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Creative Problem Solving

As we begin to say goodbye to 2016 and begin to welcome 2017, we want to start your year with some tools to think about over the holidays.  Cynthia Rolfe is an amazing women and she shares some ideas below to race into 2017 and win big!

Creative Problem Solving

By Cynthia E Rolfe, Ph.D.

“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” ~Henry Kaiser

Seems I have those opportunities frequently. Regardless of the industry sector in which you find yourself, the need for problem solving is inevitable – at least if you want to move your company forward.  Although many defined approaches to problem solving abound, here are a few highlighted examples that should help you tackle your next opportunity with gusto!

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle

This is not a mantra for how couples should behave at your local high school.  The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle is a process made popular by Dr. W. Edwards Deming.  In this model, one Plans – identifies and analyzes the problem; Does – develops and tests a potential solution; Checks – measures the effectiveness of the test solution, looking for improvements; and Acts – implements the improved solution. Multiple iterations of the second and third steps may be necessary before moving to implementation.

Discovery, Dream, Design, and Deliver/Destiny

Learn to think in 4D!  David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University developed a very positive approach to problem solving.  His theorem was based on what is known as Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  AI places value on the contributions or characteristics of things and people and investigates for better understanding while remaining open to new possibilities.

The Straw Man

Ah, there’s no place like home.  At first blush, The Straw Man approach diverts from traditional methodologies.  One creates a draft proposal, outlining potential ideas based on initial judgment, experience, and opinion. The draft is then taken to the team as a Straw Man – a proposal for the purpose of critique.  The team analyzes the proposal and works to refine it, clarifying assumptions and criteria along the way.  The reworked proposal becomes the draft, and the process repeats until a quality product is produced. The subsequent drafts may be termed Wood Man, Tin Man, and Iron Man in keeping with the theme of improving on the initial draft.  the value of the Straw Man approach is to engage multiple thinkers in the creation of the final product.

Productive Thinking Model

What could sound better to a boss than productive thinking?  Tim Hurson’s Productive Thinking Model was published in his book Think Better.  The Productive Thinking model uses critical thinking skills at each stage of the problem solving process.

Design Thinking

The most popular current problem-solving approach is known as Design Thinking, which actually found its roots in the sciences and in engineering. Design Thinking has been in continual development from the late 1960s to the 1990s when IDEO adapted the approach for business purposes and possibly popularized the model.

The Osborne-Parne CPS Model

Nothing like the original!  In reviewing these and several other approaches, one can easily determine that most methods are in direct alignment with the fundamental Creative Problem Solving model that was created in the research of Alex Osborne and Sidney Parnes in the 1950s.  The Osborne-Parnes CPS model uses divergent and convergent thinking throughout.  Originally the model outlined six steps and was presented as a process, based on the research of Alex Osborne who is credited for the term “brainstorming.”  The six steps became three phases and evolved to focus on four areas. Our friends at FourSight© describe CPS in these terms:

  1. Define and clarify the problem
  2. Create multiple ideas for consideration
  3. Develop potential solutions
  4. Implement the best solution based on the organization’s opportunities and constraints.

Regardless of the approach you choose, creative problem solving is about engaging interested people in working through challenges for the good of the group or organization.  Supporting one another in a structured process builds confidence in the final solution.

Let’s solve some problems together!

Cynthia E Rolfe brings a unique perspective to the University of Central Oklahoma in her role as Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. Dr. Rolfe is an advocate for healthy living through a seven-layer model she developed, known as Seven Wheels™. Because of her diverse background, Dr. Rolfe has a unique management style which celebrates the creative spirit in her organization’s employees. She serves on the Creative Oklahoma, Inc. Board of Directors and works with Business Intelligence Unit facilitators to bring value to Oklahoma business and industry.

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