"Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one." — Richard Sloma
How well can you solve your problems? Solving problems is one of the most fundamental skills in life, and it’s something we get to practice every day.
I learned early on that wishing away problems didn’t work and that it was more effective to embrace challenges as a part of life, as a chance to grow and expand myself. One of my favorite sayings is, "Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger."
Unfortunately, we don’t always get taught the best ways to solve our problems. Some of the less effective ways include anger, blame, avoidance, curling up into a little ball, etc. The good news is, you can improve your problem solving skills by using problem solving techniques.
One of the most effective problem solving techniques to add to your problem solving skills cache is the Osborne-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process, or CPS for short. It’s strength lies in casting a wide net over the problem, and testing multiple paths and possibilities before locking in on a particular solution.
In the book, Creatively Ever After: A Path to Innovation , Alicia Arnold writes about how you can use the Creative Problem Solving Process to tackle your challenges in work and in life. It’s about getting science and structure on your side, while unleashing your creative powers to solve the tough stuff.
The Creative Problem Solving Process
According to Alicia, you can think of the Creative Problem Solving Process in six main steps:
- Step 1. Identify the Goal, Wish, or Challenge.
- Step 2. Gather Data.
- Step 3. Clarify the Problem.
- Step 4. Generate Ideas.
- Step 5. Develop Solutions.
- Step 6. Plan for Action.
Check Your Current Problem Solving Approach
While the process may look simple and obvious, the key is to compare it to your current approach:
- Do you know your goal? (Can you state it in one line?)
- Have you gathered any data and sorted facts, opinions, and fiction?
- Do you have true clarity of the problem you are solving? (Can you state the problem as a simple question, such as, “How to ….”?)
- Do you generate multiple ideas or just run with the first thing that pops in your head? Do you look across the ways other people have solved this problem before, and find the patterns?
- Do sketch out solutions and possibilities and test for fit or do you dive into the details?
- Do you turn your ideas and solutions into actionable steps? Do you break the steps down into mini-goals that you can test and get feedback?
While a lot of problems can be solved by jumping to conclusions and drawing from experience, many of the problems we face cannot. Whether you’re solving a health problem or changing the game at work, a process like the Creative Problem Solving Process can help you tap into your creative potential. Better yet, with a process like the Creative Problem Solving Process, you can harness and leverage the collective brain power of multiple people in a coordinated way.
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Photo by Alaskan Dude.