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Back to Blog

How Creative Problem Solving Can Benefit You at Work

A man looking at an idea board full of notes.

In life, running into problems is inevitable. These problems can range from small day-to-day issues to larger, life changing or company changing issues. These inevitable problems can relate to personal life, work, or even global issues.

Sometimes, problems arise with obvious solutions, while other times, they will require creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to resolve. Regardless, problem solving skills are invaluable to have in work and in life, no matter your chosen path in either one.

Soft Skills In the Workplace

In order to get into a desired profession and become employable, people spend lots of time and money to get degrees, certifications, or master trades. What is sometimes forgotten however, is training and developing the soft skills that will make individuals stand out and be successful in any field. Perfecting these soft skills make individuals even more valuable to organizations looking to hire and form a strong team of people.

Employers recognize that people with problem solving skills, and the ability to get creative when challenges arise, are a huge asset to their company. Having these skills will help you progress in your career as well as benefit you in your personal life, and whatever you decide to do.

What is Creative Problem Solving?

Creative problem solving (CPS) is the process of forming innovative solutions for complex problems. When there is no clear solution, or no defined root cause of a problem, creative problem solving is often necessary. Creative problem solving encourages ideas and inventive approaches to combat any issue that arises.

A woman arranging post-it notes and written ideas on a whiteboard.

Some Classic Creative Problem Solving Tips and Techniques

Creative problem solving was created by Sidney Parnes and Alex Osborne back in the 1940s. Since then, creative problem solving has evolved and continues to be used today. There are now a multitude of tips and tricks to successfully work through the process and come up with creative solutions.

Brainstorming

Sidney Parnes is also responsible for coining the term “brainstorming,” a creative problem solving technique that involves a group of people working together to generate and jot down a plethora of ideas on how to solve a particular problem. Brainstorming is a helpful step in creative problem solving.

Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Another tactic when creative problem solving is to separate divergent and convergent thinking, while still utilizing both.

  • Divergent thinking consists of idea generation of possibilities and potential solutions that are totally unfiltered. No idea is a bad idea.

  • Convergent thinking refers to evaluation-based thinking, filtering ideas and only keeping the one, or few, that seem most promising and realistic. Typically, we do divergent and convergent thinking simultaneously. We gather our ideas while quickly throwing out the ones that seem “bad” or unreasonable.

For creative problem solving, it is helpful to first work through the process of divergent thinking, keeping this process separate from convergent thinking. Brainstorm and write down every idea, no matter if it’s good or bad. Once finished, go back to those ideas and narrow it down to a few viable options—the convergent process.

Separating the two allows for creativity to flow more freely and avoids prematurely throwing out a good idea that might initially seem outlandish, but ultimately could lead to the solution.

Illustration of co-workers collaborating.

Make it a Question and Continue to Question

Another technique is to reframe the problem as a question. An open-ended question is fuel for new ideas. It allows people to look at the problem in a new and different light, avoiding getting stuck in the confines of a box.

Challenge your solutions and ideas with questions to put the solution into different scenarios and see if it will hold up.

If It’s an Idea, It’s Worth Considering

To continue to encourage the idea generating, adopt the mindset that there is no such thing as a bad or stupid idea. Rather than saying “no,” say “yes and…” to keep the ideas coming.

Change the Timeline and Change the Perspective

Consider placing the problem, and the ideated solutions for the problem, in different timelines. Consider them in the present moment, but also in the past and in the future. This will help you to envision how a solution may hold up or how a problem may have arisen in the first place.

Alternate worlds and think about the problem from another person’s perspective. Ask how someone in their shoes might approach the issue, or how it might affect them. Which ways would they attempt to resolve the issue?

Identify and Classify

Try to identify the type and the cause of the problem. Finding the root of the issue can aid in finding the solution. It may even stop the problem from occurring again. Sometimes there is no obvious cause, which is when getting creative is especially helpful.

If you are unable to find the cause, identifying the type of problem can help. Is it an organizational issue, an interpersonal, or personal one?

These are just brief overviews of the many, many tips and tricks to increase your ability to solve problems creatively and effectively.

Graphic displaying tips for creative thinking.

Get Creative to Become Creative

There are so many ways to become a creative problem-solver and find new, innovative, imaginative, and unconventional solutions to the issues you face.

Some people may naturally have more creative problem solving skills than others, but anyone can be taught creative problem solving and master it with practice.

There are creative problem solving courses and training available online and in person. The Regional Economic Development Center (REDC) at Yavapai College offers a self-paced, online Creative Problem Solving course that will teach you all about the 6 laws of creative problem solving, increase your ability to generate creative solutions to complex problems, and avoid mental roadblocks.

The knowledge from this course, along with practice in creative problem solving, will assist you in tackling problems at work and outside of it. With the creative problem solving training, you will master methods that you can, and will, exercise regularly in your working and personal life.

Sign up today to get those novel ideas flowing. You’ll be able to provide resolutions to those problems that may once have lowered your productivity. Your boss will thank you for it, and you’ll thank yourself as well.

Home LinkThe BWS is a Division of Yavapai College.Go to yc.edu

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