This paper seeks to explore and understand the value of Creative Problem Solving (CPS) in business, how it relates to the field of consultancy and some opportunities open to any CPS practitioner for future development. The approach will be not only of defining the most valuable aspects but to suggest some of the ways to convey its meaning to the client.
CPS: The need to redefine oneself
Unfortunately the label “Creative Problem Solving” has Research Problem not made justice to itself since the model does not only solve current “problems” but also present and future challenges. This is not semantic frivolity. In the minds of businessmen around the world problems and opportunities or challenges are distinct issues. Moreover, the word ‘creativity’ does not have the same impact as ‘innovation’ in the mind of the executive even though creativity is the backbone of innovation and creativity consultants have facilitated innovation processes in companies. It is the duty of the consultant to give a brief introduction to the concepts to enlarge the definition of creativity in the mind of the client, which is likely to be influenced by some sort of bias, e.g. this is related to art or unimportant and irrelevant.
CPS: a simple, flexible, eclectic, holistic and transferable process
CPS tackles its talk from a four-pronged approach. First, it involves a simple three stage model: exploration, ideation and implementation. The consultant will have to decide what the most suitable starting point in the process is. However, the understanding of these three parts is very useful in working out the problem as they interrelate. For instance, ideas produced at the ideation stage can give you an idea of the nature of the problem (exploration phase) or about potential obstacles to the application of the solution (implementation phase). After spending two sessions with a client of mine involved in real estate exploring the problem (marketing real estate) we started the ideation phase. At the end of the session the client finally found out the main approach he wanted to give to his ideation: building trust with customers giving a ‘family feeling’ to the business. The eclecticism of the system is shown as it allows the flexibility to use over 200 different thinking tools to diverge (generation of ideas) and converge (selection of ideas).
Second, CPS introduces the basic thinking principles of divergence and convergence. The search for alternatives, being one of the main characteristics of creative thinking, contributes to make the best out of the three stages as group members come up with different ideas following certain guidelines. In convergence, the client or the group select ideas using tools to sort and assess them to find the best ones also following certain guidelines.
Thirdly, CPS offers guidelines that have been proven to enhance creativity for both divergence and convergence processes (Parnes, 1986). These concepts need to be explained carefully to the client. For example differing judgment includes more than criticizing someone else’s ideas. It is also about self-criticism and even about judging our judgments (Ray, 1986). This principle is also used in other models such as the McKinsey problem solving method. It is not only a matter of judgment but also of “leaving the preconceptions and prejudices at the door” (Rasiel, 1999). Linking CPS practices to other reputable models will also help the client understand and build credibility. The principle of “going for quantity” also needs to be explained in the light of Alex Osborn’s research in his book Applied Imagination (1963) and supplemented by other research in the field (Parnes, 1986 and Bassadur, 1982). Clients are not usually looking for a research paper full of references and theory but they will ask directly or pose an implicit demand for some sort of external validation. This external validation should be composed of: