Numerous studies support the increasing importance of Creative Problem Solving (CPS) skills not only in today’s setting but for the future of work. Bloomberg’s jobs skills report identified that creative problem-solving skills are among the top 5 skills that recruiters consider most important and hardest to find among job candidates.

Technological advancements also push forth this growing need for workers to become creative problem solvers. With technology and automation making work easier, employees are expected to evolve their proficiency not only in technical skills but also in interpersonal and creative skills.

Importance of Creative Problem Solving

No business is immune to problems. Whether in daily operations or strategic planning, employees are met with daily problems at work. Not all problems will simply require technical know-how. Many problems, especially when it comes to growth and driving improvement, will require creative thinking.

When employees use CPS, they can come up with out-of-the-box ideas and solutions. If you want to make an impact in your organization or drive your business to greater heights, you need to practice creative problem-solving skills at work.

Creative Problem Solving at Work

While some people think that CPS is about brainstorming, it’s more than that. What is Creative Problem Solving anyway?

Creative Problem Solving is an approach that makes use of techniques that stimulate new ideas to come up with innovative and unconventional solutions to problems. It’s the recognition that predictive and obvious solution approaches won’t be enough if you want to make a significant impact on your organization and customers. CPS is not just coming up with creative ideas, it’s a methodical process that requires conscious effort and time.

CPS can be used in a variety of situations that require new ideas or out-of-the-box approaches. But in case you’re wondering when you need to channel your inner creative-problem-solver, here are some scenarios where you can do so. We’ve also added sample creative challenges for each scenario.

  • Growth challenges
    • How to get 10,000 new members for our subscription service?
    • How to increase our revenue by 20% next quarter?
  • Coming up with a new product or service
    • How can we give more value to our existing customers?
    • How can we solve this customer pain point?
  • Optimization of resources and performance
    • How can we speed up our response time to customer inquiries?
    • How can we improve our customer satisfaction ratings?
  • Cost-efficiency
    • How can we finish project X in less than 2 months?
    • How can we lower our operational and inventory costs?
  • Technology
    • How can we use “artificial intelligence” to provide better service to our customers?
    • How can we use “big data” to provide useful insights for our product and sales team?
  • Organizational Improvements and Employee Engagement
    • How can we retain our most talented employees?
    • How can we create a culture of innovation?
  • Business strategy
    • How can we become the number 1 brand in our industry?
    • How can we prepare our employees for the future of work?

Essentially, any problem that requires new ideas is a prime candidate for creative problem-solving.

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Creative Problem Solving Process

If you want to use CPS for your next project, here are the 7 steps to do it:

Clarify and identify the problem

You must know and fully understand what your goal is or the problem that you’re trying to solve. To ensure you’re addressing the root cause of the problem, you can use the 5 Whys technique. You’ll also need to set the criteria to evaluate the solutions that will be formulated in the next steps.

Research the problem

Gather as much information as you can about the problem you’re solving. Apart from searching online for reference materials, you can also interview your target customers or stakeholders, or consult a subject matter expert.

Formulate creative challenges

A creative challenge is a question that is framed to encourage ideation. These are typical “how” questions, just like the examples presented in our previous section. Each challenge must focus on a single issue to encourage faster ideation. You can create one or more creative challenges for your project.

Generate ideas

Take one creative challenge at a time and generate ideas on how you might solve it. You can do this on your own or with a group. There is no specific time frame for this stage unless you are working on a time-sensitive project. And there isn’t a single approach to idea generation. Whatever your approach is, make sure you take time to document them.

Combine and evaluate the ideas

Review your ideas and evaluate which ones would best fit the criteria you’ve set in step 1. Focus on identifying what your most viable options are. Check if there’s an opportunity to combine some solutions to make them better.

Draw up an action plan

Once you’ve identified your best solutions, plan your course of action. Break down your action plan into manageable steps so that it’s easier to implement. You can draw up your action plan on a kanban board to keep you on track.

Implement your plan

The only way you’ll know if your idea is good is if you implement it. Adjust your action plan as you gather feedback and confirm or trump your assumptions.

An Innovative Approach to Problem Solving

Creative problem solving is without a doubt a key competency that employees must have to thrive in their careers. For organization leaders, think of how you can cultivate a culture of innovation and creativity in your company. To prepare for the challenges of the future, creativity and innovation should be at the forefront of your company’s endeavors.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.

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