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Creative Problem Solving Leads to Organisational Innovation

~ By Tim Millett

Woman with a good idea

The words "creative problem solving" have almost become more like buzzwords tossed around the workplace and never really landing anywhere. Everyone knows intuitively that creative problem solving can work, and it's the "thing to do" in a participatory organisation, but exactly what does it mean and what benefits can be obtained?

Creative problem solving is a method of approaching change within the organisation. It usually involves a team approach, because people within the workplace are empowered to participate in the change process when looking for creative solutions. An effective organisation recognises that its own personnel often hold the keys to innovation within themselves and only need the right outlet to share their experience based ideas.

A Creative Change Agent

In other words, creative problem solving is a method of finding innovative approaches for problem resolution. The problem may be any of a number of situations or needs. For example, the problem may be stated in terms of the need to resolve interdepartmental conflict which is reducing efficiency. On the other hand, the problem may be a need for a product innovation in order to improve the company's competitive standing within its industry.

No matter what the problem or need the business may be addressing, creative ideas and fresh approaches can often make the difference between a successful company and one that is unable to remain efficient and competitive. It also offers a way to introduce change into an organisation that minimises the normal fear that usually accompanies change. The creative problem solving process becomes a change agent that can turn resistance into action.

Seeing a Problem as an Opportunity

One of the most important features of the creative problem solving process is the fact it turns a problem into an opportunity to improve the organisation. Instead of just relying on traditional ideas or past practices to resolve a problem, the creative approach encourages people to participate in a dynamic setting which encourages new ideas and approaches.

The fact is that most organisations have the creative power within their own setting among the staff. The creative process brings together various people including managers, office personnel, line workers or supervisors, and many others. The people chosen to participate depends on the problem being solved.

The creative process follows a format which takes the group up to the moment when creative thinking is unleashed. In the initial stages, the process first accomplishes the following:

  • Identifies the problem in traditional terms
  • Establishes goals
  • Empowers participants
  • Develops criteria for choosing ideas
  • Focuses on how to "sell" the creative idea

Popular creative problem solving strategies which have been developed include brainstorming, mind mapping, and even role or team game playing. In every situation, the goal is to empower people to feel comfortable enough to freely generate ideas without fear of criticism.

The Path of Creativity

In both brainstorming and mind mapping, ideas are suggested which may or may not seem reasonable on the surface. But no idea is eliminated and all ideas are welcomed. One idea is mapped or associated with another idea and a path of ideas leads to one or more creative solutions to a problem. The solution chosen depends on the criteria established at the beginning of the process.

In creative problem solving, organisational members are encouraged to participate and the process provides recognition to the people who are major contributors to the success of the business to date. It promotes teamwork, unity, creative approaches, and positive energy. However, possibly the most important success factor in creative problem solving is ensuring that time is dedicated regularly to the creativity process.


Timothy Millett, head trainer at i perform, has extensive expertise in performance training, sales training and customer service training. Tim has helped participants from organisations such as SWIFT and UBS achieve peak levels of personal performance. For more information please visit i perform


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