Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Creative Problem Solving - Six Key Principles

How can you be more effective at creative problem solving? Use these six key principles of creative problem solving. Avoid the common mistakes that are made when attempting to solve problems. Instead understand these six principles and you can find more productive and innovative solutions to the problems that challenge you.

You Know Nothing

You might find this hard to believe. But this is where you need to start. The reality is that we don't "know" anything. We only "believe" that we know things. Remember when everybody "knew" that the world was flat? Things changed and what we though we knew changed. If you think you already know the answer, you will not be creative. To be more creative in your approach to problem solving you need to start with the words of Sergeant Schultz from the old TV show, Hogan's Heroes, "I know nothing."

Problems Are Treasures

Problems are the source of new products, markets and opportunities. Naturally that is not the first reaction that most of us have when we face a new problem. We are usually annoyed and troubled by the problem because it presents difficulty and uncertainty for us. However, almost every new product (and service) was the answer to a problem. Every product is an aspirin to a headache. If you are experiencing a headache, there is a product for that – that might be waiting to be created. Want more treasure? Search for problems.

Deferred Judgment

The principle of deferred judgment states that while exploring the possible solutions to a problem, first you diverge with your thinking and then you converge. Two separate stages. You can only do one at a time. To diverge ask "Why?" and "What if?" After you have finished diverging – then you converge. To converge you ask "How?" and "What is needed?" Zoom out then zoom in.

Fools and Experts

Creative problem solving demands both fools and experts on your team. Fools are the ones who ask the divergent questions. They look at the big picture. They often ask foolish questions that spawn new ideas. Many of those ideas might be silly or impractical – but be patient. Listen to the questions and explore the ideas. Fools will help you be effective.

Experts are the convergent thinkers. You need them to examine the wild ideas and focus on the best ideas. Experts will tell you how to implement. Experts will help you be efficient.


Creative problem solving is a process of asking advancing questions. It's a matter of asking the right questions at the right time to move the process forward. If you want to be more creative in your problem solving, learn the questions to ask and the proper sequence. When you ask questions – listen without judgment.

Rules are Tools

Rules are tools. They should not become barriers. All rules were created to make life easier for someone at some point in time All rules should be questioned because conditions change and the rule might no longer apply. Ask "Why?" to discover the root of the rule. Maybe it's time to change, amend or remove that outdated rule.

Transform your problems into opportunities, new products and treasure. Follow these six key principles of creative problem solving.

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