Creative problem-solving

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Creative problem-solving is the mental process of searching for an original and previously unknown solution to a problem. To qualify, the solution must be novel and reached independently.[1]

Creative solution types[edit]

Creative problem-solving usually begins by defining the problem. This may lead to a simple non-creative solution or finding a textbook solution. The process may also lead to the discovery of prior solutions developed by other individuals. In such cases, the process may then be abandoned if the discovered solution is sufficient.[2][3] Typically, a creative solution will have distinct characteristics that include using only existing components or the problematic factor as the basis for the solution, or involving a change of perspective.[4] A solution may also be considered creative if readily available components can be used to solve the problem within a short time limit[5] factors typical to the solutions employed in MacGyver by the title character.

If a creative solution has broad use—that is, uses beyond its original intent—it may be referred to as an innovative solution, or an innovation. This term is also used to refer to the process of creating innovative solutions. Some innovations may also be considered as an invention.

"All innovations [begin] as creative solutions, but not all creative solutions become innovations."[6]

— Richard Fobes

Techniques and tools[edit]

Many techniques and tools for creating effective solutions to a problem are described in creativity techniques and problem solving.

Creative problem-solving technique categories[edit]

Creative problem-solving techniques can be categorized as follows:

  • Mental state shift and cognitive re-framing: Changing one’s focus away from active problem-solving and replacing it with a creative solution set.
  • Multiple idea facilitation: Designed to increase the quantity of fresh ideas based on the belief that a greater number of ideas increases the chances for one that is valuable. For example, randomly selecting an idea (such as choosing a word from a list) and thinking about its similarities to the undesirable situation. In turn, this random act may inspire a related idea that would lead to a solution.
  • Inducing change of perspective: Designed to efficiently lead to a fresh perspective resulting in a solution that becomes obvious. This is especially useful for solving especially challenging problems.[6] Many of these techniques involve identifying independent dimensions that differentiate closely associated concepts. [6] Differentiating concepts can then potentially overcome the instinctive tendency to use oversimplified associative thinking in which two related concepts are so closely associated their differences are overlooked.[6]

See also[edit]

Related articles[edit]

Related lists[edit]


  1. ^ Michigan State University. "Creative problem solving for teachers". [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Definition of creative problem solving on Alex Osborn's (inventor of the term and process of brainstorming) Creative Education Foundation website.
  3. ^ Problem definition in presentation on creative problem-solving, on the University of Arizona website
  4. ^ Mike Vence about the 9 dots as a corporate promotion of creative thinking at the Walt Disney Company (Creative Thinking Association website)
  5. ^ About creative problem solving in an invitation to a conference by the University of South Alabama
  6. ^ a b c d Fobes, Richard (1993). The Creative Problem Solver's Toolbox: A Complete Course in the Art of Creating Solutions to Problems of Any Kind. ISBN 0-9632221-0-4. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Alex Osborn, Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving, Creative Education Foundation Press, 1953/2001, ISBN 0-930222-73-3
  • Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking : Creativity Step by Step, Harper & Row, 1973, trade paperback, 300 pages, ISBN 0-06-090325-2
  • Altshuller, Henry. 1994. The Art of Inventing (And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared). Translated by Lev Shulyak. Worcester, Massachusetts: Technical Innovation Center. ISBN 0-9640740-1-X

External links[edit]