What is creative problem solving?
Using design tools to imagine solutions and make them happen.
Overlap practices creative problem solving using design thinking, an emerging field that uses the tools and approaches of traditional design to explore new possibilities. What kind of problems do we tackle? Pretty much anything. We've worked with clients to facilitate meetings, to unpack tough community problems, to design better customer experiences, to play a strategic resource role for teams, and to drive innovation by helping companies understand their stakeholders' needs.
How Does It Work?
A three-step process with infinite applications.
Creative problem solving embraces a design methodology to help find different solutions. Creative problem solvers produce policies, frameworks, plans and tools that help their clients make different decisions. Even better, once we've helped determine what needs to be done, we help with implementation—our network of creative problem solvers means that we can access the skills and resources needed to execute quickly. The process follows three steps: inquire, explore and decide.
|In what ways can we pull apart your problem and begin to open up possibilities? The beginning of a creative problem solving process begins with a lot of questions and activities that give us information quickly—lots of it.
||How might we use the new information to find better solutions? What are the new ideas now that we understand the solution space? Since we've gone really wide, there is lots of information to play with—combining ideas, imagining ideal futures, creating better experiences—whatever the brief, the exploration phase is where the powerful new solutions get designed.
||Which solution will you choose? The final solution often takes the form of a new policy, a strategic framework, a communication plan—the possible solutions are endless, but we help you determine the best option based on feedback from stakeholders, customers, or employees. Once your solution is designed, we can help with execution adding a little extra heft when time is of the essence or resources are tight.
Why is it different?
Creative problem solving is about possibility.
Traditional problem solving attempts to find THE answer, which either works or doesn't. Unfortunately, in most problem solving situations, there isn't testing along the way to determine whether or not you're on the right path. Creative problem solvers know that there is never one answer—and we use rapid prototyping and constant feedback to narrow in on a solution quickly and efficiently.
Traditional problem solving has fallen prey to risk-based assessments. You are asked to know every possible outcome of an implemented idea. The desire to know all possible outcomes means that untested approaches aren't given the chance to succeed—we are deprived from learning from experience. Design based problem solving recognizes that the most important aspect of any challenge is actually making something real. You can't really test an idea you don't try out. Talking about ideas doesn't solve anything. The design approach creates many solutions and recognizes that some will be good and some will be bad—what matters most is that you keep testing ideas so that you ultimately come up with a great solution.
I hear that you guys are really great facilitators; can you just come do that?
Yes we are, and yes we can. If a meeting or event requires facilitation, it benefits from having a creative problem solver in the room. We will happily facilitate your session—you should read about the Roles we can play on a project to better understand how we can participate.
This seems a little unconventional, is it real? Will this actually work?
Yes it will. The interesting thing about design-based problem solving is that humans are all designers. We design things every single day and have done this since the beginning of time. We didn't discover the wheel; we designed it. Over the 20th Century we forgot about design, we forgot that it's a core human characteristic; that design is the reason we've advanced as a species. There is nothing you can point to that has had a human hand touch it, that hasn't been designed. We think that a lot of us have forgotten that the organizations, policies, governments, companies, products and services we use every day have all been designed. The most exciting part about this realization is that if you're really unhappy with something—it can be redesigned. We created it; we can change it using creative problem solving. There is nothing flaky about it.
I'm reading about design in business in magazines and online, but it really seems like these articles are talking about traditional design—like user interfaces or better products. What should I be reading that will tell me more about what strategic design is?
Good point. You need to read about design culture. A great book is The Design Way. Another resource you can make use of is the Helsinki Design Lab and Sitra, along with Roger Martin's work on integrative thinking. All of these are talking about design as a change agent, and make pretty good distinctions between traditional design and what we're referring to. You can also Start a Conversation with us about this topic, we'd be happy to talk with you.