”, Creativity and Innovation Management, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 218-225.