Information on Creative Problem Solving
The Idea Kit: Tools and information to enhance your creative problem solving skills
A compilation of readings, thoughts, and discussions with students and faculty in Texas and Oklahoma. Copyright: 1998, James Robert Watson, PhD
Creative problem solving
The process of problem solving is also called the design process or the creative process. They all mean the same thing: allowing the human mind to work through a series of steps to create order from chaos, solutions from problems, opportunity from adversity.
Creative problem solving is primarily a mental exercise. The activities of research, discussion, execution, and implementation are certainly physical acts but they exist only to support the mental act of problem solving.
The purpose of all solutions to all problems is to change the attitude or mind of the end user.
Many people lose their ability to solve problems and think creatively because they've allowed or developed blocks and barriers in their minds which stifle creative thought. The greatest barriers to creative thought are usually built by some form of fear. To become a better creative problem solver, acknowledge your fears. Affirm that they can control you, then let them go. Replace them with positive affirmations.
Don't try to be more creative. Try to be less inhibited and more creative thoughts will happen. Creative thoughts cannot be forced, only fostered. You can, however, force a stimulus to creative thought. Do something to break the block: read, doodle, talk, sing, dance, blow bubbles, laugh, skip, take risks; just do something.
Creative problem solvers
Creative people strive to experience new sources of enlightening input to stretch limits, broaden horizons, make new connections, and see in new ways. This allows them to better enhance their creative output and increase the wealth of resources from which to draw inspiration and influence.
Great problem solvers are well rounded and well read people. They are active in cultural enrichment activities. They constantly strive to experience new sources of enlightening input to stretch limits, broaden horizons, make new connections, and see in new ways. This allows them to better enhance their creative output and increase the wealth of resources from which to draw inspiration and influence.
When you stretch your mind, it never returns to its original shape.
Experience life with open palms, not clenched fists.
Have the courage to fail. It is better to fail while taking a risk than to succeed while playing it safe. Great problem solvers have the courage to fight for what they believe. They stand up for their beliefs and solutions.
Strive for an open mind. This is the most important goal a growing problem solvers can strive for. An open mind allows greater input of information; greater retrieval of information; and better tolerance of ideas, values, and people different from us.
Problem solvers are learners. They know that the responsibility of learning and growing is theirs alone.
Because creative thought is a personal courage of the mind, creative people often stand apart from society and in conflict with it. But it is this courage to be yourself in the fullest sense that allows you to grow into the person you are capable of becoming.
Great samples from creative problem solvers: Post-It notes, velcro, Levi Strauss' jeans. Master creative problem solvers: Walt Disney, Thomas Jefferson, Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright, Leonardo da Vinci, and Thomas Edison.
Human thought (perception, acceptance, processing, and storage) is the specific interaction of chemicals and electricity inside the mysterious organ called the brain.
These interactions occur between brain cell relay stations called neurons. Each neuron receives a chemical message through receivers (dendrites) and sends a signal through its tail (axon) and across a gap (synapse) to a neighboring dendrite receiver.
The brain contains 10-100 billion neurons (who could count?) Each forms bridges to so many other neurons that the brain is abuzz with as many as 1 quadrillion connections (about the number of stars in the known universe).
More amazing to neuroscientists than the process of thinking is the capacity of the brain's storage memory, the vast amount of information that can be stored.
So far, it seems the brain cannot fully comprehend itself. If the brain was so simple that it could be understood, it would be so simple that it couldnt understand.
All messages to your brain pass through your personal belief system. These values are influenced by your health, ethnicity, genetics, environment, parents, friends, expectations, goals, and desires. These mental perceptions affect the processing and outcome of your thoughts.
Information processing is an active process. The mind is deciding what to focus on, what to ignore, what is information, what is junk, what to remember, etc. Information is gathered, sorted, interpreted, and remembered.
A creative idea, usually the combination of two previously unrelated ideas, is often based on pattern recognition. That looks somewhat like that which reminds me of that. That thought, perception, or image then becomes memory and can form the basis for later pattern recognition.
Optical illusions are perceived when the mind is 'fooled' in visual perception by making the 'wrong' pattern recognition. The mind may make an assumption and move on.
4 requirements for CPS
All healthy humans are capable of solving problems. Problem solving ability is inherent in the human mind. The brain loves to solve problems: just let it. It will solve any and every problem you give it provided it can meet these 4 conditions:
1. A clear definition of the problem to be solved.
The brain must know the target to shoot for, the goal, to stay on track, to assess efforts.
2. Adequate information and input for solution.
Understand the problem. The more you know, the easier it is to obtain a solution. Usually, if a barrier is met during the problem solving process it is due to a lack of information or not understanding the information. See the problem as others may see it. Do more research, talk to people, use the product or item. Problem solvers become authorities on the problem and its ramifications. Creative people are well read.
3. Strong personal motivation for completion.
The mind will find it tough to complete the process if it does not see a personal benefit,: personal growth, meeting a challenge, money, grade, respect, etc.
4. A valid reasonable deadline.
The mind knows what it must do but it needs to know by when. If a deadline is not set, the mind will prioritize and probably work on other more important projects.
The 5 steps of the design process
The process of designing is called the creative problem solving process, the design process, the creative process, and/or the problem solving process (they all mean the same thing). All healthy humans are capable of solving problems. Some people take the process and their design sense further than others. Those are successful designers.
Great designers are not only problem solvers, they are also problem seekers. They feel annoyed when they encounter an entity that is poorly designed. Great designers always seek a better way, how could that be done better, more efficiently.
Following are 5 steps the mind works through to achieve solution to problems. The mind will complete each step, maybe in varying times and in varying order, but each of the 5 will be addressed.
1. Assess the problem
State the problem clearly.
Set thorough objectives that the solution should achieve.
• List adjectives and descriptors that the solution should convey
Determine specific target markets.
Provide a strong motivation to solve the problem.
Determine deadlines to meet for solution.
This step is where you do the groundwork to provide a foundation of information for your mind to begin addressing the problem. It is important that you state the problem clearly to understand exactly is involved in the issue. Is there really a problem. Sometimes it is not what it seems to be at the surface. Dig deep and determine the underlying problem that should be solved.
The objectives should include the obvious like staying within a budget, to more obscure like not offending the user.
2. Input: feed information
Become an authority on the problem and its solution.
Feed your brain a wide variety of information.
Review periodically the problem assessment.
Understand fully the problem through comprehensive research: learn all you can about everything associated with the problem: ramifications, influences, impact, audience, etc.
The solution to the problem is usually inherent in the problem. The more you understand the problem, the easier and more obvious the solution becomes. Designers become authorities on the problem: its source, ramifications, people affected, impact, etc. A designer can learn so much about a problem that the best solution will be obvious and apparent.
If a designer hits the proverbial block, that wall or barrier that stops the flow of ideas, he/she should knock it down by learning more about the problem. See it in new ways. Try to see the problem as the user, viewer, target would.
The more you understand the problem, the easier the solution becomes. The solution is often within the problem itself. Learning about the problem allows the solution to emerge.
3. Process and incubate
Allow incubation: processing, integration, synthesis, analysis, sorting, judgment, etc.
In this step all you do is just allow imaginative processing. If you provided your mind with a clear statement of the problem, adequate information for processing, strong motivation, and a valid deadline; then your mind will solve the problem. This step is letting the unconscious do its job of sorting, processing, and comprehending the information.
This step can happen in a split second, you may get Eureka solutions while conducting research; or solutions may come after much processing; or solutions may not come at all. If your mind hits a wall or barrier, it usually means you need to provide more information. If you often hit barriers, then the activities in this Kit can help you free your mind to retrieve innovative solutions more easily.
4. Output: retrieve options
Execute a variety of possible solution sketches (thumbnails: fast, very prolific, exploratory, non-judgmental). Determine an appropriate theme, storyline, concept, or big idea.
Test those options to determine which most efficiently meet the stated objectives and convey the adjective/descriptors.
Refine those solutions and finalize all design decisions with more sketches: color, type, composition, materials, renderings, textures, fabrics, layout, etc. in tighter renderings (rough sketches).
This step of the process is about exploring a multitude of options and determining the most efficient.
Sketch a variety of possible solutions as thumbnails: fast, prolific, exploratory sketches. Develop numerous options: explore both fluency and frequency of ideas and options.
Build rough sketches: further explorations of color, type, layout in tighter renderings.
Evaluate the rough option that is working best.
Figure out what's working in the piece: enhance that and minimize the rest. Every element in your work deserves respect. And life, an existence. If an element cannot be justified nor explained it should be deleted. It would just become clutter: garbage getting in the way of communicating the message.
The idea, the theme, copy line, should be innovative tug at a new emotion or thought. Involving the emotions aids memorability and user participation in the solution.
The strongest solution option should balance the familiar with the innovative. If the solution is too familiar, we reject as boring. If too innovative, we reject it as foreign, uncomfortable, and incomprehensible.
Determine the single best selling point, theme of the piece, message to convey to the reader, the benefit to the consumer, the copy line. The designer has the responsibility to communicate the proper and appropriate message to the consumer, to achieve the objectives that will most efficiently meet the clients needs.
5. Present the best solution
Develop the final solution as an exact dummy or model or renderings to present to the viewer/client (comp).
Present comp with rationale.
Make revisions if necessary.
Prepare the accepted comp for reproduction (mechanical or finished art).
Conduct further evaluation for future reference and growth.
This is the step of the process in which you produce a rough for presentation to another person: the client, the printer, the user, or just yourself.
Refine, if necessary, the rough you determined was most successful. Develop that solution as an exact dummy (comp or model) to present to the viewer or client. You may get feedback or input from that person. Listen intently, determine if their needs have been met, and make revisions if necessary. Once all parties are satisfied, prepare the accepted comp for reproduction. The last activity is to evaluate the solution and the response from the user for your future reference and growth.
Successful solutions are often very simple, with minimal clutter and a minimum of needless information. Simplicity allows the user or reader to more easily comprehend a clear message by being right on target.
You do not need to work through each step in the sequence stated above - that is just the most common and most efficient order. If your brain begins ideating, that's okay - start sketching. At some point, you will compete the assessment stage and the input info stage. Completing all 5 steps is necessary for a successful solution.
When a designer gets 'stuck' - concepts or solutions aren't coming - it is most often due to a lack of information. Go back to step 2 and conduct more research. Look at the problem in a new way. Learn new information. The more one understands the problem, the easier the solution becomes.
Different sources and design textbooks may list different steps. The above 5 are nice because there is some symmetry - info in, info out. The design community will probably never agree on the 'correct' process, they each reach the same goal - effective solutions to marketing communication problems.
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