Learn To Problem Solve Through a Creative Lens

Problem Solving

LEARN PROBLEM SOLVING THROUGH A CREATIVE LENS

When facing obstacles in your organization, there are a number of ways to accomplish problem solving and make decisions regarding it.

Creative problem solving helps us look to challenges with an open mind and consider different perspectives. The creative problem-solving process is just that – a process. But by working through it you can optimize your decision-making skills and come to conclusions you may not have otherwise.

The Creative Problem Solving Process uses six major steps to implement solutions to almost any kind of problem.

In this week’s blog post, we discuss the creative problem-solving process, and how it can help you make tricky decisions in your organization.

Problem Solving Process

1.) INFORMATION GATHERING, OR UNDERSTANDING MORE ABOUT THE PROBLEM BEFORE PROCEEDING

The first step in the creative problem-solving process is to gather information about the problem. In order to effectively solve the problem, you need to know as much about it as possible.

There are many different types of information. There are facts, opinions, concepts, procedures, and ideas. Some of these can be biased and self-serving, while others can be cut and dry.

When tackling a new problem, you can gather a great deal of information by asking specific questions to others who may be impacted by it.

One important source of information is to ask if the problem has been solved before. Find out if anyone in your company or network has had the same problem. This can generate information about the problem and potential solutions.

Here are some other ways you can collect information about a problem:

  • Conduct interviews.
  • Identify and study statistics.
  • Send questionnaires out to employees, customers, or other people concerned with the problem.
  • Conduct technical experiments.
  • Observe the procedures or processes in question firsthand.
  • Create focus groups to discuss the problem.

2.) PROBLEM DEFINITION, OR MAKING SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE CORRECT PROBLEM BEFORE PROCEEDING

The next step in the creative problem-solving process is to identify the problem. It is important to take care in defining the problem. The way that you define your problem influences the solution.

In some cases, taking action to address a problem before adequately identifying the problem is worse than doing nothing. It can be a difficult task to sort out the symptoms of the problem from the problem itself.

Four tools to use in defining the problem are:

  • Determining where the problem originated
  • Defining the present state and the desired state
  • Stating and restating the problem
  • Analyzing the problem

You may not use all of these tools to help define a problem, but these are some to keep in mind as you start.

Writing an accurate problem statement will represent the problem for what it is. The problem statement may evolve through the use of the four problem definition tools and any additional information gathered about the problem. As the statement becomes more refined, the potential solutions are improved.

The problem statement should:

  • Include specific details about the problem, including who, what, when, where, and how
  • Address the scope of the problem to identify boundaries of what you can reasonably solve

The problem statement should not include any mention of possible causes or solutions, that’s for later.

A detailed, clear, and concise problem statement will provide clear-cut goals for focus and direction for coming up with solutions.

3.) GENERATING POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS USING VARIOUS TOOLS

In order to come up with a good idea, you must come up with several ideas.

Some of the ideas will not be good. But if you start overanalyzing in this step, the creative process will quickly come to a halt, and you may miss out on something great. Make sure to defer judgment at this time.

Brainwriting is similar to typical brainstorming, except that it is conducted in silence. This method encourages participants to pay closer attention to the ideas of others and piggyback on them.

Mind mapping is another method of generating ideas on paper but can be conducted alone. To do this, start by writing one main idea in the center of the paper. Write additional ideas around the sheet of paper, circling the idea and connecting the ideas with lines. This technique allows for representing non-linear relationships between ideas.

4.) ANALYZING POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS, OR DETERMINING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS BEFORE PROCEEDING

With many different solutions in hand, you need to analyze them to determine the best one.

When determining the effectiveness of solutions, consider the following:

  • Ask questions such as “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “Wouldn’t it be terrible if…” to isolate the necessary outcome for the problem resolution.
  • Think about what you want the solution to do, or not do.
  • Think about what values should be considered.

Additionally, the criteria for an effective solution to the problem should consider the following:

  • Timing – Is the problem urgent? What are the consequences of delaying action?
  • Trend – What direction is the problem heading? Is the problem getting worse? Or does the problem have a low degree of concern when considering the future of the circumstances?
  • Impact – Is the problem serious?

It is important to think about what the circumstances will look like after a successful solution has been implemented. Use your imagination to explore the possibilities for identifying goals or criteria related to the problem.

The wants and needs for the outcome after the problem is solved must also be very clear.

Needs are items the potential solution absolutely must meet. If the potential solution does not meet a need requirement, you can disregard it from further analysis. Wants are nice to have items. You can provide weight to each item to indicate its importance.

Another factor to consider is what is at stake financially. A cost-benefit analysis is a method of assigning a monetary value to the potential benefits of a solution and weighing those against the costs of implementing that solution.

5.) SELECTING THE BEST SOLUTION(S)

The next step in the process is to select one or more solutions from the possibilities. In the previous step, you will have eliminated many of the possibilities. With a shortlist of possibilities, you can do a final analysis to come up with one or more of the best solutions to the problem.

For each potential solution, weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages. Consider the compatibility with your priorities and values. Consider how much risk the solution involves. Finally, consider the practicality of the solution. Consider the potential results of each solution, both the immediate and long-term possibilities.

Think forward to the solution implementation. Ask the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the situation.

Brainstorm for potential problems related to the solution. Consider how likely potential problems might occur and how serious they are. These potential issues can then be evaluated as needs and wants along with the other criteria for evaluating the solution.

Sometimes this analysis can uncover a potential hardship or opportunity that changes the criteria, problem definition, or other aspects of the problem-solving process. Remember to be flexible and revisit the other stages of the process when necessary.

6.) PLANNING THE NEXT COURSE OF ACTION (NEXT STEPS), OR IMPLEMENTING THE SOLUTION(S)

This part of the creative problem-solving process is the time to think about the steps for making the solution become reality.

Identify tasks that are critical to the timing of the solution implementation. Critical tasks are items that will delay the entire implementation schedule if they are not completed on time. Non-critical tasks are items that can be done as time and resources permit.

Identify your resources by considering the following:

  • Time: How will you schedule the project? When would you like the solution completed? How much time will each task take?
  • Personnel: Who will complete each identified task?
  • Equipment: Is there any special equipment required to implement the task? Does the equipment exist or need to be obtained?
  • Money: How much will the solution cost? Where will the money come from?
  • Information: Is any additional information required to implement the solution? Who will obtain it? How?

As part of the implementation process, you will also need to continue to evaluate things over time. It is important to be flexible and adapt the solutions as necessary. You may need to make adjustments to the plan as new information comes to light.

CONCLUSION

Encourage your team to think outside the box when problem-solving. Making big decisions isn’t always easy, but if you follow the creative problem-solving process, you can rest assured knowing that you did your due diligence. To deep dive into this, even more, check out our Creative Problem-Solving Workshop!

YOUR QUICK GUIDE TO CREATING A POSITIVE COMPANY CULTURE

YOUR QUICK GUIDE TO CREATING A POSITIVE COMPANY CULTURE

What do I mean when I say “Company Culture?” What started as a trendy corporate term has developed into a crucial idea that involves establishing and implementing organizational values. If your mission and vision is putting your organization’s values into words, company culture is taking action on those and demonstrating how you live it.

The newest generation of employees value the culture of the company they are working for more than ever. There is no better time to work towards demonstrating your companies values to improve your workplace. Cultivating a positive corporate culture also helps your organization build a trustworthy reputation with its external publics and stakeholders. Below is our quick guide to building a positive company culture.

BENEFITS OF BUILDING A POSITIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE

Building a better workplace culture has a variety of different benefits. Knowing these benefits can be a motivating factor as you understand and implement organizational values. Below are some improvements in your organization you may notice when working towards your workplace culture:

SAFETY

Employee safety is a major part of creating a company culture where people feel comfortable going to work everyday. Making safety a priority will significantly reduce the number of on-the-job accidents, which is an excellent way to contribute to a positive workplace culture.

Consider workplace safety in the context of your industry. What kind of safety values should you consider? Some of them may be:

  • Fall Prevention – Keeping areas clutter free, and taking care of spills quickly to reduce the amount of falls.
  • Chemical Safety– Proper use of chemicals used in the company, this can range from acids used in machinery to office cleaning solutions.
  • Electrical Injuries- Taking away electronics with frayed wires, using appropriate procedures when wiring electronics, and keeping properly maintained equipment.
  • Illness Prevention– Having employees not at work when they have a possibly contagious illness, using disinfectants, and offering flu shots.
  • Workplace Violence Prevention – Having a zero-tolerance policy on violence and harassment.

CONSERVATION OF MATERIALS/ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS

Supplies are a necessary expense, but a lot of supplies are wasted, broken, or somehow lost in the shuffle. Focusing on conservation is a great organizational value that will save you money and even reduce your environmental footprint.

ENGAGEMENT

Engagement is a state in which an employee is content, committed, and involved in their job. Some of the common traits of engaged employees are:

Emotional attachment: This refers to having an emotional connection to one’s company, position, and the work he/she does.

Understanding: This refers to understanding the company’s goals and values, and how they contribute to achieving those goals.

Motivation: This relates to employees willing to invest effort in bettering their performance.

An engaged employee works hard and cares about the company they work for. They waste fewer materials, and have strong customer service skills. Those same employees are usually motivated to develop new skills and further their careers in the company.

IMPROVED EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE

A happy worker makes a happy company. Having a corporate behavior that promotes safety, recognition, and engagement (to name a few) creates happy employees. Here are some ways your employees’ performance can improve:

  • Better customer service
  • Rise in productivity
  • More positive work atmosphere
  • Fewer wasted resources and supplies
  • Less absenteeism
  • Better team work
  • Better communication with co-workers

There are an immeasurable number of categories for a positive company culture. The trick is finding out what behavior you need your company to adopt. This could include adopting values like punctuality or safety. A great corporate behavior can make or break a company, so it is important to provide the appropriate support for your employees.

CLARIFYING ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES: WHERE TO START

In order to take action on building a positive company culture, you must prioritize your organization’s values. Some ideas to consider when clarifying your organization’s values are:

TYPES OF VALUES AND ETHICS

A value is a standard of a person’s behavior. There are two types of values; terminal values and instrumental values. A terminal value is a value that a person would like to achieve during their lifetime. Some examples of terminal values are:

  • Having wisdom
  • Having self-esteem
  • Having inner peace
  • Having a real and meaningful friendship
  • Being content in life

An instrumental value is a behavior used to achieve your terminal value. Some examples of instrumental values are being:

  • Loving
  • Independent
  • Polite
  • Responsible
  • Clean

What it means, in a nut shell, is that if you want to have great success in business, you have to work hard. The terminal value is having great success in business, and the instrumental value is working hard.

Ethics are moral foundations that regulate a person or group of people’s behaviors. Some examples of ethical behavior could include:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Accountability
  • Respectful

Ethics and instrumental values may seem like they are the same, but they are not. An ethic is a moral basis, it is not hinged on accomplishing a value. An ethic is a conviction that a person or a group of people have because they feel like it’s the right thing to do.

MANAGERIAL STRUCTURE

Managerial structure relates to how the management team is put together, and what types of employees make it up. Nothing squashes employee morale quicker than a poorly trained manager. A supervisor should meet three major qualifications:

Leadership Skills: Understand how to lead a team effectively. Understand the proper way to address employees and how to encourage and motivate them. Should have knowledge on how to give constructive criticism.

Departmental Knowledge: Knowledge of the processes and function of the department. This means that the manager should know how to perform the job tasks of the employees they supervise. The worst thing in the world is to have a boss that doesn’t know how you do your job, and wants to critique you.

Company Knowledge: The manager should be knowledgeable about what product or service the company provides to the public, and about what is new with the company. They should know what the company goals and values are, and what the future plans are for the company.

EMPLOYEE ACCOUNTABILITY

Employee accountability means that an employee takes responsibility for their actions. This could refer to positive or negative actions. So how do you promote accountability? It starts with the employees identifying with the company’s mission. As a supervisor, it’s also important to make sure the employees understand that the company wants them to take ownership of the results of their job. Suppose you were a janitor, and one of your job tasks was to remove the trash daily. The company does not want you to take ownership of the act of removing the trash. The company wants you to take ownership of the trash can being empty- thus making the area look clean. Accountability also relates to something that an employee is doing that is inappropriate. An employee who is constantly late for work needs to take accountability for their actions.

DESIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING ACTION FOR YOUR POSITIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE

If you are ready to start designing and implementing a positive company culture, it is important for you to set realistic behaviors for your employees to follow. Make sure to keep open, two-way communication and get as much feedback as you possibly can. Here are some ideas to consider when taking on the task of developing a positive company culture.

Group Planning: Having a group planning committee will help you maintain realistic goals, and help the employees become engaged in the process on establishing your company culture. When picking your group, you will want to get as many of the departments involved. Remember that the company was built by employees, and having employees in the group helps you see the big picture.

Define Preferred Organizational Behavior/Values: Being able to identify the type of behaviors the company needs and wants to inspire their employees to adopt is crucial. When it comes to identifying desirable behaviors, there are no black and white guidelines. It’s all subjective to the needs of your employees and company. You want to clearly outline the behaviors you want as specifically as possible.

Hiring
: When you are taking on new employees, it’s very important to try to hire people whose values align with your organization. Asking appropriate personality driven questions in an interview is a great way to find employees who will thrive in your company culture. Be sure to communicate your company’s values and provide an overview of its culture so your interviewees can also determine if they would be a good fit.

Training Employees: Training is always important, but it’s especially important when implementing new policies that will change corporate culture.

Not only do new employees need to be trained on policies and culture, but current employees also need training when new policies are implemented. Some training can be informal, but if there are a lot of changes, more formal training will be needed.

CONCLUSION

We hope this quick guide has sparked inspiration for building your company culture.

Are you looking to provide training on developing your company culture? Check out our Developing Corporate Behavior Workshop training materials today!

 Katelyn Roy on