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Article • 10 min read

Creative Problem Solving

Finding innovative solutions to challenges.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

creative techniques for problem solving

Imagine that you're vacuuming your house in a hurry because you've got friends coming over. Frustratingly, you're working hard but you're not getting very far. You kneel down, open up the vacuum cleaner, and pull out the bag. In a cloud of dust, you realize that it's full... again. Coughing, you empty it and wonder why vacuum cleaners with bags still exist!

James Dyson, inventor and founder of Dyson® vacuum cleaners, had exactly the same problem, and he used creative problem solving to find the answer. While many companies focused on developing a better vacuum cleaner filter, he realized that he had to think differently and find a more creative solution. So, he devised a revolutionary way to separate the dirt from the air, and invented the world's first bagless vacuum cleaner. [1]

Creative problem solving (CPS) is a way of solving problems or identifying opportunities when conventional thinking has failed. It encourages you to find fresh perspectives and come up with innovative solutions, so that you can formulate a plan to overcome obstacles and reach your goals.

In this article, we'll explore what CPS is, and we'll look at its key principles. We'll also provide a model that you can use to generate creative solutions.

About Creative Problem Solving

Alex Osborn, founder of the Creative Education Foundation, first developed creative problem solving in the 1940s, along with the term "brainstorming." And, together with Sid Parnes, he developed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process. Despite its age, this model remains a valuable approach to problem solving. [2]

The early Osborn-Parnes model inspired a number of other tools. One of these is the 2011 CPS Learner's Model, also from the Creative Education Foundation, developed by Dr Gerard J. Puccio, Marie Mance, and co-workers. In this article, we'll use this modern four-step model to explore how you can use CPS to generate innovative, effective solutions.

Why Use Creative Problem Solving?

Dealing with obstacles and challenges is a regular part of working life, and overcoming them isn't always easy. To improve your products, services, communications, and interpersonal skills, and for you and your organization to excel, you need to encourage creative thinking and find innovative solutions that work.

CPS asks you to separate your "divergent" and "convergent" thinking as a way to do this. Divergent thinking is the process of generating lots of potential solutions and possibilities, otherwise known as brainstorming. And convergent thinking involves evaluating those options and choosing the most promising one. Often, we use a combination of the two to develop new ideas or solutions. However, using them simultaneously can result in unbalanced or biased decisions, and can stifle idea generation.

For more on divergent and convergent thinking, and for a useful diagram, see the book "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making." [3]

Core Principles of Creative Problem Solving

CPS has four core principles. Let's explore each one in more detail:

  • Divergent and convergent thinking must be balanced. The key to creativity is learning how to identify and balance divergent and convergent thinking (done separately), and knowing when to practice each one.
  • Ask problems as questions. When you rephrase problems and challenges as open-ended questions with multiple possibilities, it's easier to come up with solutions. Asking these types of questions generates lots of rich information, while asking closed questions tends to elicit short answers, such as confirmations or disagreements. Problem statements tend to generate limited responses, or none at all.
  • Defer or suspend judgment. As Alex Osborn learned from his work on brainstorming, judging solutions early on tends to shut down idea generation. Instead, there's an appropriate and necessary time to judge ideas during the convergence stage.
  • Focus on "Yes, and," rather than "No, but." Language matters when you're generating information and ideas. "Yes, and" encourages people to expand their thoughts, which is necessary during certain stages of CPS. Using the word "but" – preceded by "yes" or "no" – ends conversation, and often negates what's come before it.

How to Use the Tool

Let's explore how you can use each of the four steps of the CPS Learner's Model (shown in figure 1, below) to generate innovative ideas and solutions.

Figure 1 – CPS Learner's Model

creative techniques for problem solving

Explore the Vision

Identify your goal, desire or challenge. This is a crucial first step because it's easy to assume, incorrectly, that you know what the problem is. However, you may have missed something or have failed to understand the issue fully, and defining your objective can provide clarity. Read our article, 5 Whys , for more on getting to the root of a problem quickly.

Gather Data

Once you've identified and understood the problem, you can collect information about it and develop a clear understanding of it. Make a note of details such as who and what is involved, all the relevant facts, and everyone's feelings and opinions.

Formulate Questions

When you've increased your awareness of the challenge or problem you've identified, ask questions that will generate solutions. Think about the obstacles you might face and the opportunities they could present.

Explore Ideas

Generate ideas that answer the challenge questions you identified in step 1. It can be tempting to consider solutions that you've tried before, as our minds tend to return to habitual thinking patterns that stop us from producing new ideas. However, this is a chance to use your creativity .

Brainstorming and Mind Maps are great ways to explore ideas during this divergent stage of CPS. And our articles, Encouraging Team Creativity , Problem Solving , Rolestorming , Hurson's Productive Thinking Model , and The Four-Step Innovation Process , can also help boost your creativity.

See our Brainstorming resources within our Creativity section for more on this.

Formulate Solutions

This is the convergent stage of CPS, where you begin to focus on evaluating all of your possible options and come up with solutions. Analyze whether potential solutions meet your needs and criteria, and decide whether you can implement them successfully. Next, consider how you can strengthen them and determine which ones are the best "fit." Our articles, Critical Thinking and ORAPAPA , are useful here.

4. Implement

Formulate a plan.

Once you've chosen the best solution, it's time to develop a plan of action. Start by identifying resources and actions that will allow you to implement your chosen solution. Next, communicate your plan and make sure that everyone involved understands and accepts it.

There have been many adaptations of CPS since its inception, because nobody owns the idea.

For example, Scott Isaksen and Donald Treffinger formed The Creative Problem Solving Group Inc . and the Center for Creative Learning , and their model has evolved over many versions. Blair Miller, Jonathan Vehar and Roger L. Firestien also created their own version, and Dr Gerard J. Puccio, Mary C. Murdock, and Marie Mance developed CPS: The Thinking Skills Model. [4] Tim Hurson created The Productive Thinking Model , and Paul Reali developed CPS: Competencies Model. [5]

Sid Parnes continued to adapt the CPS model by adding concepts such as imagery and visualization , and he founded the Creative Studies Project to teach CPS. For more information on the evolution and development of the CPS process, see Creative Problem Solving Version 6.1 by Donald J. Treffinger, Scott G. Isaksen, and K. Brian Dorval. [6]

Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Infographic

See our infographic on Creative Problem Solving .

creative techniques for problem solving

Creative problem solving (CPS) is a way of using your creativity to develop new ideas and solutions to problems. The process is based on separating divergent and convergent thinking styles, so that you can focus your mind on creating at the first stage, and then evaluating at the second stage.

There have been many adaptations of the original Osborn-Parnes model, but they all involve a clear structure of identifying the problem, generating new ideas, evaluating the options, and then formulating a plan for successful implementation.

[1] Entrepreneur (2012). James Dyson on Using Failure to Drive Success [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 27, 2022.]

[2] Creative Education Foundation (2015). The CPS Process [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 26, 2022.]

[3] Kaner, S. et al. (2014). 'Facilitator′s Guide to Participatory Decision–Making,' San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[4] Puccio, G., Mance, M., and Murdock, M. (2011). 'Creative Leadership: Skils That Drive Change' (2nd Ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[5] OmniSkills (2013). Creative Problem Solving [online]. Available here . [Accessed May 26, 2022].

[6] Treffinger, G., Isaksen, S., and Dorval, B. (2010). Creative Problem Solving (CPS Version 6.1). Center for Creative Learning, Inc. & Creative Problem Solving Group, Inc. Available here .

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How to improve your creative skills for effective problem-solving


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What’s creative thinking?

Creative thinking versus critical thinking

Creative thinking skills

How to develop creative thinking skills

4 creative thinking examples to include on your resume

Sharpen your creativity

Creative thinking is the key to unlocking innovation and problem-solving excellence. 

In the whirlwind of everyday professional challenges, we’ve all encountered moments when fresh ideas feel elusive. If you’ve found yourself struggling to inspire your team or spinning out during a brainstorming session , it may be a sign you need to develop your creative skills. Plus, creative problem solving looks excellent on a resume .

As a leader or team member, your ability to think outside the box can ignite a spark of ingenuity that propels your team to new heights. Fan the flames of growth and learn how to improve your creative thinking (and highlight your new skills in your next job application).

What’s creative thinking? 

Creative thinking is the dynamic process of transforming your ideas into actions. The skillset equips you to think differently and approach challenges from innovative angles.

At its core, creative thinking empowers you to break free from the constraints of the status quo and dream up fresh, original ideas. It breathes life into your decisions, encouraging you to embrace your imaginative instincts. 

By daring to challenge traditional approaches, your creativity opens doors to uncharted innovations and groundbreaking solutions.

Creative thinking versus critical thinking 

Although creative and critical thinking are both used in problem-solving , the two skills are marked by key differences. 

Creative thinking is the catalyst for generating innovative ideas and crafting novel approaches to the challenges around them. With an open mind and a wild imagination, creative thinkers produce and explore unconventional solutions to the problems that stand in their way.

Critical thinking analyzes available information with an unbiased and rational approach. It involves questioning perceptions, ensuring that decisions are devoid of bias and reasoning remains grounded in sound judgment. 

Creative thinking skills 

When you look at creative thinking as a set of particular abilities, it becomes easier to develop and perfect. These creative skill examples can help you thrive inside and outside of the workplace:

1. Open-mindedness

When you’re open-minded, you can readily adapt to new information and look for fresh problem-solving approaches. You’re receptive to the opinions and ideas of others because you view them as constructive rather than criticizing . This openness also encourages you to freely share your creative ideas without fearing judgement.

2. Curiosity

You might find that you tap into creative potential the most when you’re challenging convention and posing new ways of thinking. Analyzing processes and asking yourself how you can improve them is an exciting way to make more efficient systems.

Whether you’re new to a job or have worked at the company for years, you may wonder why procedures are what they are — lean into this curiosity to develop new and better ways to work. 


3. Ability to brainstorm

There are numerous ways to solve a problem, and brainstorming helps to get them onto paper so you can weigh their pros and cons. This way of lateral thinking encourages you to view solutions as multifaceted rather than a single, straightforward answer.

4. Experimentation

Creative people experiment with various ways of solving a problem before deciding on the best way to take action. Emulate this mindset in your projects and tasks. For instance, if you work in web design, you might try several page layouts before deciding on a final visual identity for your client.

5. Networking

Speaking with people from different professional backgrounds is an excellent way to stimulate creative thinking and develop new perspectives. When you network with professionals with diverse skill sets and experiences, they might influence you to look at the world differently or suggest an innovative way to tackle a problem.

6. Observation

It’s important to know when to take the backseat and listen in. Observing how others tackle complex issues might inspire you to make changes within your team. Always keep an eye out for opportunities to learn from more experienced peers and innovative colleagues.

7. Organization

Although some individuals claim to thrive in clutter, keeping your work organized creates an environment where you can work freely without distraction. This involves keeping your workspace tidy, creating clear to-do lists, and using visual maps to express your plans and processes.

8. Communication

Proper communication empowers you to share valuable insight and ideas with your teammates. You need strong verbal and written skills to pitch and describe your thoughts and actively listen to others’ feedback and advice.


9. Analysis

Before you can dream up a creative approach to an obstacle, you must fully understand the problem at hand. Without proper analysis, your solution may contain flaws, or you could miss important details of your problem. Practice sifting through every detail of the issue and pinpointing the causes. 

10. Problem-solving

No matter your industry, problem-solving is always a valuable skill. Consider how to tackle a problem without asking the advice of others to see what creative solutions arise. This way, you can see what inventive ideas you can come up with before external opinions influence you.

Although some of your coworkers may seem to have a natural talent for creativity and creative thinking, it’s a skill anyone can develop and improve. Here are seven ways to advance your innovative problem-solving:

Reading is an effective way to exercise your mind, increase your vocabulary, and expose yourself to new ways of thinking. Whether your book is on a problem you’re facing at work or a new and exciting subject, reading is an excellent opportunity to learn. That’s right: simply cracking open a book can help you grow . 

Keep a notepad nearby and write down thoughts and ideas as they arise. Writing helps you to process information, and you can revisit your musing whenever you need to get your creative juices flowing. If you’ve never tried journaling before, it’s an excellent way to process your thoughts and feelings in a safe and private space. 

3. Exercise

Exercising improves your sleep and ability to cope with stress, making it easier to stay alert and contribute fresh ideas at work. 


4. Listen to music

Music can affect your mood and place you in the mindset to solve problems. If you’re struggling with creative writing or creating a visual piece of work, listening to music could push you toward expressing yourself more meaningfully. 

5. Ask for feedback

Collaboration and teamwork are key when developing creative solutions in the workplace. You can ask teammates or superiors for feedback on your ideas to gain insight into potential flaws in your reasoning and streamline your solutions.

6. Find a mentor or coach

Having an experienced person to bounce ideas off is a catalyst for creativity. A mentor or coach who’s dealt with similar obstacles can provide insight into what worked and what didn’t, saving you valuable brainstorming time. 

7. Change your approach

If you’ve been approaching your tasks the same way, adjusting your processes may bring a fresh perspective and stimulate change. Ask yourself why you tackle work from a similar angle each time and consider more creative ways to conduct your day-to-day operations.


4 creative thinking examples to include on your resume 

Employers want to add creative people to their teams because solving problems takes a lot of ingenuity. Use these four examples and bullet points for inspiration when listing creative thinking skills on your resume.

On a graphic designer’s resume:

  • Collaborated on rebranding [company’s] visual identity and social media content strategy
  • Developed unique and innovative branding material for [company A] , [company B] , and [company C]

On a copywriter’s resume:

  • Revised [company’s] website and blog content to be more engaging, exciting, and SEO-focused
  • Contributed original and innovative articles on [topic] to [publication A] and [publication B]

On a public relations specialist’s resume:

  • Increased [company’s] brand awareness by planning [event] to launch [product]
  • Collaborated with [brand] on [product’s] creative marketing strategy to reach a wider audience

On a teacher’s resume:

  • Developed a novel approach to teaching [subject or class] to students with various learning styles and needs
  • Introduced [extracurricular] , the first of its kind in [the school board] , to engage students in [activity]

Sharpen your creativity 

Critical and creative thinking broaden your perspective and allow you to devise unique solutions to everyday problems. You can develop your creative skills by changing your environment, learning from others, and adjusting your approach to work. 

Regardless of how you choose to spark creativity at work, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and confidently contribute your ideas. You never know — you might just come up with the next big company innovation.

Cultivate your creativity

Foster creativity and continuous learning with guidance from our certified Coaches.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

How to develop critical thinking skills

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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

Problem solving workshop

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

  • Tips for more effective problem-solving

Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

creative techniques for problem solving

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
  • Open Space Technology

1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

  • One Breath Feedback
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

creative techniques for problem solving

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

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How to Be a More Creative Problem-Solver at Work: 8 Tips

Business professionals using creative problem-solving at work

  • 01 Mar 2022

The importance of creativity in the workplace—particularly when problem-solving—is undeniable. Business leaders can’t approach new problems with old solutions and expect the same result.

This is where innovation-based processes need to guide problem-solving. Here’s an overview of what creative problem-solving is, along with tips on how to use it in conjunction with design thinking.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Creative Problem-Solving?

Encountering problems with no clear cause can be frustrating. This occurs when there’s disagreement around a defined problem or research yields unclear results. In such situations, creative problem-solving helps develop solutions, despite a lack of clarity.

While creative problem-solving is less structured than other forms of innovation, it encourages exploring open-ended ideas and shifting perspectives—thereby fostering innovation and easier adaptation in the workplace. It also works best when paired with other innovation-based processes, such as design thinking .

Creative Problem-Solving and Design Thinking

Design thinking is a solutions-based mentality that encourages innovation and problem-solving. It’s guided by an iterative process that Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar outlines in four stages in the online course Design Thinking and Innovation :

The four stages of design thinking: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement

  • Clarify: This stage involves researching a problem through empathic observation and insights.
  • Ideate: This stage focuses on generating ideas and asking open-ended questions based on observations made during the clarification stage.
  • Develop: The development stage involves exploring possible solutions based on the ideas you generate. Experimentation and prototyping are both encouraged.
  • Implement: The final stage is a culmination of the previous three. It involves finalizing a solution’s development and communicating its value to stakeholders.

Although user research is an essential first step in the design thinking process, there are times when it can’t identify a problem’s root cause. Creative problem-solving addresses this challenge by promoting the development of new perspectives.

Leveraging tools like design thinking and creativity at work can further your problem-solving abilities. Here are eight tips for doing so.

Design Thinking and Innovation | Uncover creative solutions to your business problems | Learn More

8 Creative Problem-Solving Tips

1. empathize with your audience.

A fundamental practice of design thinking’s clarify stage is empathy. Understanding your target audience can help you find creative and relevant solutions for their pain points through observing them and asking questions.

Practice empathy by paying attention to others’ needs and avoiding personal comparisons. The more you understand your audience, the more effective your solutions will be.

2. Reframe Problems as Questions

If a problem is difficult to define, reframe it as a question rather than a statement. For example, instead of saying, "The problem is," try framing around a question like, "How might we?" Think creatively by shifting your focus from the problem to potential solutions.

Consider this hypothetical case study: You’re the owner of a local coffee shop trying to fill your tip jar. Approaching the situation with a problem-focused mindset frames this as: "We need to find a way to get customers to tip more." If you reframe this as a question, however, you can explore: "How might we make it easier for customers to tip?" When you shift your focus from the shop to the customer, you empathize with your audience. You can take this train of thought one step further and consider questions such as: "How might we provide a tipping method for customers who don't carry cash?"

Whether you work at a coffee shop, a startup, or a Fortune 500 company, reframing can help surface creative solutions to problems that are difficult to define.

3. Defer Judgment of Ideas

If you encounter an idea that seems outlandish or unreasonable, a natural response would be to reject it. This instant judgment impedes creativity. Even if ideas seem implausible, they can play a huge part in ideation. It's important to permit the exploration of original ideas.

While judgment can be perceived as negative, it’s crucial to avoid accepting ideas too quickly. If you love an idea, don’t immediately pursue it. Give equal consideration to each proposal and build on different concepts instead of acting on them immediately.

4. Overcome Cognitive Fixedness

Cognitive fixedness is a state of mind that prevents you from recognizing a situation’s alternative solutions or interpretations instead of considering every situation through the lens of past experiences.

Although it's efficient in the short-term, cognitive fixedness interferes with creative thinking because it prevents you from approaching situations unbiased. It's important to be aware of this tendency so you can avoid it.

5. Balance Divergent and Convergent Thinking

One of the key principles of creative problem-solving is the balance of divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the process of brainstorming multiple ideas without limitation; open-ended creativity is encouraged. It’s an effective tool for generating ideas, but not every idea can be explored. Divergent thinking eventually needs to be grounded in reality.

Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is the process of narrowing ideas down into a few options. While converging ideas too quickly stifles creativity, it’s an important step that bridges the gap between ideation and development. It's important to strike a healthy balance between both to allow for the ideation and exploration of creative ideas.

6. Use Creative Tools

Using creative tools is another way to foster innovation. Without a clear cause for a problem, such tools can help you avoid cognitive fixedness and abrupt decision-making. Here are several examples:

Problem Stories

Creating a problem story requires identifying undesired phenomena (UDP) and taking note of events that precede and result from them. The goal is to reframe the situations to visualize their cause and effect.

To start, identify a UDP. Then, discover what events led to it. Observe and ask questions of your consumer base to determine the UDP’s cause.

Next, identify why the UDP is a problem. What effect does the UDP have that necessitates changing the status quo? It's helpful to visualize each event in boxes adjacent to one another when answering such questions.

The problem story can be extended in either direction, as long as there are additional cause-and-effect relationships. Once complete, focus on breaking the chains connecting two subsequent events by disrupting the cause-and-effect relationship between them.

Alternate Worlds

The alternate worlds tool encourages you to consider how people from different backgrounds would approach similar situations. For instance, how would someone in hospitality versus manufacturing approach the same problem? This tool isn't intended to instantly solve problems but, rather, to encourage idea generation and creativity.

7. Use Positive Language

It's vital to maintain a positive mindset when problem-solving and avoid negative words that interfere with creativity. Positive language prevents quick judgments and overcomes cognitive fixedness. Instead of "no, but," use words like "yes, and."

Positive language makes others feel heard and valued rather than shut down. This practice doesn’t necessitate agreeing with every idea but instead approaching each from a positive perspective.

Using “yes, and” as a tool for further idea exploration is also effective. If someone presents an idea, build upon it using “yes, and.” What additional features could improve it? How could it benefit consumers beyond its intended purpose?

While it may not seem essential, this small adjustment can make a big difference in encouraging creativity.

8. Practice Design Thinking

Practicing design thinking can make you a more creative problem-solver. While commonly associated with the workplace, adopting a design thinking mentality can also improve your everyday life. Here are several ways you can practice design thinking:

  • Learn from others: There are many examples of design thinking in business . Review case studies to learn from others’ successes, research problems companies haven't addressed, and consider alternative solutions using the design thinking process.
  • Approach everyday problems with a design thinking mentality: One of the best ways to practice design thinking is to apply it to your daily life. Approach everyday problems using design thinking’s four-stage framework to uncover what solutions it yields.
  • Study design thinking: While learning design thinking independently is a great place to start, taking an online course can offer more insight and practical experience. The right course can teach you important skills , increase your marketability, and provide valuable networking opportunities.

Which HBS Online Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Ready to Become a Creative Problem-Solver?

Though creativity comes naturally to some, it's an acquired skill for many. Regardless of which category you're in, improving your ability to innovate is a valuable endeavor. Whether you want to bolster your creativity or expand your professional skill set, taking an innovation-based course can enhance your problem-solving.

If you're ready to become a more creative problem-solver, explore Design Thinking and Innovation , one of our online entrepreneurship and innovation courses . If you aren't sure which course is the right fit, download our free course flowchart to determine which best aligns with your goals.

creative techniques for problem solving

About the Author

Scott Jeffrey

12 Powerful Creative Problem-Solving Techniques That Work

No one likes the feeling of being stuck.

It creates internal tension. That tension seeks resolution.

Thankfully, there are many creative problem-solving techniques for resolving this tension and revealing new solutions.

In this guide, we’ll explore 12 creative ways to solve problems with a variety of techniques, tools, and methods that be used for personal use and in the workplace.

Let’s dive in…

How to Approach Creative Problem-Solving Techniques

All of the creative problem-solving techniques discussed below work some of the time .

While it’s fine to have a favorite “go-to” creative problem-solving technique, the reality is each problem has some unique elements to it.

The key to is mix and match various techniques and methodologies until you get a workable solution.

When faced with a difficult challenge, try a combination of the problem-solving techniques listed below.

The Power of Divergent Thinking

Creativity is everyone’s birthright.

One study with 1,500 participants, found that 98 percent of children around the age of five qualify as geniuses. 1 George Land and Beth Jarman, Breakpoint and Beyond , 1998.

That is, virtually all children are gifted with divergent thinking— the ability to see many possible answers to a question.

For example, how many uses can you think of for a paper clip?

The average adult might offer 10 to 15 answers. Those skilled in divergent thinking divine closer to 200 answers.

Yet, something happens along the way because by adulthood, how many people score at the genius level? Only 2 percent!

That is, we see a complete inversion: from 98% being geniuses in early childhood to only 2% in adulthood.

What causes this debilitating drop in creativity?

According to creativity researcher Sir Ken Robinson, the answer is our schooling. 2 Sir Ken Robinson, Do schools kill creativity? TED Talk , 2006. Through 13 years of “education” our innate creativity is stripped out of us!

Conditioning Yourself for Creative Solutions

So to improve the efficacy of these creative problem-solving techniques, it helps to re-condition ourselves to use divergent thinking.

The key is to learn how to remove our prior conditioning and restore our natural creative abilities. You’ll notice that many of the creative problem-solving techniques below help us do just that.

Thankfully, divergent thinking is a skill and we can develop it like a muscle. So the more we use divergent thinking, the more second nature it becomes.

For this reason, when you’re presented with personal, professional, or business-related problems, celebrate them as an opportunity to exercise your creative abilities.

12 Powerful Creative Problem-Solving Techniques

Now, we’re going to cover 12 creative problem-solving techniques with examples that you can apply right away to get results.

These creative problem-solving methods are:

  • Use “What If” Scenarios
  • Focus on Quantity Over Quality
  • Switch Roles
  • Use the Six Thinking Hats Technique
  • Explore Different Contexts
  • Take a 30,000-Foot View
  • Ask Your Subconscious
  • Mind Map Your Problem
  • Adopt a Beginner’s Mind
  • Alter Your State of Consciousness
  • Find Your Center

Then, we’ll quickly review a series of problem-solving tools you can experiment with.

1 – Use “What If” Scenarios

Use “what if?” questions to project different scenarios into the future.

In A Whack on the Side of the Head , Roger Von Oech, says,

“In the imaginative phase, you ask questions such as: What if? Why not? What rules can we break? What assumptions can we drop? How about if we looked at this backwards? Can we borrow a metaphor from another discipline? The motto of the imaginative phase is: Thinking something different.”

Using this creative problem-solving technique challenges you to allow your mind to play out different scenarios without judgment or criticism .

(Judgment always comes after the creative problem-solving process—not before.)

2 – Focus on Quantity Over Quality

Creativity research shows that focusing on generating more ideas or solutions instead of on the quality of the ideas ultimately produces better results. 3 Paulus, Paul & Kohn, Nicholas & ARDITTI, LAUREN. (2011). Effects of Quantity and Quality Instructions on Brainstorming. The Journal of Creative Behavior. 45. 10.1002/j.2162-6057.2011.tb01083.x .

This phenomenon is known as the “Equal-Odds rule.” Nobel laureate Linus Pauling instinctively suggested a similar process: 4 The Evening Sentinel , Priestley Award Winner Says Deployment of ABM’s “Silly”, Start Page 1, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. March 28, 1969.

I was once asked ‘How do you go about having good ideas?’ and my answer was that you have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones.

When I used to facilitate meetings and brainstorming sessions with leadership teams in large organizations, this was an invaluable creative problem-solving technique. By consciously focusing on generating more ideas first instead of evaluating the quality of the ideas, you avoid shifting into a critical mindset that often stops the ideation process.

3 – Switch Roles

Our minds tend to get locked in habitual patterns, leading to what’s called “paradigm blindness.” Another related term is the “curse of knowledge,” a common cognitive bias observed in so-called “experts” in their field. 5 Hinds, Pamela J. (1999). “The curse of expertise: The effects of expertise and debiasing methods on prediction of novice performance”. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. 5 (2): 205–221. doi:10.1037/1076-898X.5.2.205 . S2CID 1081055

This cognitive bias is another illustration of how divergent thinking was conditioned out of us during our formative years.

Switching roles helps us “wear a different hat” where we momentarily shift away from our conditioning.

For example, if you have a marketing-related problem, try putting on an engineer’s hat—or even a gardener’s hat. If you have a problem as an entrepreneur, put yourself in the customer’s mindset. See the world from their point of view.

The idea is to shift your perspective so you can approach the problem from a new angle. Your ability to shift perspectives quickly—without privileging any one perspective—doesn’t only help you solve problems. It also helps you become a stronger leader .

4 – Use the Six Thinking Hats Technique

Speaking of hats, creativity researcher Edward de Bono developed an effective creative problem-solving technique called the Six Thinking Hats.

The Six Thinking Hats provides you and your team with six different perspectives to utilize when tackling a problem. (You can use these six hats on your own too.)

creative problem-solving techniques six hats

Each hat serves a different function. For creative problem solving, you start with the blue hat to clearly define the problem.

You then move to the white hat where you outline all of the existing and known data regarding the issue. Next, you put on the green hat and generate as many ideas as you can (similar to the “quantity over quality” technique above).

Then, you put on the yellow hat, which represents what de Bono calls “value sensitivity.” The yellow hat is used to build on the ideas generated from the green hat phase. Finally, you put on the black hat to evaluate your solutions and play Devil’s Advocate.

The Six Thinking Hats is an excellent technique for group brainstorming and creative problem-solving.

5 – Explore Different Contexts

Many problems arise because we neglect to zoom out from the problem and examine the larger context.

For example, long-term investments are often based on an “investment thesis.” This thesis might be based on trends in the market, consumer demands, brand recognition, dominant market share, strength in innovation, or a combination of factors. But sometimes the assumptions you base your thesis on are wrong.

So if you’re facing a problem at home or work, examine your assumptions.

If sales are down, for example, instead of revisiting your sales strategy investigate the context of your overall industry:

  • Has your industry changed?
  • Is your business disconnected from your customer’s needs?
  • Is your product or service becoming obsolete?

We can often find creative solutions to our problems by shifting the context.

6 – Take a 30,000-Foot View

Often, when we’re stuck in a problem, it’s because we’re “missing the forest for the trees.”

Zoom out and take a “30,000-foot view” of the situation. See your problem from above with a detached, neutral mindset. Take an expansive viewpoint before narrowing in on the specific problem.

This problem-solving technique is another variation of changing the context.

Sometimes you’ll find this to be a powerful creative problem-solving technique where the right solution spontaneously presents itself. (You’ll think to yourself: Why didn’t I see this before? )

creative problem-solving techniques mozart quote

7 – Walk Away

Most often, the best problem-solving technique is to stop trying to solve it —and walk away.

Yet, our minds often don’t like this technique. The mind likes to be in control. And walking away means letting go of control.

I spent five years researching creative geniuses trying to better understand the source of inspiration for a book I was writing years ago. 6 Scott Jeffrey, Creativity Revealed: Discovering the Source of Inspiration , 2008.

In studying dozens of creative geniuses, from Mozart to William Blake, a clear pattern emerged.

Creative geniuses know when to walk away from the problems they are facing. They instinctively access what can be called the Wanderer archetype.

More recent studies show that deliberate “mind-wandering” supports creativity. 7 Henriksen D, Richardson C, Shack K. Mindfulness and creativity: Implications for thinking and learning. Think Skills Creat. 2020 Sep;37:100689. doi: 10.1016/j.tsc.2020.100689 . Epub 2020 Aug 1. PMID: 32834868; PMCID: PMC7395604. Great ideas come to use when we’re not trying. 8 Kaplan, M. Why great ideas come when you aren’t trying. Nature (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2012.10678

Wandering and reverie are essential to the creative process because they allow us to hear our Muse. The key is knowing when to let go of trying to solve the problem. Creativity problem-solving can, in this way, become an effortless process.

8 – Ask Your Subconscious

When we’re stuck on a problem and we need a creative solution, it means our conscious mind is stuck.

It does not, however, mean that we don’t already know the answer. The creative solution is often known below our conscious awareness  in what can be termed our subconscious mind, or our unconscious.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung realized that dreams are a bridge from the wisdom of our unconscious to our conscious minds. As Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz explains, 9 Fraser Boa, The Way of the Dream: Conversations on Jungian Dream Interpretation With Marie-Louise Von Franz , 1994.

Dreams are the letters of the Self that the Self writes us every night.

One of the most powerful creative problem-solving techniques is to ask your subconscious mind to solve the problem you’re facing before you go to sleep. Then, keep a journal and pen on your nightstand and when you awaken, record whatever comes to mind.

This is a powerful technique that will improve with practice. It’s used by many geniuses and inventors.

Another variation of this creative problem-solving technique that doesn’t require sleeping is to ask your inner guide. I provide a step-by-step creative technique to access your inner guide here .

9 – Mind Map Your Problem

problem solving tools mind map

Another way to get unstuck in solving problems is to access the visual side of our brain. In left/right hemisphere parlance, the left brain is dominated by logic, reason, and language while the right brain is dominated by images, symbols, and feelings. (I realize that the “science” behind this distinction is now questionable, however, the concept is still useful.)

Our problems arise largely in our “thinking brain” as we tend to favor our thoughts over other modes of processing information. In the language of Jung’s Psychological Types , most of us have a dominant thinking function that rules over our feelings, intuition, and sensing functions.

Mind mapping is a powerful creative problem-solving technique that deploys visual brainstorming.

I learned about mind mapping in the 1990s from Tony Buzan’s The Mind Map Book and used this method for many years.

In the context of problem-solving, you draw the problem in the center of the page and then start ideating and connecting ideas from the center. Think of mind mapping as a visual outline.

You don’t need to be a skilled artist to use mind mapping. Nowadays, there are also numerous apps for mind mapping including Mind Meister and Miro, but I would still recommend using a blank piece of paper and some colored pencils or markers.

10 – Adopt a Beginner’s Mind

Our early “education” conditions us with what psychologists call functional fixedness where we look at problems from a familiar viewpoint.

Numerous creative problem-solving techniques we discussed above—like switching the context, changing our roles, wearing the Six Thinking Hats, and taking a 30,000-foot view—are designed to overcome functional fixedness.

Another technique is found in Zen philosophy called a Beginner’s Mind .

With a beginner’s mind, we empty our minds and forget what we think we know. In doing so, we enter a more playful, childlike state. Instead of being serious and “attacking the problem,” we can tinker and play with different ideas and scenarios without any fears of “getting it wrong.”

It can be a liberating experience. Psychologist Abraham Maslow found that self-actualizing individuals enter a state like the Beginner’s Mind where they get fully absorbed in whatever they are doing.

11 – Alter Your State of Consciousness

brain scan LSD creative problem solving

Another thing I noticed in my examination of artists and creative geniuses is that virtually all of them used various substances to alter their state of consciousness when  producing creative work and solving intellectual problems .

The substances vary widely including stimulants like coffee and/or cigarettes, alcohol (like absinthe), and all manner of psychedelic substances like LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote.

I’m not suggesting you should “take drugs” to solve your problems. The point is that it’s incredibly useful to alter your state of consciousness to help find creative solutions.

While using various substances is one way to accomplish this, there are many other methods like:

  • Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic Breathing Technique (similar to pranayama breathing)
  • The WIM Hof Method (ice cold showers)
  • Brainwave entrainment programs (binaural beats and isochronic tones)
  • The Silva Method (also uses brainwave entrainment)
  • Kasina Mind Media System by Mindplace (light stimulation and binaural beats)

Many of these types of programs shift your brain from a beta-dominant state to an alpha-dominated state which is more conducive for creativity. See, for example, Brain Awake by iAwake Technologies.

12 – Access Your Center

Perhaps the easiest and safest way of altering your state of consciousness is via meditation . Studies show that people experience improved brainstorming and higher creativity after only twenty minutes of meditation—even if they’re inexperienced meditators. 10 Colzato, L.S., Szapora, A., Lippelt, D. et al.  Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems.  Mindfulness  8, 10–16 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0352-9

When we’re stuck on a problem, or feeling confused about what we should do, we’re usually experiencing internal resistance. Different parts of us called archetypes hijack our minds and give us conflicting wants, beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives. These parts keep us from thinking clearly to find workable solutions.

As such, when you’re stuck, it helps to find your center first . It can also be highly beneficial to ground yourself on the earth . Both of these methods can help you quiet your mind chatter and shift into a more alpha-dominant brain pattern.

Getting in the habit of centering yourself before approaching a problem is perhaps the most powerful creative problem-solving technique. It can greatly assist you in taking a 30,000-foot view of our problem as well.

Creative Problem-Solving Tools

We referenced numerous problem-solving tools in the above examples including:

  • Roger von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack (a deck of cards with 64 creative strategies)
  • Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats method
  • Mind mapping (see Tony Buzan’s How to Mind Map or research online)
  • Brainwave entrainment (download free samples on iAwake or try your luck online)
  • All of the mind-altering methods under “Alter Your State of Consciousness”

If you’re looking for problem-solving tools for a business/group context, in addition to the Six Thinking Hats, you might also try:

SWOT Analysis


Let’s have a quick look at each of these tools.

swot analysis problem solving tool

SWOT analysis is an excellent tool for business owners to help them understand their competitive landscape and make important business decisions. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT analysis is a practical strategic planning tool for businesses and it can be an effective problem-solving tool for your business.

Five Whys sometimes helps identify the root cause of the problem when it’s not clearly understood. You start by stating the problem as you understand it. Then you ask, “Why?” (For example, why is this occurring? ) As the tool’s name implies, you ask Why questions five times in total.

Brainwriting is a form of brainstorming where individuals generate ideas on their own before meeting to discuss them as a group. For a host of psychological reasons, this is often a superior way of approaching problem-solving in the workplace. Combining brainwriting with the Six Thinking Hats method can be even more powerful.

Using These Creative Problem-Solving Tools

All of the techniques and tools above represent creative problem-solving methods.

These examples illustrate that there are numerous pathways to get the answers we seek.

Some pathways, however, are more effective than others. The key is to experiment with various methods to uncover which ones work best for you .

Different methods will be more effective in different contexts.

Here, wisdom and intuition come into play. Over time, your connection with your inner guide improves and creative problem-solving becomes a more spontaneous process.

Recap: Creative Problem-Solving Techniques

Creative problem-solving is a skill based on the development of divergent thinking combined with altering our state of consciousness.

Due to our early conditioning, our “normal” waking state of consciousness is often filled with biases, limitations, blind spots, and negativity. This causes us to perceive problems rigidly.

When we get “stuck” it’s because our minds are fixed on a limited number of options.

To get “unstuck,” we just need to alter our state of consciousness and examine our problems from various perspectives, which is what the above creative problem-solving techniques are designed to do.

The more you play with these techniques, the more they become second nature to you.

You may find that each technique begins to play off the other. Then, the art and subtleties of the discovery process begin to emerge.

Enjoy solving your next problem!

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About the Author

Scott Jeffrey is the founder of CEOsage, a self-leadership resource publishing in-depth guides read by millions of self-actualizing individuals. He writes about self-development, practical psychology, Eastern philosophy, and integrated practices. For 25 years, Scott was a business coach to high-performing entrepreneurs, CEOs, and best-selling authors. He's the author of four books including Creativity Revealed .

Learn more >

Some great ideas here. I am particularly intrigued by the "walk away" idea fulfilling the wanderer archetype. While counter intuitive, in my experience, walking away lets my mind develop subconcious connections that are sometimes the best. Sort of like letting my brain do the work instead of me! Bravo!

Todd Alexander

Thanks for your comments, Todd. It seems as though he need to train and remind ourselves to "walk away" because the mind thinks it can push its way through the problem.

How many times does it take for us to "absolutely know" that answers answer themselves when we take a break from forceful problem-solving and walk into the creative nature zone?! ;) The solution presents itself when we let go.

Great Post, Scott!

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Creative problem solving: basics, techniques, activities

Why is creative problem solving so important.

Problem-solving is a part of almost every person's daily life at home and in the workplace. Creative problem solving helps us understand our environment, identify the things we want or need to change, and find a solution to improve the environment's performance.

Creative problem solving is essential for individuals and organizations because it helps us control what's happening in our environment.

Humans have learned to observe the environment and identify risks that may lead to specific outcomes in the future. Anticipating is helpful not only for fixing broken things but also for influencing the performance of items.

Creative problem solving is not just about fixing broken things; it's about innovating and creating something new. Observing and analyzing the environment, we identify opportunities for new ideas that will improve our environment in the future.

The 7-step creative problem-solving process

The creative problem-solving process usually consists of seven steps.

1. Define the problem.

The very first step in the CPS process is understanding the problem itself. You may think that it's the most natural step, but sometimes what we consider a problem is not a problem. We are very often mistaken about the real issue and misunderstood them. You need to analyze the situation. Otherwise, the wrong question will bring your CPS process in the wrong direction. Take the time to understand the problem and clear up any doubts or confusion.

2. Research the problem.

Once you identify the problem, you need to gather all possible data to find the best workable solution. Use various data sources for research. Start with collecting data from search engines, but don't forget about traditional sources like libraries. You can also ask your friends or colleagues who can share additional thoughts on your issue. Asking questions on forums is a good option, too.

3. Make challenge questions.

After you've researched the problem and collected all the necessary details about it, formulate challenge questions. They should encourage you to generate ideas and be short and focused only on one issue. You may start your challenge questions with "How might I…?" or "In what way could I…?" Then try to answer them.

4. Generate ideas.

Now you are ready to brainstorm ideas. Here it is the stage where the creativity starts. You must note each idea you brainstorm, even if it seems crazy, not inefficient from your first point of view. You can fix your thoughts on a sheet of paper or use any up-to-date tools developed for these needs.

5. Test and review the ideas.

Then you need to evaluate your ideas and choose the one you believe is the perfect solution. Think whether the possible solutions are workable and implementing them will solve the problem. If the result doesn't fix the issue, test the next idea. Repeat your tests until the best solution is found.

6. Create an action plan.

Once you've found the perfect solution, you need to work out the implementation steps. Think about what you need to implement the solution and how it will take.

7. Implement the plan.

Now it's time to implement your solution and resolve the issue.

Top 5 Easy creative thinking techniques to use at work

1. brainstorming.

Brainstorming is one of the most glaring CPS techniques, and it's beneficial. You can practice it in a group or individually.

Define the problem you need to resolve and take notes of every idea you generate. Don't judge your thoughts, even if you think they are strange. After you create a list of ideas, let your colleagues vote for the best idea.

2. Drawing techniques

It's very convenient to visualize concepts and ideas by drawing techniques such as mind mapping or creating concept maps. They are used for organizing thoughts and building connections between ideas. These techniques have a lot in common, but still, they have some differences.

When starting a mind map, you need to put the key concept in the center and add new connections. You can discover as many joints as you can.

Concept maps represent the structure of knowledge stored in our minds about a particular topic. One of the key characteristics of a concept map is its hierarchical structure, which means placing specific concepts under more general ones.

3. SWOT Analysis

The SWOT technique is used during the strategic planning stage before the actual brainstorming of ideas. It helps you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your project, idea, or business. Once you analyze these characteristics, you are ready to generate possible solutions to your problem.

4. Random words

This technique is one of the simplest to use for generating ideas. It's often applied by people who need to create a new product, for example. You need to prepare a list of random words, expressions, or stories and put them on the desk or board or write them down on a large sheet of paper.

Once you have a list of random words, you should think of associations with them and analyze how they work with the problem. Since our brain is good at making connections, the associations will stimulate brainstorming of new ideas.

5. Storyboarding

This CPS method is popular because it tells a story visually. This technique is based on a step-creation process. Follow this instruction to see the storyboarding process in progress:

  • Set a problem and write down the steps you need to reach your goal.
  • Put the actions in the right order.
  • Make sub-steps for some steps if necessary. This will help you see the process in detail.
  • Evaluate your moves and try to identify problems in it. It's necessary for predicting possible negative scenarios.

7 Ways to improve your creative problem-solving skills

1. play brain games.

It's considered that brain games are an excellent way to stimulate human brain function. They develop a lot of thinking skills that are crucial for creative problem-solving.

You can solve puzzles or play math games, for example. These activities will bring you many benefits, including strong logical, critical, and analytical thinking skills.

If you are keen on playing fun math games and solving complicated logic tasks, try LogicLike online.

We created 3500+ puzzles, mathematical games, and brain exercises. Our website and mobile app, developed for adults and kids, help to make pastime more productive just in one place.

2. Practice asking questions

Reasoning stimulates you to generate new ideas and solutions. To make the CPS process more accessible, ask questions about different things. By developing curiosity, you get more information that broadens your background. The more you know about a specific topic, the more solutions you will be able to generate. Make it your useful habit to ask questions. You can research on your own. Alternatively, you can ask someone who is an expert in the field. Anyway, this will help you improve your CPS skills.

3. Challenge yourself with new opportunities

After you've gained a certain level of creativity, you shouldn't stop developing your skills. Try something new, and don't be afraid of challenging yourself with more complicated methods and techniques. Don't use the same tools and solutions for similar problems. Learn from your experience and make another step to move to the next level.

4. Master your expertise

If you want to keep on generating creative ideas, you need to master your skills in the industry you are working in. The better you understand your industry vertical, the more comfortable you identify problems, find connections between them, and create actionable solutions.

Once you are satisfied with your professional life, you shouldn't stop learning new things and get additional knowledge in your field. It's vital if you want to be creative both in professional and daily life. Broaden your background to brainstorm more innovative solutions.

5. Develop persistence

If you understand why you go through this CPS challenge and why you need to come up with a resolution to your problem, you are more motivated to go through the obstacles you face. By doing this, you develop persistence that enables you to move forward toward a goal.

Practice persistence in daily routine or at work. For example, you can minimize the time you need to implement your action plan. Alternatively, some problems require a long-term period to accomplish a goal. That's why you need to follow the steps or try different solutions until you find what works for solving your problem. Don't forget about the reason why you need to find a solution to motivate yourself to be persistent.

6. Improve emotional intelligence

Empathy is a critical element of emotional intelligence. It means that you can view the issues from the perspective of other people. By practicing compassion, you can understand your colleagues that work on the project together with you. Understanding will help you implement the solutions that are beneficial for you and others.

7. Use a thinking strategy

You are mistaken if you think that creative thinking is an unstructured process. Any thinking process is a multi-step procedure, and creative thinking isn't an exclusion. Always follow a particular strategy framework while finding a solution. It will make your thinking activity more efficient and result-oriented.

Develop your logic and mathematical skills. 3500+ fun math problems and brain games with answers and explanations.

What is creative problem-solving?

Creative problem-solving in action

Table of Contents

An introduction to creative problem-solving.

Creative problem-solving is an essential skill that goes beyond basic brainstorming . It entails a holistic approach to challenges, melding logical processes with imaginative techniques to conceive innovative solutions. As our world becomes increasingly complex and interconnected, the ability to think creatively and solve problems with fresh perspectives becomes invaluable for individuals, businesses, and communities alike.

Importance of divergent and convergent thinking

At the heart of creative problem-solving lies the balance between divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking encourages free-flowing, unrestricted ideation, leading to a plethora of potential solutions. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is about narrowing down those options to find the most viable solution. This dual approach ensures both breadth and depth in the problem-solving process.

Emphasis on collaboration and diverse perspectives

No single perspective has a monopoly on insight. Collaborating with individuals from different backgrounds, experiences, and areas of expertise offers a richer tapestry of ideas. Embracing diverse perspectives not only broadens the pool of solutions but also ensures more holistic and well-rounded outcomes.

Nurturing a risk-taking and experimental mindset

The fear of failure can be the most significant barrier to any undertaking. It's essential to foster an environment where risk-taking and experimentation are celebrated. This involves viewing failures not as setbacks but as invaluable learning experiences that pave the way for eventual success.

The role of intuition and lateral thinking

Sometimes, the path to a solution is not linear. Lateral thinking and intuition allow for making connections between seemingly unrelated elements. These 'eureka' moments often lead to breakthrough solutions that conventional methods might overlook.

Stages of the creative problem-solving process

The creative problem-solving process is typically broken down into several stages. Each stage plays a crucial role in understanding, addressing, and resolving challenges in innovative ways.

Clarifying: Understanding the real problem or challenge

Before diving into solutions, one must first understand the problem at its core. This involves asking probing questions, gathering data, and viewing the challenge from various angles. A clear comprehension of the problem ensures that effort and resources are channeled correctly.

Ideating: Generating diverse and multiple solutions

Once the problem is clarified, the focus shifts to generating as many solutions as possible. This stage champions quantity over quality, as the aim is to explore the breadth of possibilities without immediately passing judgment.

Developing: Refining and honing promising solutions

With a list of potential solutions in hand, it's time to refine and develop the most promising ones. This involves evaluating each idea's feasibility, potential impact, and any associated risks, then enhancing or combining solutions to maximize effectiveness.

Implementing: Acting on the best solutions

Once a solution has been honed, it's time to put it into action. This involves planning, allocating resources, and monitoring the results to ensure the solution is effectively addressing the problem.

Techniques for creative problem-solving

Solving complex problems in a fresh way can be a daunting task to start on. Here are a few techniques that can help kickstart the process:


Brainstorming is a widely-used technique that involves generating as many ideas as possible within a set timeframe. Variants like brainwriting (where ideas are written down rather than spoken) and reverse brainstorming (thinking of ways to cause the problem) can offer fresh perspectives and ensure broader participation.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a visual tool that helps structure information, making connections between disparate pieces of data. It is particularly useful in organizing thoughts, visualizing relationships, and ensuring a comprehensive approach to a problem.

SCAMPER technique

SCAMPER stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse. This technique prompts individuals to look at existing products, services, or processes in new ways, leading to innovative solutions.

Benefits of creative problem-solving

Creative problem-solving offers numerous benefits, both at the individual and organizational levels. Some of the most prominent advantages include:

Finding novel solutions to old problems

Traditional problems that have resisted conventional solutions often succumb to creative approaches. By looking at challenges from fresh angles and blending different techniques, we can unlock novel solutions previously deemed impossible.

Enhanced adaptability in changing environments

In our rapidly evolving world, the ability to adapt is critical. Creative problem-solving equips individuals and organizations with the agility to pivot and adapt to changing circumstances, ensuring resilience and longevity.

Building collaborative and innovative teams

Teams that embrace creative problem-solving tend to be more collaborative and innovative. They value diversity of thought, are open to experimentation, and are more likely to challenge the status quo, leading to groundbreaking results.

Fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement

Creative problem-solving is not just about finding solutions; it's also about continuous learning and improvement. By encouraging an environment of curiosity and exploration, organizations can ensure that they are always at the cutting edge, ready to tackle future challenges head-on.

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  • 29 brainstorming techniques: effective ...

29 brainstorming techniques: effective ways to spark creativity

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Bright ideas don’t come as easily as flicking on a light. 

When it’s up to one individual to dream up a solution, it can be time-consuming and cause a lot of pressure. And when it comes to a group of people tasked with solving a problem, ideas might clash. Not to mention, everyone has a preferred method for their creative madness, making it difficult to get every team members’ wheels turning in the same direction.

That’s where brainstorming techniques come in. These techniques provide structure for brainstorming sessions, ignite creativity across all brainstormers, and ensure your ideas come to fruition. And luckily, there are lots of effective brainstorming techniques to choose from. 

What is brainstorming?

Here’s a general brainstorming definition: it’s an approach taken by an individual or team to solve a problem or generate new ideas for the improvement of a product, organization, or strategy. 

No matter your preferred method, most brainstorming techniques involve three steps:

Capture ideas

Discuss and critique the ideas

Choose which ideas to execute

Every brainstorming technique also involves the same ingredients. All you need is an individual or group of people, a problem to solve or an opportunity to address, and time. 

Brainstorming challenges

The golden rule of all brainstorming sessions is quantity over quality. The more ideas you have, the better your chances are that one will be worthy of execution. For these reasons, especially in group brainstorming sessions, be sure all team members check their criticisms at the door and let it be known that the only bad ideas are no ideas. 

Of course, not every brainstorming session will go off without a hitch. Some common brainstorming challenges include:

Unbalanced conversations, sometimes due to extroverts dominating discussions

The anchoring effect, meaning brainstormers cling to the first few ideas shared and don’t move on to others

Awkward silences, which often occur when participants are not prepared 

Perhaps you’ve experienced some of these uncomfortable brainstorming sessions yourself. Thankfully, there are plenty of tried-and-true, and also some unorthodox, brainstorming techniques and tools that tackle just these issues.

Analytic brainstorming techniques

Analytic brainstorming techniques

When you need to look at an idea from all angles or vet a problem thoroughly, analytic brainstorming techniques might be worth implementing. Consider the following brainstorming methods and tools to generate and qualify ideas.

1. Starbursting  

A visual brainstorming technique, starbursting should be used once you or your team of brainstormers has homed in on a single idea. To begin starbursting, put an idea on the middle of a whiteboard and draw a six-point star around it. Each point will represent a question:

Consider every question and how it might pertain to your idea, such as, “Who will want to buy this product?” or, “When will we need to launch this program?” This will help you explore scenarios or roadblocks you hadn’t considered before.

Best for: large group brainstorms, vetting ideas thoroughly

2. The five whys, a.k.a. why analysis

Similar to starbursting, the five whys brainstorming technique helps you evaluate the strength of an idea. Challenge yourself to ask “why” questions about a topic or idea at least five times and consider what new problems you surface—and, importantly, note how you can address them. To help organize your thoughts, consider using a flowchart or fishbone diagram in hand with this brainstorming technique.

Best for: individual and group brainstorms, vetting ideas thoroughly

3. SWOT analysis

You might be familiar with SWOT analysis as it relates to strategic planning , and you might also be surprised to know that this concept can also be applied as a brainstorming exercise to help qualify an idea. The notion? Discuss the following aspects of your topic to determine whether it’s worth executing: 

Strengths : how does the idea dominate or stand out from competitors?

Weakness : are there any flaws in the idea that could jeopardize its execution?

Opportunities : what else can you capitalize on based on this idea?

Threats : what are potential downfalls that could arise if the idea is launched?

4. How Now Wow  

The How Now Wow brainstorming technique is all about categorizing ideas based on how unique they are and how easy they are to implement. Once you’ve collected several ideas, either individually or from team members, talk through where they fall in the How Now Wow spectrum:

How ideas are ideas that are original but not executable. 

Now ideas are unoriginal ideas that are easily executable.

Wow ideas are never-been-pitched before ideas that are also easy to implement.

Obviously, you want as many “Wow” ideas as possible since these are executable but also because they might set you apart from competitors or dispel monotony in a company. To help organize your ideas, consider using a matrix of four squares with difficulty weighted on the Y-axis and innovation on the X-axis. 

Best for: individual and group brainstorms, homing in on an executable solution

5. Drivers analysis

Just as the name implies, driver analysis is a brainstorming technique that analyzes the drivers or “causes” of a problem. To use this brainstorming technique, simply keep asking yourself or your team of brainstormers: “What’s driving [insert problem]?” and then, “What’s driving [insert answer to the previous question]?” Similar to why analysis, the deeper you dig into a problem, the more well-vetted it will be and the more confident you will be in executing solutions for those problems. 

6. Mind mapping

Another visual brainstorming technique, mind mapping addresses the anchoring effect—a common brainstorming challenge where brainstormers fixate on the first ideas instead of coming up with new ones. Mind mapping does this by using the first idea to inspire other ideas. 

You’ll need a large piece of paper or whiteboard to do this. Begin by writing down a topic and then drawing lines connecting tangential ideas to it. This essentially helps you paint a picture of your topic at hand and what might impact its execution or even expedite it.

Best for: individual and group brainstorms, visual thinkers

7. Gap filling, a.k.a. gap analysis

When you’re struggling with how to execute an idea, that’s where gap filling comes in—to address the obstacles standing in your way. Begin by starting with a statement of where you are and then a statement of where you want to be. For example, “Our company creates smart watches; we want to expand our portfolio to also include fitness trackers.”

It’s worth writing these out on a large piece of paper or a whiteboard for all of your brainstormers to see, perhaps using a flowchart or mind map to do so. Then, list obstacles that are preventing you from getting where you want to be and work through solutions for each of them. By the end of your brainstorming session, you should have a clearer plan of how to get where you want to be. 

Best for: individual and group brainstorms, visual thinkers, honing in on an executable solution

Quiet async brainstorming techniques

Quiet brainstorming techniques

Best for businesses that are crunched for time or teams with more introverted individuals, these quiet brainstorming techniques allow brainstormers to contribute ideas on their own time and often anonymously. Look to the following methods to get your creative juices flowing, especially for remote teams with frequent virtual meetings .   

8. Brainwriting, a.k.a. slip writing

A nonverbal and in-person brainstorming technique, brainwriting addresses the brainstorming challenge of unbalanced conversations head-on. That’s because it requires participation and teamwork from every brainstormer, beginning with each person writing down three ideas relating to a topic on three separate slips of paper. Then everyone passes their ideas to the right or left and their neighbor builds on those ideas, adding bullet points and considerations. 

The slips of paper continue to be passed around the table until they’ve made it all the way around. Then, the brainstorm facilitator can digest all of the ideas themselves, or the brainstormers can discuss each idea out loud and determine what’s worth pursuing. Pro tip: limit this brainstorming technique to no more than 10 people to not be overwhelmed with ideas or time constraints.

Best for: group brainstorms and introverted team members

9. Collaborative brainwriting

You can think of collaborative brainwriting like a herd of cows grazing in a field, except it’s brainstormers grazing on ideas throughout a week, anonymously jotting down thoughts or ideas. Oftentimes a brainstorming facilitator will kick off this technique by posting a large piece of paper, sticky notes, or sharing a cloud-based document to jot down a few brainstorming ideas.

From there, team members can build off of those ideas on their own time and anonymously provide feedback. Be sure to set a clear deadline of when the brainstorming session closes to ensure all brainstormers have an opportunity to chime in.

Best for: individual brainstorming 

10. Brain-netting, a.k.a. online brainstorming

Great for remote teams, brain-netting is essentially a place for a team to brain dump their own ideas, whether that’s a Slack channel, Google Doc, or your project management tool . 

The notion is that brainstormers can add ideas whenever inspiration strikes and that the list will be ever-evolving. Of course, the team leader might want to inform their team of brainstormers of any important dates or deadlines when they need solutions to a problem. They may also want to hold a meeting to discuss the ideas. All brainstormers’ identities can be left anonymous even in the meeting. 

Best for: group brainstorms, introverted team members, remote teams


The SCAMPER brainstorming technique encourages brainstormers to look at an idea from different angles and it uses its acronym to inspire each lens: 

Substitute : consider what would happen if you swapped one facet of a solution for another.

Combine : consider what would happen if you combined one facet of a solution with another.

Adapt : consider how you could adapt an idea or solution in a new context.

Modify : consider how you can modify an idea to make it higher impact.

Put to another use : consider how else you could leverage your idea.

Eliminate : consider what you could remove from the idea or solution so that it’s simplified.

Reverse effective : finally, consider how you could reorganize an idea to make it most effective . 

When used in a group brainstorming session, you might want to use templates to track responses or pair the SCAMPER method with a brainwriting session to encourage all brainstormers to evaluate ideas from every angle. 

12. Lightning Decision Jam

Known as LDJ for short, the Lightning Decision Jam brainstorming technique requires 40 minutes to one hour to complete. What will you have by the end? Tangible results and buy-in from an entire team of brainstormers. 

This brainstorming technique is great for remote team alignment . It all begins with writing down positives about a topic or what’s working regarding the topic, then writing down negatives and identifying what needs to be addressed most urgently. This is followed by a few minutes of reframing problems as questions, then brainstorming solutions for those problems. 

Finally, your team uses a matrix to determine how high impact and how high effort your solutions are to decide which ideas are worth pursuing. For a more robust explanation of LDJ, watch this video by design agency AJ&Smart, which created the brainstorming technique. 

Best for: group brainstorms, remote workforces, tight deadlines, honing in on an executable solution

13. The idea napkin

Similar to LDJ, the idea napkin is essentially a brainstorming template that distills a broad topic into tangible solutions. How it works: Every brainstormer has an “idea napkin” that they commit one idea to, beginning by writing down their idea, as well as an elevator pitch for it. 

The idea napkin also includes a column for who the idea is targeting—meaning who you’re solving a problem for (customers, teammates, etc.)—and a column noting what problems your idea addresses. Brainstormers can fill out their napkins ahead of or during a brainstorming session, each is expected to present or share them. The final ideas will be placed on an impact and effort matrix to determine which are worth pursuing. 

Best for: group brainstorms, honing in on an executable solution

Roleplaying brainstorm techniques

Roleplay brainstorming techniques

Drama lovers rejoice! These roleplay brainstorming techniques encourage brainstormers to figuratively walk in someone else’s shoes or put on their hat—or six hats, in one instance—to address a problem or dream up ideas from a new perspective. An added benefit of this? When brainstormers take on a personality that’s not their own, it lowers inhibitions since it’s technically not their point of view being brought to the table.

14. Six thinking hats

This brainstorming technique requires a minimum of six brainstormers to wear imaginary hats—hence the name— that require them to look solely at an idea from one specific angle. For instance, one brainstormer might be wearing an impact hat and only concern themselves with the impact of an idea and another might be wearing a constraints hat and only looking at the constraints of an idea. 

You can pick and choose which angles are most important to your organization. And by the end of the group discussion, the whole brainstorming group should be able to hang their hats feeling confident about the ideas you’ll pursue.

Best for: group brainstorms (six or more people), introverted team members, vetting ideas thoroughly

15. Figure storming

Ever heard the phrase, “What would Abe do?” That’s pretty much the premise of this brainstorming technique in that brainstormers take on the identity of a famous or prominent figure, whether that’s a leader or celebrity, and put themselves in their brain space and how they’d approach an idea. 

This helps teams look at a topic through a different lens and, in the case of group brainstorms, alleviates any nervousness that brainstormers will put out bad ideas. Because they’re not putting out their ideas—they’re sharing someone else’s. So go on and give yourself a new job title for the day.

Best for: individual and group brainstorms, extroverted team members

16. Role storming  

Role storming is similar to figure storming in that brainstormers take on different personalities to dream up ideas, but with one dramatic twist—brainstormers act out those ideas. 

Generally, brainstormers are asked to take on the role of an average person who will be affected by the idea or solution in question, whether that’s an employee, client, or another party, and they act out a scenario that could stem from the idea to help them decipher what problems might arise from it. Consider this brainstorming technique for more extroverted teams. 

Best for: group brainstorms, extroverted team members

17. Reverse brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming is grounded in a little bit of chaos. It encourages brainstormers to play the role of disruptors by brainstorming problems first and then solutions. To kick off the brainstorming questions, a team leader will usually ask, “How do we cause [insert problem]?”

Once your team has listed the causes, they’ll have a new and different perspective for coming up with solutions to problems. 

Best for: group brainstorms, idea generation, problem-solving

18. Reverse thinking

Reverse thinking is a bit of a mashup of the figure storming and six thinking hats brainstorming techniques. It encourages brainstormers to merely ask themselves, “What would someone else do in this situation?” Then, it prompts them to think through why that person’s solution would work or not and if your current solution is more effective. 

Best for: group brainstorms, extroverted team members, vetting ideas thoroughly

Group brainstorm techniques

Group brainstorming techniques

Most brainstorming techniques can be applied to groups of brainstormers, but these specific brainstorming techniques promote (and some even require) participation from everyone. When facilitated well, group brainstorming techniques not only yield more ideas but they can also:

Boost team morale through lighthearted brainstorming games and by involving participation in every step of the brainstorming process

Promote creative thinking, especially when brainstormers are given time to prepare their ideas and  a structured approach to solve problems

Bring more diverse ideas together, thanks to the unique perspective each brainstormer has and their individual strengths

All this to say, group brainstorming techniques are all about putting people’s heads together. 

19. Eidetic image method

The eidetic image method is grounded in setting intentions, and it begins with group members all closing their eyes to do just that. For example, if a company is setting out to design a new smartwatch, the brainstorming facilitator would encourage all brainstormers to close their eyes and quietly meditate on what smartwatches currently look like. 

Then the group would discuss and close their eyes once more and quietly imagine new features to add to the device. They’d all open their eyes and discuss again, essentially layering on the possibilities for enhancing a product. This brainstorming technique is ideal for revamping or building on an existing product or solution. 

Best for: visual thinkers, creating an idea anew

20. Rapid ideation

Great for teams that get sidetracked or have difficulty staying focused in meetings, the rapid ideation brainstorming technique encourages brainstormers to race against a clock and come up with as many ideas as possible—and importantly, not take themselves too seriously. This can be done by having brainstormers shout out ideas to a facilitator or write them on a piece of paper. You might find that some of the same ideas keep popping up, which likely means those are worth pursuing. 

Best for: extroverted team members, tight deadlines

21. Round-robin brainstorming

Participation is required for the round-robin brainstorming technique. Everyone must contribute at least one idea before the entire group can give feedback or share a second idea.

Given the requirement that everyone must share an idea, it’s best to allow brainstormers time to prepare ideas before each round-robin brainstorming session. This brainstorming technique is great for introverted team members and also for larger groups to ensure everyone can contribute. Moreover, the round-robin brainstorming technique also promotes the notion that the only bad idea is no idea. 

Best for: introverted team members and developing a surplus of ideas

22. Step-ladder brainstorming

Ideal for medium-sized groups of five to 15 people, the step-ladder brainstorming technique prevents ideas from being influenced by the loudest brainstormers of a group. 

Here’s how it works: A brainstorming facilitator introduces a topic to their group of brainstormers and then dismisses all but two brainstormers from the room. The two brainstormers left in the room discuss their ideas for a few minutes and then one brainstormer is welcomed back into the room and shares their ideas before the original two brainstormers divulge their ideas. 

Brainstormers are added back into the room one by one, with each new brainstormer sharing their ideas before the rest of the group divulges theirs, and so forth. Once the entire brainstorming group is back in the room, it’s time to discuss the ideas they’ve built together, step by step. 

Best for: introverted team members, vetting ideas thoroughly, honing in on an executable solution

23. Charrette

You might want to book a few rooms for this one. The charette brainstorming technique helps break up a problem into smaller chunks and also breaks up your brainstormers into separate teams to address them. 

For instance, you might reserve three rooms, write a topic or problem on a whiteboard, and have three sets of brainstormers walk into those rooms to jot down their ideas. Then, the sets of brainstormers rotate rooms and build off of the ideas of the group that was there before them. Consider it effective teamwork at its best.

Best for: vetting ideas thoroughly, honing in on an executable solution

More brainstorming techniques

For more unconventional approaches to get your individual or your team’s wheels turning, consider adding some of these brainstorming techniques to your arsenal of ways to ideate. 

24. ‘What if’ brainstorming

A very off-the-cuff brainstorming technique, “what if” brainstorming is as simple as throwing out as many “what if” questions surrounding a topic as possible, similar to the rapid ideation brainstorming technique. For instance, “what if this problem occurred in a different country,” or, “what if this problem occurred in the 1800s?” 

Walking through the scenarios might help spur new obstacles pertaining to your problem. Essentially, the “what if” brainstorming technique helps your team evaluate all the possibilities.

Best for: individual and group brainstorms, creating an idea anew, vetting ideas thoroughly

25. Change of scenery  

It’s no secret that physical surroundings can impact your team workflow and even creativity. When your brainstorming session is in a rut, consider relocating to another location, perhaps a park, a walking meeting, or even a coffee shop.

Being in a new setting might spur new ideas and even loosen up your brainstormers so that they’re more open to sharing ideas and helping you achieve quantity over quality.  

Best for: individual and group brainstorms, creating an idea anew

26. Random word picker

As this name implies, this brainstorming technique is a little random. Begin by tossing words into a hat and then pull them out and discuss how they relate to your brainstorming topic at hand. You may want to use a template to keep track of your thoughts and any new ideas the word association sparks.

To further organize your thoughts, consider pairing this brainstorming technique with word banking, meaning categorizing random words together and then drawing associations between their category and the brainstorming topic. 

Best for: group brainstorms, creating an idea anew

27. Storyboarding

Turns out, storyboarding isn’t only for television and film. You can also apply this as a brainstorming technique, meaning illustrating or drawing a problem and possible solutions. Consider it another way to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, especially those your solution impacts. It’s also a means to visualize any roadblocks you might experience when executing a solution. 

Best for: individual or group brainstorms, problem-solving, vetting ideas thoroughly

28. Wishing

Wishing is as simple as it sounds: You just wish for the solution you want to build. Think: “I wish our company was carbon neutral,” and then think of the possible ways in which you could achieve this, as well as areas that might be impossible to address for this. This will help uncover obstacles you might face and maybe even shed light on what you’re capable of overcoming. 

Best for: individual or group brainstorms, creating an idea anew

29. Crazy eights

A short and fun brainstorming technique, crazy eights delivers on quantity by encouraging brainstormers to think quickly using a template that has eight boxes and only eight minutes on the clock to sketch out eight ideas. Once the timer stops, the group discusses their ideas. 

For a larger group, consider having each brainstormer narrow in on only three ideas and give them a longer time limit of six minutes to sketch them out in more detail.

Best for: group brainstorms, visual thinkers, developing a surplus of ideas

8 tips for a productive brainstorming session

No matter which brainstorming technique is right for you and your team, consider the following best practices to brainstorm most effectively . Of course, it all begins with the brainstorming facilitator and how they set the tone for the session.

1. Allow time to prep 

A brainstorming facilitator isn’t the only one in a brainstorming session who needs time to prepare for a meeting . They also should give brainstormers some context ahead of the session, such as in the form of a meeting agenda , to get in the correct mindset for the brainstorming session. 

At least one day is standard but as little as two to 10 minutes is useful. Moreover, brainstorming facilitators should also have a few ideas in their back pocket for any creative ruts that might creep in.

2. Set a clear intention

The more context you can provide brainstormers from the get-go, the more fruitful ideas they can produce. For instance, clearly spell out what types of ideas you’re looking for. Whether it’s quickly executable ones or ones that are entirely pathbreaking, identify specific targets to address. 

Additionally, be sure to let brainstormers know of any constraints you or your organization is operating under, including project timelines or budgets, so they’re generating executable ideas.

3. Invite new teammates and ideas

When the same people brainstorm together over and over, they can tend to produce the same ideas over and over. For this reason, consider introducing new people to your brainstorming session to shake up the usual and lend a fresh perspective—and hopefully fresh ideas—to your brainstorming topics. Invitees can be colleagues from different departments, customers or clients for a focus group, or an outside consultant.

4. Promote inclusivity

Every brainstorming session should be considered a safe space to share ideas—even unconventional ones. Remember, the only bad ideas are no ideas, and any idea shared shouldn’t be shot down or judged. In addition, the brainstorm facilitator should ensure every brainstormer is treated equally and given the same amount of time to talk. This might mean setting a timer for each brainstormer to talk and acknowledging those who are dominating conversations. Likewise, every brainstormer should be open and curious to ideas.

5. Think out of the box

Creative thinking begins with not taking ourselves too seriously. Just as you encourage inclusivity, encourage imperfections and out-of-the-box thinking, too. This could include anything from fun team building games to unique icebreaker questions. Hey, even a bevy of silly ideas to build off of is better than no ideas at all. Brainstorming techniques like wishing can encourage team members to open up.

6. Amplify creativity with music

Similar to how a change of scenery can inspire new ideas, even a little background music can promote creativity. Consider putting some on for your brainstorming session, and for the best results ensure it’s:


In a major key

On a fixed tempo and volume

7. Mix and match brainstorming techniques

Just as brainstorming techniques aren’t necessarily one-size-fits-all, they also aren’t all one-type-fits-every-session. Be prepared to pivot your brainstorming technique depending on what your group of brainstormers is most receptive to and also how many ideas you're juggling. 

8. Execute your ideas 

Coming up with bright ideas is great. But they’re pretty useless unless you effectively execute them. While some brainstorming techniques build the execution process into them, others might require you to follow up with brainstormers using project templates to map out a plan using creative solutions. 

Brainstorming is about quantity over quality

When done right, a brainstorming session shouldn’t feel like a chore but rather an opportunity to create something together, especially when your brainstorming technique supports different styles of thinking and expression. 

And whether you're operating as an individual or on a team, there’s something uniquely satisfying about seeing your ideas come to fruition. Get the creative ideas flowing, then customize your workflow management tool to turn those ideas into action. 

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The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible pp 298–313 Cite as

Creative Problem-Solving

  • Gerard J. Puccio 2 ,
  • Barry Klarman 2 &
  • Pamela A. Szalay 2  
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Life and work in the beginning of the twenty-first century has been described as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. In this fast changing, innovation-driven environment, Creative Problem-Solving has been identified as a fundamental skill for success. In contrast to routine problem-solving, with straightforward and repeatable solution paths, today’s problems are described as being complex and wicked. To generate the possibilities that can effectively address complex problems, individuals need to draw on the highest level of human thought – creativity. Creative Problem-Solving explicitly draws on, and promotes, effective creative thinking. The purpose of this entry is to describe and distinguish Creative Problem-Solving from other forms of problems-solving. Moreover, as Creative Problem-Solving is a deliberate creativity methodology, this chapter also provides a description of the more specific thinking skills that are embodied by the higher-order skill of creative thinking and are explicitly called on in Creative Problem-Solving. Complex problems require complex thinking, and Creative Problem-Solving provides a structured process that allows individuals to more easily and efficiently deploy their creative thinking skills.

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Ruth Gotian Ed.D., M.S.

15 Provocative Questions for Creative Problem-Solving

Increased curiosity triggers innovation..

Posted December 18, 2023 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano

  • The ability to be curious generally declines in adulthood.
  • Curiosity is a portal to increased innovation.
  • Curiosity can be relearned with the right questions
  • Today's curiosity shapes tomorrow's breakthroughs.

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As toddlers, the constant repetition of the question "Why?" marks the exuberance of curiosity, a trait that, over time, tends to wane in the face of weary parents providing half-hearted answers or steering conversations elsewhere, just to give themselves a brief reprieve. Unfortunately, as adults, many of us lose touch with the pervasive urge to ask 'why?' Our innate curiosity becomes buried, forgotten. This is a missed opportunity, for today's curiosity is tomorrow's innovation.

Consider the technological marvels of our time— the iPhone, Amazon, and Google—all born from the fertile ground of curiosity. Curiosity is the driving force behind innovation. But how does one rekindle curiosity? For those already predisposed to curiosity, can it be harnessed for innovation?

Embracing curiosity is a personal journey and a pathway to expanding our comprehension of the world and nurturing mental well-being. It fosters a mindset that thrives on continuous learning, resilience , and a profound sense of fulfillment. Opening your mind to new knowledge allows you to forge connections others have yet to envision.

15 questions to trigger curiosity

Here are 15 questions designed to trigger curiosity and encourage innovative thinking or problem-solving:

  • What if we approached this problem from a completely different perspective? What might we discover?
  • How have other industries or fields tackled similar challenges, and what lessons can we draw from their approaches?
  • If we were to remove all constraints, what bold and unconventional solutions could we explore?
  • What assumptions are we making about this situation, and how might challenging those assumptions open up new possibilities?
  • How can we leverage emerging technologies or trends to address this issue more effectively?
  • What insights might we gain if we were to involve customers or end-users in the problem-solving process? What might they reveal?
  • How can we turn this challenge into an opportunity for growth or improvement?
  • What are the underlying causes of this problem, and how can we address them to create lasting solutions?
  • If time and resources were not limited, what audacious goals could we set to solve this problem, and how might we achieve them?
  • What were our failures? What did we learn from them?
  • What failures occurred in other industries, and how can we apply those lessons to our challenges for a more innovative approach?
  • What if we built in constraints—fewer or no resources? How creative could we be? What would we do differently? What would we omit?
  • If we consistently ask "why" at each stage of our problem-solving process, how might it help us get to the root causes and generate more innovative solutions?
  • What if we asked people from different generations or cultures about what they see as the real problem or potential solution?
  • How can we challenge the status quo?

These questions are designed to provoke thought, challenge assumptions, and inspire creative thinking , fostering a mindset that can lead to innovative solutions and effective problem-solving.

In the journey from incessant childhood questioning to adulthood's diminishing curiosity, the true potential of innovation often remains untapped. These questions serve as catalysts, sparking curiosity and guiding individuals and teams toward innovative thinking and problem-solving, illustrating that the path to innovation begins with the simple act of asking why.

Ruth Gotian Ed.D., M.S.

Ruth Gotian, Ed.D., an assistant professor of education at Weill Cornell Medical College, is the author of The Success Factor.

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Creative problem-solving: navigating challenges.

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Have you ever faced a challenge that seemed impossible to overcome? Whether it’s a personal dilemma or a professional roadblock, we all encounter obstacles that require us to think outside the box and find innovative solutions. This is where creative problem-solving comes into play. In this article, we will explore the art of navigating challenges through the power of creativity. Join us on this journey and unlock your creative potential as we delve into different strategies and techniques to overcome obstacles and find unique solutions.

Understanding Creative Problem-Solving

Creative problem-solving is a powerful skill that enables individuals to approach challenges in non-traditional ways. It involves thinking creatively and critically, exploring multiple perspectives, and generating innovative ideas. By embracing a creative mindset, individuals can find solutions that may not have been initially apparent.

Creative problem-solving is not limited to specific industries or professions. In fact, it is a valuable skill in various fields, including business, technology, arts, and everyday life. Whether you are an entrepreneur seeking to launch a new product, a student facing a difficult assignment, or a parent trying to resolve a family conflict, creative problem-solving can be applied to navigate these challenges effectively.

The Power of Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is at the core of creative problem-solving. It involves approaching challenges with an open mind, embracing curiosity, and exploring possibilities beyond the obvious. Creative thinking allows us to break free from conventional thought patterns and discover new perspectives and solutions.

When we tap into our creative thinking abilities, we can approach challenges from different angles. It encourages us to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and consider alternative solutions. By engaging our creative minds, we can overcome mental blocks and find unique pathways to success.

The Importance of Embracing Challenges

While challenges may seem daunting, they are essential for personal and professional growth. Embracing challenges allows us to step out of our comfort zones, push our boundaries, and discover new capabilities. It is through overcoming challenges that we develop resilience, adaptability, and problem-solving skills.

When we view challenges as opportunities for growth and improvement, we shift our mindset from one of fear and avoidance to one of curiosity and excitement. Each obstacle becomes a chance to learn, innovate, and become better versions of ourselves. By embracing challenges, we can unlock our creative potential and navigate through them with confidence.

Strategies for Creative Problem-Solving

Now that we understand the importance of creative problem-solving, let’s explore some strategies and techniques to enhance our problem-solving abilities. While there are numerous approaches to creative problem-solving, we will focus on the following four key strategies:

1. Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking involves generating a wide range of ideas and possibilities. It encourages free-flowing, out-of-the-box thinking without limitations. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, involves narrowing down and evaluating the ideas generated during the divergent thinking phase. It helps us identify the most feasible and effective solutions.

To apply this strategy, start by brainstorming as many ideas as possible without judgment or evaluation. Allow your mind to wander and explore various possibilities. Once you have a list of ideas, evaluate each one based on their feasibility, effectiveness, and alignment with your goals. This process of alternating between divergent and convergent thinking will help you uncover creative solutions to your challenges.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a visual technique that allows you to organize and connect ideas in a non-linear manner. It involves creating a central idea or problem statement and branching out into subtopics or potential solutions. By visually representing the connections between different ideas, mind maps help stimulate creative thinking and generate new insights.

To create a mind map, start by writing down your central problem statement or idea in the center of a blank page. Then, draw branches radiating from the center and jot down relevant subtopics or potential solutions on each branch. You can further expand each subtopic with additional branches and ideas. This visual representation of your thoughts will help you explore different perspectives and uncover innovative solutions.

3. Role-Playing and Perspective Shifting

Role-playing and perspective shifting involves stepping into someone else’s shoes and viewing the challenge from their perspective. By adopting different roles or considering the problem from various viewpoints, we can gain new insights and uncover alternative solutions.

To apply this strategy, imagine yourself as a different person who is directly affected by the challenge. How would they approach the problem? What solutions would they propose? By temporarily shifting your perspective, you can gain fresh insights and discover unique approaches to your challenge.

4. Prototyping and Experimentation

Prototyping and experimentation involve creating tangible representations of your ideas and testing them in a real or simulated environment. It allows you to quickly identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement in your solutions. By embracing a mindset of continuous iteration and improvement, you can refine your ideas and find the most effective solution.

To implement this strategy, create a prototype or a small-scale version of your solution. Test it in a controlled environment, gather feedback, and make necessary adjustments. Repeat this process until you achieve a refined solution that addresses the challenge effectively. Through prototyping and experimentation, you can navigate through uncertainties and discover innovative solutions.

The Benefits of Creative Problem-Solving

Creative problem-solving offers numerous benefits that extend beyond finding solutions to immediate challenges. Let’s explore some of the key advantages of embracing a creative mindset:

  • Enhanced Critical Thinking Skills: Creative problem-solving enhances critical thinking skills by encouraging individuals to analyze problems, evaluate different perspectives, and make informed decisions.
  • Increased Innovation and Adaptability: By embracing creativity, individuals can discover innovative solutions and adapt to changing circumstances more effectively.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: Creative problem-solving promotes collaboration and teamwork by encouraging individuals to share ideas and perspectives, leading to collective intelligence and better solutions.
  • Improved Decision-Making: Creative thinking allows individuals to consider a wide range of factors, evaluate alternatives, and make informed decisions that lead to better outcomes.
  • Personal Growth and Self-Discovery: Through creative problem-solving, individuals can challenge their own limitations, discover new strengths, and develop a growth mindset.

In this journey of creative problem-solving, we have explored the power of embracing challenges and adopting a creative mindset. By thinking creatively, exploring different perspectives, and using various strategies, we can navigate through challenges and find innovative solutions. Remember, creative problem-solving is a skill that can be developed and honed with practice. So, embrace the challenges that come your way, unleash your creative potential, and navigate through them with confidence. Your ability to find unique solutions will not only benefit you but also inspire others to approach challenges with a creative mindset. Let your creativity be the compass that guides you to success.

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Entrepreneurs need to script their own journeys, figure out their own things, and solve problems. If you keep running back to your mentor at the drop of your hat, you’re not an entrepreneur. A true entrepreneur is a risk-taker, problem-solver, a person who’s willing to face challenges and failures.

– Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson, and MD of Biocon

While scripting your own life and career journey, it is imperative to master the skill of creative problem-solving. Successful people and organizations recognize that the solutions to their problems lie within themselves. They try to find them with a creative problem-solving process.

Most professionals face problems at work. It could be meeting a sales target or fixing a technical glitch in a product. Learning how to solve problems efficiently is a key skill for success at work and life in general. Sometimes, you have to think out of the box to solve problems creatively.

What is creative problem-solving?

Have you noticed how some people have a knack for turning a problem into an opportunity? Take the stones people throw at you and use them to build a monument, said former Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata. It was a fantastic way of expressing creative problem-solving at work.

Creative problem-solving involves approaching a problem or a challenge in an inventive way. It is a process that redefines problems and opportunities and helps us come up with innovative solutions.

Generally, the creative problem-solving process involves the following stages:

Identify the problem or the challenge

Generate ideas that may be possible solutions

Solve the problem with the help of generated ideas

Implement the solution plan and move to the next step

A well-planned and strategically executed creative problem-solving process brings team members together. It encourages proactive participation among colleagues.

Let’s look at an example. Seema was not happy with her career in the IT industry. She approached the problem by thinking about various options that appealed to her. Using her creative problem-solving skill, she decided to try her hand at travel blogging given her passion for travel and nose for digital marketing.

Let’s turn to some highly successful techniques of creative problem-solving.

Techniques of creative problem-solving

1. brainstorming.

Brainstorming is one of the most popular techniques of creative problem-solving. It is an individual as well as a group activity. When the city’s municipal corporation needs to come up with measures regarding safety and health, citizens are often asked to brainstorm and suggest innovative ideas. Brainstorming is a blend of creativity and problem-solving.

2. Mind-mapping

Mind-mapping is a useful creative problem-solving process. A mind map is a graphic representation of ideas and concepts. It is a visual tool for creativity and problem-solving. Mind maps help you categorize and structure information. They aid comprehension, analysis, and help generate innovative ideas. Seeing the problem and possible solutions represented in visual form helps many of us see the bigger picture and connect the dots.

3. Counterfactual Thinking

When Rosie has to take a call on a problem, she thinks about all her previous decisions. She thinks of the things that have gone wrong and the opportunities that she missed out on. Such counterfactual thinking helps her face the current problem and find a solution. Counterfactual thinking is one of the smartest examples of creative problem-solving at work. However, it is important not to channel negative emotions while going down the counterfactual thinking route. Use your past experiences to ensure you don’t repeat mistakes, seize opportunities, and measure how far you’ve come. Be present and future-focused, and don’t use counterfactual thoughts to get trapped in the “What ifs” of your past.

4. Abstraction

Abstraction is a great booster for creativity and problem-solving. When a creative director in an advertising agency has to design a campaign for a brand of fruit drinks or evening wear, he uses abstraction. He thinks about the emotions associated with the drink or the evening, such as camaraderie, romance, taste, health, joy, and so on. ( xanax )

You must have noticed many examples of creative problem-solving at work.

Deploying a thought experiment by using comparison or similarity as a tool

Breaking free from assumptions to think originally

Going beyond assigned tasks to experiment

Raising questions and seeking new viewpoints

Reapplying  rules that have worked previously

Stepping out  of your comfort zone and thinking differently

Go ahead and build a culture of creativity around you. Overcome your mental barriers and let your imagination run free. Navigate obstacles to solve problems and come up with innovative solutions.

Harappa Education’s Unleashing Creativity course teaches you how to generate, test, and refine new ideas. It empowers you with in-depth creativity and problem-solving skills by teaching you concepts such as the Disney Creative Tool framework involving three roles: including dreamers, realists, and critics. Assigning these roles to groups will help organizations brainstorm ideas, create plans, and identify roadblocks. to reach the desired goals successfully. Sign up and begin your creative problem-solving journey.

Explore topics such as Creative Thinking & How to be Creative at Work from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your strategic thinking skills .


creative problem solving

How You Can Use Creative Problem Solving at Work

Lucid Content

Reading time: about 4 min

How many times have you tried to solve a problem only to get stuck in the process? In a business setting, this is a common occurrence. You’re faced with issues that traditional problem solving methods can’t solve. But you still need to find a way to fix the issue to move a project forward or resolve a conflict. This is when you may need to get creative to solve the problem at hand.

What is creative problem solving?

The definition of creative problem solving (CPS) will vary between organizations. At its core, CPS involves approaching a problem in an imaginative, innovative, and unconventional way. The process encourages you to find new, creative ways of thinking that can help you overcome the issue at hand more quickly.

7 steps of the creative problem solving process

The CPS process can be broken down into seven steps.

creative problem solving process overview

1. Identify the goal

Before solving the problem, you need to fully understand the problem you’re trying to solve. You may have overlooked or misunderstood some details. Take some time to analyze the conflict and clear up any confusion.

2. Gather data

Once you know what the problem is, you need to learn all you can about it. Who does the problem affect? Who is involved in solving the issue? Gather all the knowledge you can to gain a better understanding of the issue and to solve it.

3. Formulate challenge questions

After you’ve gathered the details, turn the problem into a question. Word the question in a way that encourages suggestions or ideas. It should be short, concise, and only focus on a single issue. Once you’ve created one or two questions, start trying to answer them.

4. Explore ideas

This step is where the brainstorming begins. You’ll be creating possible ideas or solutions to the problem you’re facing. This is usually when the creativity really starts to flow. With so many ideas flowing, it’s crucial that you write each of them down—even the stupid ones. Even if the idea you come up with has little to no chance of working, write it down. Trying to sort out bad ideas from the good ones during this step can squash creativity.

5. Come up with solutions.  

Weed out the average ideas from the winners by testing each one. See if the possible solution actually solves the problem and if you can implement it successfully. If the potential solution doesn’t resolve the issue, move on to the next idea. Evaluating each idea will help you zero in on the perfect solution.

6. Create an action plan 

Now that you have the perfect solution, you’ll need to create an action plan outlining implementation steps. Consider what resources you’ll need and how long it will take. Then write it all down. Once you create the plan, communicate the approach to the rest of the team so they’re aware of what’s happening.

To help you create an organized and detailed plan, you can use swimlanes in Lucidchart.

7. Take action

With your plan created and your team on board, it’s time to implement your solution and resolve the problem.

CPS techniques

Just knowing the process behind CPS isn’t enough. You’ll want to know about the common creative problem solving ideas or techniques that you can use to be more successful during each phase. Below are a few of the techniques you can use to help you through the CPS process:

Synectics:  This technique helps to inspire thoughts that you might not be aware of. It is a way to approach creativity in a logical, rational manner.

TRIZ methodology (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving):  This problem solving methodology is based on logic, data, and research—not intuition. It involves adapting existing solutions to your particular problem.

Brainstorming:  Using this technique allows you to collect a number of ideas that can be a potential solution to a problem and can be used in either a group or individual setting.

Mind mapping:  Mind mapping helps keeps your ideas organized by representing them in a graphical manner.

mind map

Reversal of problem:  Trying to solve a problem using traditional problem solving methods can sometimes end in roadblocks.This technique forces you to think about a problem from a new perspective.

Looking beyond something’s function:  Thinking about how you can use something beyond its typical function is a common CPS technique.

SCAMPER:  This acronym can help you come up with new ideas. Each letter stands for a way you can manipulate an original idea to come up with something new:

  • S ubstitute
  • P ut to other uses

Why use CPS

No matter what profession you’re in, you will face challenges. There will be times when traditional problem solving techniques just don’t do the trick. That’s when you can take advantage of CPS to help uncover the best solution to your problem.

Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidchart.com.

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Creative Problem-Solving Techniques

Creative Problem-Solving Techniques

There are hundreds of different methods out there to assist you in solving problems. Some ways tend to be more on the creative side, while others might be a bit more logical. While both types of methods are great, sometimes one is better in a situation than another. It’s good to have some of each in your back pocket in case you need them!

As such, in this guide, we’ll teach you several of the best creative problem-solving techniques. Innovative techniques are best for when the usual logical strategies have failed or haven’t been good enough. They’re great if you’re a naturally creative thinker, too!

Break the Rules

Rules and regulations are often the antitheses of creativity. A creative mind can’t truly explore all of its options when it’s bound. As such, if you’re looking to find a creative solution to a problem, the first thing to do is take the rules off the table.

This is an option that many people never consider. For the sake of a creative solution to a problem, sometimes it’s okay to break a few rules. In any case, taking the rules away is still an excellent exercise, even if you need to reinstate them later. The simple act of removing the rules from the equation can help you come up with better ideas.

Creative problem solving is all about thinking of things that haven’t been done before. As such, it makes sense that removing the rules that helped previous generations of people make their decisions would result in new ideas.

There’s one big catch, though: even if you come up with a revolutionary idea, if you can’t work it around existing rules or change the rules to suit the creative idea, it’s not going to work anyway. However, even if you can’t come up with anything that complies with the rules initially, it’s a great way to get closer to the final, ideal solution.

Another shining benefit of breaking the rules is not having to worry about criticism or judgment. Under the assumption that the rules aren’t in play, you can suggest something entirely off-the-wall without needing to feel like it’s out of line. The purpose of suspending the rules is to let all creative thoughts flow; the ones that can’t be worked into the rules can be eliminated later, but they should all be recorded during the first brainstorming phase.

If you’re having trouble with this approach, try asking yourself, “What if?” What if X rule didn’t exist? What if this rule was different? Keep going with this approach until you come up with something entirely unlike anything that’s been suggested before.

Regardless of whether you’re playing with rules or not, you should always be generating (and recording) plenty of ideas. Often, this is called brainstorming, and it’s an activity that involves one or more people coming up with short, sweet ideas that might solve a problem.

Brainstorming is the preliminary stage – it’s not the place to spend significant chunks of time fleshing out a few ideas. Instead, try to come up with as many different potential solutions to the problem as possible. If you want a bit of organization, you can split them into two groups – likely to work and unlikely to work – or categorize them in another similar way.

Some problems seem simple enough that the first solution that comes to mind feels like the best. However, we’re not talking about regular problem solving with this article – we’re looking at creative problem-solving! If you’re looking for an innovative solution to a problem, it’s essential to take some time to flesh out that solution instead of merely taking the easiest route.

The best way to come up with an out-of-the-box idea is to eliminate all of the obvious choices. This forces you to think of a solution that’s not quite so mainstream. Naturally, our brains jump to the most straightforward answers or the ones we’re most familiar with first. By getting those out of the way, we’re forced to think about alternatives.

That’s not to say that the most simple and most natural ideas aren’t bad. Often, the most straightforward ideas end up being the best because they take up the least time and fewest resources. However, they’re usually not enough when you’re looking for something unusual, new, and different.

Give It Time

The worst thing to do when trying to come up with an excellent creative idea is to force it. While you may be able to brute force your way through typical problems by using solutions that your brain’s already familiar with, this is a very inefficient way to generate creativity.

Instead, try taking a short break, then returning to your activity. While this might seem counterproductive, just give it a try. You may find that your productivity and creativity feel recharged when you return to the task at hand.

When we’re focusing on something hard, we sometimes end up stressed, frustrated, or hyperfocused on the task at hand. Taking a second to get a drink, grab a snack, or even just use the restroom is a great way to give your brain a short breather. You can look at the situation with new eyes when you return, and you might even put something new together, too.

The best way to look at a problem with fresh eyes, though, is to sleep on it. When we dream, our subconscious brains make new connections that we might be unable to reach while awake. Not to mention that sleeping recharges both our minds and our bodies, giving us more energy to put towards a pervasive problem.

Ask for Help

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, and while many people treat it as a last resort, it doesn’t have to be. Getting a pair of fresh eyes when yours feel worn out is a great way to change your own perspective, as fresh eyes are more likely to have a different take than you yourself do.

If you feel like a task is above you, asking someone with more experience isn’t a bad idea, either. While asking someone to solve your problem for you is the wrong way to go about it, they might be able to give you a push in the right direction without being too inconvenienced.

Instead of asking someone, “How do I solve this problem?” ask them questions like:

  • What kinds of questions should I be asking?
  • What questions would you ask?
  • What issues should I address first?
  • Where can I look to for inspiration?
  • What techniques have worked for you in the past?

You don’t need to wait until it’s late in the game to ask for help, either. If you know a problem is going to test you, consider going into it asking some peers for their input. Getting their thoughts early on might be enough to speed you through the process and smooth the way more than it would be if you did it on your own.

The one thing to keep in mind when asking for help is that it should not be something you resort to every time. The goal when asking for help in creatively solving a problem is that it will provide you with knowledge or experience. That way, you’ll be capable of even better next time. Asking for help is an excellent tool to have in your arsenal, but you shouldn’t be dependent on it, either.

Change Your View

There are many ways to view a given problem, and sometimes, when we get sucked up into one, we forget this fact. For example, imagine that you work in advertising, and your company is asking you to build a good advertisement for a new product. You have a particular view and set of experiences as a marketer that will help you do this efficiently.

However, instead of falling back on those skills, try to imagine the request from the perspective of a different role. For example, Instead of a marketer advertising a new food product, imagine a farmer marketing that same product. What might they say instead? Would the ad be better-received?

This is just one example of another view you might take. You could consider building an ad from the customer’s perspective, the seller’s view, the manufacturer’s opinion, and even an unrelated entity’s view. If you think about it, you can probably call to mind some television commercials you’ve seen that utilize this kind of strategy – it’s not uncommon, and it tends to be successful.

Changing your view is a great way to address problems that are closer to home, too. For example, if sales on a product have dropped repeatedly for the last few months despite your best efforts, try considering whether your view might be wrong. For example:

  • Has the industry changed, and the product failed to keep up?
  • Has your target audience aged or changed somehow?
  • Is the product or service you’re selling obsolete or edged out by the competition?
  • Are you failing to meet your customer base’s needs?

If you’re trying to solve this type of problem, you’ve probably heard the terms “microscopic” and “macroscopic” in regards to business. Switching from a macroscopic view to a microscopic view or vice versa is a great way to bring new clarity to an issue. If you focus on the small details for too long, you might lose sight of the big details. The opposite is true, also.

Check Yourself First

Sometimes, when we’re experiencing difficulty with solving a problem, the issue isn’t the problem at all. Sometimes, it can be inner turmoil and personal problems getting in your own way. This is especially common when working with a team, as interpersonal conflicts can get in the way of a solution quite quickly.

While personal or interpersonal issues won’t always be an issue when solving problems, it’s still a good idea to do a quick self-check before you begin. Ask yourself if anything’s holding you back, whether anything will get in the way in the process, and, most importantly, whether you’re working at your peak potential.

Of course, most of us don’t work at top efficiency every day. However, you want to stay as close as you can, as much as you can (within reason). Always tackle a creative problem with your best side.

Personal biases are another part of yourself that can sometimes get in the way of solving a problem creatively. For example, if a given problem-solving method failed for you once in the past, you might be reluctant to try it again. This could keep you from attempting an excellent strategy.

Sadly, personal biases can keep us from working well with others sometimes, too. Teamwork synergizes very well with creative problem-solving, so shunning teamwork because you dislike someone else can be a real shame.

Of course, if you and someone else on your team just don’t get along, sometimes it’s unavoidable that conflicts will happen. However, working past that and doing the best work you can with that other person is still just as important.

If you do end up in a situation where you must work with someone that you don’t get along with, consider keeping some strategies in mind to keep yourself centered . There are many things you can do to blow off steam and keep wild emotions in check, but some examples include:

  • Going for a walk or run
  • Taking a lunch break
  • Visiting a counselor or therapist
  • Going to church
  • Breathing exercises

The Six Hats Method

The Six Hats Method , coined by Edward DeBono, is a great tool that helps to encourage thinking about an issue from multiple angles. The Six Hat Method works as such: there are six hats, and each one represents a particular emotion, feeling, or stance. These hats include:

  • The white hat: facts
  • The red hat: emotions
  • The black hat: negative logic
  • The yellow hat: positive logic
  • The green hat: creativity
  • The blue hat: thought

Typically, we each wear one hat or a combination of a few colored hats to solve a problem. However, if you take the time to wear a different hat, you might see vastly different results than you’re used to seeing.

For example, think about someone who might natively wear a logical hat. They might not think about how a consumer might feel about a product or advertisement emotionally. By wearing an emotional hat instead, they can get a very different and precious insight into their problem that they might never have seen otherwise.

The first step to using the Six Hats Method is to determine which hat (or combination of hats) you natively wear. No test or quiz will tell you that answer, so you’ll have to figure it out yourself or with the help of friends.

Switching hats on your own is a great way to look at a problem from a different angle. However, the real purpose of the Six Hats Method is to guide teams of people when working through issues. For example, you might specify before a meeting that everyone wears a blue hat or a red hat that day. This is a great way to get everyone on the same page, especially when addressing a problem that’s related to one of the hats.

Open Communication

This should be a no-brainer for anyone looking for a creative solution to an existing problem, but an environment where solutions are being proposed should always be open, judgment-free, and available for all to contribute to. If someone feels like they’re going to be judged or excluded when they mention their idea, they’ll be reluctant or unwilling to share it.

If some people on the team are unwilling to share their ideas, not only is this an excellent way to breed resentment between members, but it leaves you without ideas that might have been helpful, too. As such, keeping open, accepting communication available should be a very high priority.

Use a Guide

If you’re really stuck on solving a problem, one solution that’s accessible to just about anyone is to use a preformed guide or method. The Six Hats Method is one example, but obviously, that one got its own section because it’s so useful for creative problem-solving.

There are hundreds of different methods out there for you to choose from. In fact, Creative Problem Solving, or CPS , is a method in and of itself. CPS is a step-by-step approach that has seven different stages. They are as follows:

  • Identify the goal
  • Gather data
  • Formulate questions
  • Explore the ideas
  • Identify solutions
  • Create a plan
  • Take action

The steps above are rather self-explanatory based on their names. CPS isn’t the only option available to you, though – if CPS doesn’t appeal to you or work well for you, there are certainly plenty of others. CPS is an excellent place to start, though, because of its simplicity and ease of understanding.

Gain Experience

As you’re solving all sorts of problems, the goal is always that you’ll accrue experience to help you answer questions more effectively in the future. While you’ll do this passively just by working and figuring out your own problems, you can jump-start the process, too.

A great way to do this is to accept whatever jobs come your way. Normally, if you’re given the opportunity to do something extra at work, you might turn it down. However, by accepting instead, you’re gaining even more experience in the long run.

Even if not many opportunities like this come your way, they add up in the long run. Maximizing your experience will maximize your growth, too. Having fewer opportunities coming your way makes it all the more vital that you accept the ones that are available to you!

Creative Problem-Solving Activities

In the following paragraphs, we’ll go through some smaller activities that are designed to stimulate creative problem-solving. Rather than being something to live by, these are things that you can pick up when you’re having trouble getting over an obstacle.

Newspaper Headline

This is a fun little exercise that challenges your command of words, as well as your ability to isolate an issue. For this exercise, you need to frame the problem you’re having trouble with as if it were a tabloid header or newspaper title.

Feel free to write about your problem in one of two ways: either as the problem itself or as if it’s been solved already. For example, you could try something like, “Office worker solves customer dissatisfaction with unbelievable life hack.” This is a very vague example – you should be much more specific with yours – but it’s a great place to get started.

Not only does this exercise make you think about and narrow down the problem itself, but it helps you to sift through potential solutions, too. It’s also an incredibly fun exercise! You can make your headline as funny or as serious as you want, though this exercise lends itself well to comedic relief.

All in all, this exercise is a great way to release some stress while still familiarizing yourself with the issue at hand. It has even more potential to be entertaining when done in a group setting. That is, if you can do it with a straight face!

Creating mock-ups in design fields is incredibly common. Technologies like CAD and other virtual modeling programs are designed to let you build a part or product in 3D space. Granted, mocking up a product on the computer means it’s only virtual, but there are ways to make them physical, too.

The easiest way to make a physical mock-up of a problem or a plan is to do it with whatever items you have on hand. You might use pieces of paper, cardboard, tape, sticky notes, or just about anything else. However, you can get more serious about it too, like with blocks, diagrams, pipes, and much more.

If you want to make a very precise mock-up in physical space, there is always the option of building something with a program, then 3D-printing it. While 3D modeling programs do have some learning curves involved, the payoff is excellent once you learn how to use them efficiently. It may not be worth putting in the effort to learn unless you plan to use the program often, though.

Flip a Coin

Many people say that, if you can’t decide between two outcomes, the best way to decide is to flip a coin. If you genuinely can’t choose between both results, the coin will make the decision for you. However, in the majority of cases, the act of flipping a coin will help you make that final decision.

The theory behind this is that, in the act of flipping the coin, the outcome that you’re secretly hoping for will become apparent to you. For some people, when the coin is in the air, they’ll find themselves wishing for the coin to land on a particular side. For others, when the coin face is revealed, they’ll either feel relief or disappointment with the result.

Work Backward

When you come across a particularly tricky issue, try solving it backward. Instead of trying to come up with solutions to your problem, envision the problem being solved, instead. What are the results of the problem being solved? How was it settled in your mind? What methods won’t work to get to the end you have in mind?

Solving a puzzle by working backward is actually an incredibly useful strategy, and many professionals and non-professionals alike use it to help solve problems. Think of traditional jigsaw puzzles, for example. The idea is to start with a picture in mind, and you put the pieces back together based on where they fit into the picture. A picture jigsaw is the purest example of working backward that you can get!

However, this approach doesn’t work for all puzzles; don’t get too frustrated if it doesn’t always end up being the correct solution to your problem. Consider the brain game Sudoku, for example. In this game, you can’t work backward at all, because the point is to find the solution at the end. You have no choice but to work forward from whatever starting clues they give you.

Build a Timeline

A great way to decide between several finalist ideas to one problem is to build a timeline for each of them. For example, start with the successful implementation of your solution. Perhaps you’ve decided to add easy-open lids to a line of jarred foods to make them accessible to the elderly or handicapped.

Let’s imagine now that you have three different designs that you can’t choose from. While making the timeline for the first one, you realize that the lids have small parts that might pose a choking hazard. This would make the jar more accessible to the elderly and disabled, but it might drive off families with small children.

By making timelines like this for each product, you might come across future repercussions that could arise from your decision-making in the long run.

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Comparing Creative Problem Solving Techniques for Best Results


Problem-solving is a crucial skill in both personal and professional settings. Whether it’s addressing a complex issue at work or finding creative solutions to everyday challenges, effective problem-solving leads to better outcomes and increased productivity. However, not all problems can be approached in the same way. Different techniques are available to tackle various problems, and choosing the right approach is essential for optimal results.

In this article, we will explore and compare different creative problem-solving techniques to help you identify the best approach for your specific needs. By understanding the various techniques and their advantages and disadvantages, you can make an informed decision on which approach to implement and increase your chances of successful problem resolution.

Let’s begin by examining the technique of design thinking.

Technique 1: Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach that prioritizes empathy and user-centered design. It emphasizes understanding the needs and desires of the end-users and applying creative solutions to meet those needs effectively. This technique is widely used in various fields, including product design, business strategy, and social innovation.

Components of Design Thinking

Design thinking consists of several key components, each contributing to the overall problem-solving process. These components are:

Empathy : Design thinking starts by empathizing with the users and gaining a deep understanding of their experiences, frustrations, and desires. This involves conducting user research, interviews, and observations to gather insights.

Ideation : Once the user needs are understood, the ideation phase begins. This involves brainstorming and generating a wide range of ideas to address the identified problems. The goal is to encourage creativity and divergent thinking to explore multiple possibilities.

Prototyping : After generating ideas, the next step is to create prototypes or mock-ups that represent potential solutions. Prototypes can be physical models, digital simulations, sketches, or storyboards. Prototyping allows for quick iteration and feedback before investing in the final solution.

Testing : The prototypes are then tested with the end-users to gather feedback and insights. This feedback helps refine and improve the solutions. Testing can be done through user interviews, surveys, or usability testing. The iterative nature of design thinking allows for continuous improvement based on user feedback.

Examples of Successful Problem-Solving using Design Thinking

Design thinking has been successfully applied to various real-world problems. For example:

Airbnb : To address the challenge of trust between hosts and guests, Airbnb conducted extensive user research to understand user concerns. They then iteratively tested and improved their user interface and policies to build trust and confidence in the platform.

PepsiCo : PepsiCo used design thinking to develop a sustainable packaging solution for its Frito-Lay snacks division. By empathizing with users and understanding their environmental concerns, PepsiCo designed a compostable packaging material that reduced waste and aligned with consumer preferences.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Design Thinking

Design thinking offers several advantages in problem-solving:

User-centered approach : By focusing on the needs and desires of users, design thinking ensures that the solutions are tailored to meet their specific requirements, resulting in higher user satisfaction.

Encourages Creativity : Design thinking encourages divergent thinking, enabling teams to explore a wide range of ideas and solutions. This creative approach often leads to innovative problem-solving.

Promotes Collaboration : Design thinking involves multidisciplinary teams working together, fostering collaboration and a diversity of perspectives. This collaborative approach encourages teamwork and facilitates holistic problem-solving.

However, there are also some challenges and limitations associated with design thinking:

Time and Resource Intensive : Conducting comprehensive user research, ideation, prototyping, and testing can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Organizations with limited time or budget constraints may find it challenging to fully embrace design thinking.

Subjectivity and Bias : Design thinking relies on empathy and user insights, which can be subjective and influenced by biased interpretations. It is crucial to mitigate biases through rigorous research and involve a diverse range of users to avoid overlooking important perspectives.

Despite these limitations, design thinking remains a powerful problem-solving technique that can drive innovation, improve user experiences, and lead to successful outcomes.

Technique 2: Six Thinking Hats

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique is a powerful tool for creative problem-solving. It provides a framework for exploring different perspectives and generating innovative solutions. The technique is based on the idea that our thinking can be categorized into six different modes, each represented by a different colored hat. By using these hats metaphorically, individuals or teams can deliberately switch between different modes of thinking and enhance their problem-solving abilities.

The Six Hats

The White Hat: This hat represents neutral and objective thinking. When wearing the white hat, individuals focus on gathering and analyzing data and information. They strive to separate facts from opinions or biases. The white hat allows for an objective assessment of the current situation and helps identify any gaps in knowledge.

The Red Hat: The red hat symbolizes emotions and intuition. When wearing the red hat, individuals are encouraged to express their feelings, intuitions, and gut reactions. This mode of thinking allows for an exploration of emotions and personal perspectives without the need for justification or evidence.

The Black Hat: The black hat represents critical and cautious thinking. When wearing the black hat, individuals adopt a skeptical mindset and focus on identifying potential risks, weaknesses, and drawbacks. This mode of thinking helps in anticipating possible challenges and avoiding hasty decisions.

The Yellow Hat: The yellow hat embodies optimistic and positive thinking. When wearing the yellow hat, individuals focus on identifying the benefits, possibilities, and advantages of various options. This mode of thinking encourages the exploration of opportunities and potential positive outcomes.

The Green Hat: The green hat represents creative and innovative thinking. When wearing the green hat, individuals engage in brainstorming and generate new ideas, concepts, and alternatives. This mode of thinking encourages thinking outside the box, exploring multiple perspectives, and considering unconventional solutions.

The Blue Hat: The blue hat symbolizes control and organization of the thinking process. When wearing the blue hat, individuals take on the role of a facilitator or a moderator. They guide the thinking process, manage time, and ensure that all the other hats are used effectively. The blue hat helps in setting the agenda, establishing goals, and directing the overall problem-solving process.

Real-life Examples

The Six Thinking Hats technique has been successfully applied in various fields and industries. One notable example is the healthcare sector. In a hospital setting, a team of doctors and nurses can use the six hats to analyze a complex patient case. The white hat helps them gather and review objective medical data. The red hat allows them to express their emotional concerns and personal views. The black hat aids in identifying potential risks and contraindications. The yellow hat enables them to consider positive treatment outcomes. The green hat facilitates the generation of novel treatment options. Lastly, the blue hat ensures that the team stays focused and follows a systematic problem-solving approach.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Six Thinking Hats technique offers several advantages. Firstly, it promotes effective teamwork by allowing individuals to switch between different thinking modes and consider multiple perspectives. This encourages a more comprehensive and well-rounded approach to problem-solving. Secondly, it enhances creativity by providing a structured framework for generating innovative ideas. The different hats create a balance between analytical and intuitive thinking. Additionally, the technique is easy to understand and apply, making it accessible to individuals with varying levels of expertise.

However, there are also some potential disadvantages of using the Six Thinking Hats technique. Firstly, it may not be suitable for all types of problems. Some complex issues may require in-depth analysis and expertise that cannot be fully addressed using the six hats alone. Secondly, the technique heavily relies on active participation and engagement from all team members. If not everyone actively contributes or if there is a dominant individual, the effectiveness of the technique may be compromised. Lastly, some individuals may find it challenging to switch between different modes of thinking, particularly if they are more inclined towards a specific thinking style.

In conclusion, the Six Thinking Hats technique is a valuable tool for enhancing creative problem-solving. By incorporating different modes of thinking, individuals or teams can approach problems from multiple perspectives and generate innovative solutions. While the technique has its advantages and disadvantages, it remains a popular and widely used approach in various industries and sectors.

Technique 3: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a popular and effective creative problem-solving technique that encourages the generation of a wide range of ideas. It involves a group of individuals working together to brainstorm, share ideas, and build upon each other’s suggestions. The goal of brainstorming is to promote free thinking and generate as many ideas as possible, without judgment or criticism.

Traditional Brainstorming

One commonly used method of brainstorming is traditional brainstorming. In this approach, a group of people comes together and freely shares their ideas on a specific problem or topic. These ideas are then written down on a board or a piece of paper for everyone to see.

Traditional brainstorming encourages active participation from all participants and fosters the exploration of various perspectives. It allows for the development of a diverse set of ideas, which can lead to innovative solutions. The lack of judgment or criticism during this process creates an open and non-threatening environment, which can boost creativity.

However, traditional brainstorming also has its disadvantages. The sheer number of ideas generated can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. Some ideas may be irrelevant, impractical, or repetitive. Additionally, certain individuals may dominate the conversation, hindering the input from quieter or introverted team members.

Brainwriting 6-3-5

To address some of the challenges of traditional brainstorming, a structured method called Brainwriting 6-3-5 can be used. This technique involves a group of six participants who write down three ideas each within five minutes, hence the name. After the initial round, the ideas are passed on to the next person, who builds upon them or generates new ideas based on the existing ones. This process continues until all participants have contributed to each idea.

Brainwriting 6-3-5 allows for a more systematic and organized approach to brainstorming. It ensures that everyone’s ideas are heard and considered, reducing the risk of dominant voices overpowering the discussion. The structured nature of this technique also helps manage the volume of ideas and prevents repetition.

However, Brainwriting 6-3-5 may not be as effective for fostering spontaneous creativity as traditional brainstorming. The time limit for generating ideas can restrict the flow of creative thinking, and some participants may feel pressured to come up with ideas quickly. It may also lack the energy and collaborative spirit that can be found in traditional brainstorming sessions.

Successful Problem-Solving Using Brainstorming

Brainstorming has been successfully used in various problem-solving scenarios. For example, in a marketing team, brainstorming sessions are often conducted to generate new and innovative ideas for product promotions. The diverse perspectives and shared creativity of team members can lead to breakthrough ideas that resonate with the target audience.

Additionally, brainstorming has been applied in the field of technology and innovation. Companies like Google and Apple have famously adopted brainstorming as part of their problem-solving processes. These sessions have led to the development of groundbreaking products and software.

Comparison of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Brainstorming

When comparing the advantages and disadvantages of brainstorming, it becomes clear that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Brainstorming promotes open communication, stimulates creative thinking, and generates a variety of ideas. It encourages collaboration and teamwork, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement among participants.

However, the disadvantages of brainstorming should not be overlooked. Traditional brainstorming can be chaotic and unstructured, resulting in a large number of ideas that may be difficult to manage. Dominant individuals may overshadow others, and some ideas may not be fully explored or developed.

Brainwriting 6-3-5, on the other hand, provides a more structured approach that encourages equal participation and manages the flow of ideas effectively. However, it may lack the spontaneity and energy that can be present in traditional brainstorming sessions.

In conclusion, brainstorming is a valuable technique in creative problem-solving. Whether using traditional brainstorming or a structured method like Brainwriting 6-3-5, it promotes the generation of diverse ideas and fosters collaboration. The choice between traditional brainstorming and structured methods depends on the specific problem, the dynamics of the group, and the desired outcomes.

Technique 4: TRIZ

TRIZ, short for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, is a highly structured approach to problem-solving that was developed in Russia by Genrich Altshuller in the 1940s. TRIZ is based on the idea that there are universal patterns in the development of inventive solutions, and that these patterns can be identified and used to overcome contradictions and find innovative solutions.

Overview of TRIZ

TRIZ is built on the principle that every problem has an underlying contradiction that prevents an ideal solution from being achieved. The goal of TRIZ is to identify and resolve these contradictions in order to find the most effective solution.

TRIZ provides a systematic framework that consists of several tools and techniques for problem analysis, idea generation, and evaluation. These tools include the “40 Inventive Principles,” the “Contradiction Matrix,” and the “Su-Field Analysis.”

Key Principles and Tools of TRIZ

Contradiction Matrix : The Contradiction Matrix is one of the key tools in TRIZ. It consists of a table that matches specific types of contradictions with corresponding inventive principles. By identifying the specific contradictions at play in a problem, TRIZ practitioners can then apply the most relevant inventive principles to solve the problem.

40 Inventive Principles : The 40 Inventive Principles are a set of general principles that have been derived from the analysis of thousands of patents and successful inventions. These principles provide guidelines for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Examples of these principles include “segmentation,” “extraction,” and “transition to a new dimension.”

Su-Field Analysis : Su-Field Analysis is a technique used in TRIZ to analyze the relationships between the system (Su), the object being acted upon (Field), and the action or effect produced (Result). By understanding these relationships, TRIZ practitioners can gain insights into the underlying contradictions and identify potential solutions.

Examples of Successful Problem-Solving using TRIZ

One example of successful problem-solving using TRIZ is the development of the non-stick frying pan. The contradiction in this case was the desire to have food easily released from the pan while also ensuring even heat distribution for optimal cooking. By analyzing the contradiction using the Contradiction Matrix and applying the “Segregation Principle” (one of the 40 Inventive Principles), the solution of using a Teflon coating on the pan’s surface was discovered. This solution addressed the contradiction by creating a non-stick surface that allowed for easy food release without compromising heat distribution.

Another example of TRIZ in action is the development of the barcode scanner. The contradiction in this case was the need to accurately read barcodes of varying sizes and orientations. By using Su-Field Analysis and applying the “Dynamics” principle (another inventive principle), the solution of creating a laser-based scanner that could dynamically adjust to different barcode types was developed.

Advantages and Disadvantages of TRIZ

Like any problem-solving technique, TRIZ has both advantages and disadvantages.

Some advantages of TRIZ include:

  • Provides a systematic and structured approach to problem-solving
  • Offers a wide range of tools and techniques for problem analysis and idea generation
  • Enables the identification of underlying contradictions and the generation of innovative solutions
  • Provides a knowledge base of principles and patterns derived from successful inventions

However, TRIZ also has some potential disadvantages:

  • Requires a deep understanding and knowledge of the TRIZ principles and tools, which can be time-consuming to acquire
  • May not be suitable for all types of problems, especially those that are more subjective or ambiguous
  • Can be rigid and may not allow for a high degree of creativity or intuition in the problem-solving process

In conclusion, TRIZ is a powerful problem-solving technique that offers a structured and systematic approach to overcoming contradictions and finding innovative solutions. While it may not be suitable for every problem, it can be an effective tool for generating breakthrough ideas and solving complex problems in various domains.

Technique 5: Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis is a problem-solving technique that aims to identify the underlying cause of a problem rather than just treating its symptoms. By understanding and addressing the root cause, organizations can prevent the recurrence of similar issues in the future.

Introduction to Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a systematic approach used to identify the primary cause of a problem or an event. It involves a thorough investigation and analysis of the problem, aiming to determine the underlying factors that contributed to its occurrence. Rather than focusing solely on the immediate and visible causes, RCA aims to dig deeper and uncover the fundamental reasons behind the problem.

Steps to Conducting Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis typically involves several sequential steps to ensure a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the problem:

Identify the Problem : The first step is to clearly define and articulate the problem. This includes identifying the symptoms, impacts, and consequences of the problem.

Gather Data : Collect relevant data and information related to the problem. This may include incident reports, historical records, process documentation, and input from individuals involved.

Ask “Why?” : Start with the problem statement and ask “why” the problem occurred. Repeat this questioning process to drill down to the underlying reasons and identify contributing factors. This technique, known as the “5 Whys,” helps in identifying the root cause by repeatedly asking why until the fundamental issue is revealed.

Analyze the Causes : Once the root cause has been identified, analyze the contributing causes that led to its occurrence. This may involve performing a cause-and-effect analysis, using tools like fishbone diagrams or fault tree analysis.

Develop Solutions : Based on the identified root cause and contributing factors, brainstorm and develop potential solutions to address the problem. These solutions should target the root cause rather than merely addressing the symptoms.

Implement and Monitor : Implement the selected solution and closely monitor its effectiveness. Track the progress and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the problem does not recur.

Real-Life Examples of Successful Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis has been successfully applied across various industries and sectors. Here are a few examples:

Airline Industry : Following an aircraft accident, root cause analysis was used to identify systemic issues within an airline’s maintenance processes, leading to changes in training, procedures, and safety protocols.

Healthcare Sector : Root cause analysis is commonly used to investigate medical errors, patient safety incidents, and adverse events. It helps identify failures in processes, communication, and healthcare systems that contributed to the incidents.

Manufacturing Sector : When a product defect occurred in a manufacturing facility, root cause analysis helped identify a flaw in the production process. By addressing the underlying issue, the company was able to improve product quality and minimize defects.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis offers several advantages that make it a valuable problem-solving technique:

Prevention of Recurrence : By identifying and addressing the root cause, organizations can prevent the recurrence of similar problems or events.

Comprehensive Understanding : Root cause analysis provides a deeper understanding of the problem, helping organizations develop targeted and effective solutions.

Systemic Improvement : RCA often reveals underlying issues in processes, systems, or organizational culture, enabling organizations to implement broader improvements beyond the immediate problem.

However, root cause analysis also has some limitations:

Time and Resource Intensive : Conducting a thorough root cause analysis requires time, resources, and expertise. This may not always be feasible, particularly in urgent or time-sensitive situations.

Subjectivity and Bias : The process of identifying the root cause relies on human judgment, which can introduce subjectivity and biases. This emphasizes the importance of a multidisciplinary approach and diverse perspectives in RCA.

Complexity : Identifying the root cause can be challenging, especially in complex systems where multiple factors may contribute to a problem. It requires careful analysis and consideration of various interdependencies.

In conclusion, root cause analysis is a powerful problem-solving technique that aims to uncover the underlying causes of a problem. By understanding the root cause, organizations can implement targeted and effective solutions, preventing future occurrences. However, it is essential to consider the time, resources, and complexity involved in conducting a comprehensive root cause analysis.

In this article, we have discussed and compared various creative problem-solving techniques with the goal of determining the best approach for optimal results.

Design thinking, which emphasizes empathy, ideation, prototyping, and testing, offers a human-centric and collaborative approach to problem-solving. It encourages innovative thinking and has been successfully applied in various industries and fields. However, design thinking may require significant time and resources to implement and may not always be suitable for complex or technical problems.

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique provides a structured approach to problem-solving by encouraging different perspectives and viewpoints. Each hat represents a different mode of thinking, enabling the exploration of different angles and potential solutions to a problem. This technique is particularly effective in fostering creativity and collaboration but may lack a systematic approach for problem analysis and evaluation.

Brainstorming, whether in its traditional form or with variations like Brainwriting 6-3-5, fosters a free flow of ideas and encourages participants to think outside the box. It is a versatile technique that can be applied in different contexts and can lead to innovative solutions. However, brainstorming sessions can sometimes be dominated by a few individuals, and the sheer volume of ideas generated may require additional time and effort to evaluate and refine.

TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, introduces a systematic and analytical approach to problem-solving. It provides a comprehensive set of principles and tools for identifying and resolving contradictions in complex problems. TRIZ has been successful in various industries and has a strong focus on innovation. However, applying TRIZ may require advanced training and expertise, and it may not be suitable for simpler or more straightforward problems.

Root cause analysis offers a structured approach to problem-solving by identifying and addressing the underlying causes of a problem. It helps prevent recurring issues and drives continuous improvement. By understanding the root causes, organizations can implement effective solutions that tackle the problem at its source. However, root cause analysis requires time, resources, and a thorough understanding of the problem to achieve accurate results.

When choosing the best technique for problem-solving, it is essential to consider the specific problem and context. Each technique has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and what works well in one situation may not be the best fit for another. It is crucial to assess the problem’s complexity, the available resources, and the desired outcome before selecting the most appropriate technique.

In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for creative problem-solving. The best results are achieved when the right technique is chosen based on the problem’s nature and context. By understanding and comparing various creative problem-solving techniques like design thinking, Six Thinking Hats, brainstorming, TRIZ, and root cause analysis, individuals and organizations can make informed decisions and apply the most suitable approach to achieve optimal problem-solving results.

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  1. Problem Solving Techniques

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  3. 5 principles to solve any problem|problem solving skills|Urdu|Hindi|

  4. Root Cause Problem Solving (Fishbone Analysis and 5 Whys)

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