Some people are just born creative, right? Actually, that’s not true. The truth is creativity is a skill that can be developed with practice. It is not an inborn trait that some people have and others don’t. We all have incredible potential to be more creative if we follow an intentional, deliberate creative process. What most people don’t realize is that highly creative people don’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, they get to work making creativity happen. They naturally follow a process called the Creative Problem Solving process. The Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process was first discovered in the 50’s and since has been researched extensively and taught to hundreds of thousands of people with amazing success. The process has four simple stages: Clarify, Ideate, Develop, and Implement. I’ll explain each of these in more detail here.
When you want to be creative you must first Clarify your challenge and narrow in on the specific problem you are trying to solve. Perhaps it’s creating a culture of feedback within your organization, designing a new leadership training that will appeal to millennials, or increasing retention among new hires. All of these problems lend themselves to innovative solutions. The Clarify stage involves fully understanding the current state of the problem, including gathering data and soliciting input from stakeholders. Then, narrowing in on a specific challenge statement to guide the rest of the Creative Problem Solving process.
Once you have the specific challenge, you move into generating lots of ideas. I don’t mean 3-5 ideas, but rather dozens or hundreds of ideas. If you truly want to be creative you have to get past the typical and the typical always emerge first. In the Ideate Stage, there are numerous techniques that can be used to generate wild, creative ideas. I like to move beyond the traditional brainstorm to other techniques such as using Climer Cards, SCAMPER, and brain writing (see free download below). Once many new ideas are generated the best ones are selected.
The best ideas from the Ideate stage are further refined and developed into more complete concepts. It is rare, if not impossible, for an idea to come out completely formed. It takes time to adjust it, mold it, add to it, and tweak it. That’s what happens in the Develop stage. The Develop stage also includes
Once it’s more developed, it’s ready for implementation.
Creating action plans, finding supporters and addressing resistors, developing prototypes or pilots are all part of the implementation process. This is where things can get exciting. It’s also where things can get really tough. Sometimes ideas don’t quite work the first time. You need to changes and adjustments and try again. It’s not about getting it perfect the first time. It’s about doing it and refining it over and over. Keep going until it’s amazing, not perfect, but amazing.
Using the Creative Problem Solving process can have impressive results. Companies have generated and implemented ideas that led to millions, even billions of dollars of revenue and savings by using CPS. The process is almost too simple, but it works. For each stage there are dozens of tools and techniques. I teach the Creative Problem Solving process to teams and organizations who have used the tool to solve many organizational problems.
Below is a free workbook I designed filled with tools and techniques for applying the Creative Problem Solving Process. Download it and use at least one tool on a problem you or a team are working on. What happened? How did it go? Share your results below.
If you are interested in a customized Creative Problem Solving training for your team or organization let me know. I can help your organization become more creative and innovative!
Download the CPS Workbook
Subscribe to download the free Creative Problem Solving workbook, designed to be used with episodes 3-7.
You'll find 17 pages packed with activities, tips, and techniques to help you Clarify, Ideate, Develop and Implement your challenge.
You will also receive free monthly articles about creativity and teams, weekly podcast and blog posts, and occasional exclusive offerings.