## Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making

Explore complex, multi-actor systems in which one factor influences all other factors. For instance, how innovative energy technologies merge into the existing energy system, or how new transport possibilities impact current processes. Armed with this information, learn to decide whether they should be further developed, consider possible negative results and weigh associated costs.

There are multiple ways to make decisions, but one way proven to be very useful is the analytical approach - a methodology for making the problem explicit and rationalising the different potential solutions. In short: analysis based support of decision making, design and implementation of solutions.

Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making as a course teaches you this method.

This course explores and evaluates tools and problem solving methods such as:

• Actor analysis
• Causal modeling
• Goal trees and means-end diagrams
• Problem diagrams
• Uncertainty
• Decision support
• Score cards

This course introduces each technique and applies each technique to a case. Ultimately, the combination of these techniques provides a coherent analysis of the problem.

## At a glance

• Institution: DelftX
• Level: Introductory

None, apart from an open mind and the desire to discover new opportunities to get a firm grip on complex situations or a case you want to analyse.

• Language: English
• Video Transcript: English
• Associated skills: Creative Problem-Solving, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Innovation, Energy Technology, Complex Problem Solving

## What you'll learn

• Analytically based support of decision-making, design and implementation of solutions.
• How to apply tools like actor analysis, causal modeling, goal trees and means-end diagrams, problem diagrams, uncertainty, decision support and score cards.

Ways to take this course, interested in this course for your business or team.

## Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making

How do you solve big problems?  Do you have a systematic approach or do you just wing it?

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

• Define the Problem
• Perform a Gap analysis
• Generate Possible Solutions
• Evaluate Possible Solutions
• Select and Implement the Best Solution
• Follow up and Evaluate Progress

## Step 1 – Define the Problem

When a problem comes to light, it may not be clear exactly what the problem is. You must understand the problem before you spend time or money implementing a solution.

It is important to take care in defining the problem. The way that you define your problem influences the solution or solutions that are available. You must address the true problem when continuing the creative problem solving process in order to achieve a successful solution. You may come up with a terrific solution, but if it is a solution to the wrong problem, it will not be a success.

Problem solvers can go down the wrong path with possible solutions if they do not understand the true problem. These possible solutions often only treat the symptoms of the problem, and not the real problem itself.  You must get to the root of the problem and not only treat the symptoms.

For example, if the battery in my car is dead, I may define the problem as a dead battery.  This may only be a symptom of a bigger problem.  The problem could be a bad alternator which is failing to charge my battery. If I replace the battery without addressing the alternator, I will have addressed the symptom and the problem will remain.

## Step 2 – Perform a Gap Analysis

A Gap Analysis compares the present state with your desired future state.  To do this, write a statement of the situation as it currently exists. Then you write a statement of what you would like the situation to look like. The desired state should include concrete details and should not contain any information about possible causes or solutions. Refine the descriptions for each state until the concerns and needs identified in the present state are addressed in the desired state.

## Step 3 – Generate Possible Solutions

Generating possibilities for solutions to the defined problem comes next in the process. It is important to generate as many solutions as possible before analyzing the solutions or trying to implement them. There are many different methods for generating solutions. Depending on your situation, you may try brainstorming, brainwriting, or mindmapping.  You may also choose to adopt a method created and popularized by Dr. Edward de Bono called the Six Thinking Hats.  More on these methods in a future post.

## Step 4 – Evaluate Possible Solutions

Once you have generated a good number of possible solutions, it’s time to evaluate them for effectiveness.  Consider who, what, when, where, and how that the potential solution should meet to be an effective solution to the problem. When developing criteria that possible solutions to the problem should meet, also 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.

Use the answers to these questions as the starting point for your goals or problem-solving criteria.

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

• Timing – Is the problem urgent? What are the consequences for 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?

## Step 5 – Select and Implement the Best Solution

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 short list of possibilities, you can do a final analysis to come up with one or more of the best solutions to the problem.

In this step, you can use such decision-making tools as the Low Hanging Fruit matrix or the paired comparison analysis.  We’ll discuss each of these in a future post.

You will also need to analyze for potential problems.  This is done by asking how serious and how likely any potential problems may be.

Once you have decided on the best solution, create an action plan and implement it.  Your action plans should include all necessary tasks and resources required to fully implement the proposed solution.

## Step 6 – Follow up and Evaluate Progress

As part of the implementation process, you will also continue to evaluate the solution(s). It is important to be flexible and adapt the solutions as necessary, based on the evaluation of the solution’s effectiveness at solving the problem. You may need to adjust the plan as new information about the solution comes to light.

Here are some sample questions you can ask to evaluate the implementation of the solution:

• Does the solution solve the real problem and not just treat a symptom?
• Is the problem going to be solved permanently?
• Have all the positive and negative consequences been examined?

We’ll look a little closer at some of the steps we covered here in future posts.  For now, focus on utilizing a systematic and organized approach the next time you are faced with an issue that calls for creative problem solving.

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## Decision-making and Problem-solving

Appreciate the complexities involved in decision-making & problem solving.

Develop evidence to support views

Analyze situations carefully

Discuss subjects in an organized way

Predict the consequences of actions

Weigh alternatives

Generate and organize ideas

Form and apply concepts

Design systematic plans of action

A 5-Step Problem-Solving Strategy

Specify the problem – a first step to solving a problem is to identify it as specifically as possible.  It involves evaluating the present state and determining how it differs from the goal state.

Analyze the problem – analyzing the problem involves learning as much as you can about it.  It may be necessary to look beyond the obvious, surface situation, to stretch your imagination and reach for more creative options.

seek other perspectives

consider various strands of impact

brainstorm about all possibilities and implications

research problems for which you lack complete information. Get help.

Formulate possible solutions – identify a wide range of possible solutions.

try to think of all possible solutions

be creative

consider similar problems and how you have solved them

Evaluate possible solutions – weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.  Think through each solution and consider how, when, and where you could accomplish each.  Consider both immediate and long-term results.  Mapping your solutions can be helpful at this stage.

Choose a solution – consider 3 factors:

amount of risk

practicality

Keys to Problem Solving

Think aloud – problem solving is a cognitive, mental process.  Thinking aloud or talking yourself through the steps of problem solving is useful.  Hearing yourself think can facilitate the process.

Allow time for ideas to "gel" or consolidate.  If time permits, give yourself time for solutions to develop.  Distance from a problem can allow you to clear your mind and get a new perspective.

Talk about the problem – describing the problem to someone else and talking about it can often make a problem become more clear and defined so that a new solution will surface.

Decision Making Strategies

Decision making is a process of identifying and evaluating choices.  We make numerous decisions every day and our decisions may range from routine, every-day types of decisions to those decisions which will have far reaching impacts.  The types of decisions we make are routine, impulsive, and reasoned.  Deciding what to eat for breakfast is a routine decision; deciding to do or buy something at the last minute is considered an impulsive decision; and choosing your college major is, hopefully, a reasoned decision.  College coursework often requires you to make the latter, or reasoned decisions.

Decision making has much in common with problem solving.  In problem solving you identify and evaluate solution paths; in decision making you make a similar discovery and evaluation of alternatives.  The crux of decision making, then, is the careful identification and evaluation of alternatives.  As you weigh alternatives, use the following suggestions:

Consider the outcome each is likely to produce, in both the short term and the long term.

Compare alternatives based on how easily you can accomplish each.

Evaluate possible negative side effects each may produce.

Consider the risk involved in each.

Be creative, original; don't eliminate alternatives because you have not heard or used them before.

An important part of decision making is to predict both short-term and long-term outcomes for each alternative.  You may find that while an alternative seems most desirable at the present, it may pose problems or complications over a longer time period.

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Organization and Self-Management

## 22 Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making

Types of decision makers.

Problem solving and decision making belong together. You cannot solve a problem without making a decision. There are two main types of decision makers. Some people use a systematic, rational approach. Others are more intuitive. They go with their emotions or a gut feeling about the right approach. They may have highly creative ways to address the problem, but cannot explain why they have chosen this approach.

## Six Problem-Solving Steps

The most effective method uses both rational and intuitive or creative approaches. There are six steps in the process:

## Identify the problem

Search for alternatives, weigh the alternatives, make a choice.

• Implement the choice
• Evaluate the results and, if necessary, start the process again

To solve a problem, you must first determine what the problem actually is. You may think you know, but you need to check it out. Sometimes, it is easy to focus on symptoms, not causes. You use a rational approach to determine what the problem is. The questions you might ask include:

• What have I (or others) observed?
• What was I (or others) doing at the time the problem occurred?
• Is this a problem in itself or a symptom of a deeper, underlying problem?
• What information do I need?

For example, the apprentice you supervise comes to you saying that the electric warming oven is not working properly. Before you call a repair technician, you may want to ask a few questions. You may want to find out what the apprentice means by “not working properly.” Does he or she know how to operate the equipment? Did he or she check that the equipment was plugged in? Was the fuse or circuit breaker checked? When did it last work?

You may be able to avoid an expensive service call. At the very least, you will be able to provide valuable information to the repair technician that aids in the troubleshooting process.

Of course, many of the problems that you will face in the kitchen are much more complex than a malfunctioning oven. You may have to deal with problems such as:

• Discrepancies between actual and expected food costs
• Labour costs that have to be reduced
• Lack of budget to complete needed renovations in the kitchen
• Disputes between staff

However, the basic problem-solving process remains the same even if the problems identified differ. In fact, the more complex the problem is, the more important it is to be methodical in your problem-solving approach.

It may seem obvious what you have to do to address the problem. Occasionally, this is true, but most times, it is important to identify possible alternatives. This is where the creative side of problem solving really comes in.

Brainstorming with a group can be an excellent tool for identifying potential alternatives. Think of as many possibilities as possible. Write down these ideas, even if they seem somewhat zany or offbeat on first impression. Sometimes really silly ideas can contain the germ of a superb solution. Too often, people move too quickly into making a choice without really considering all of the options. Spending more time searching for alternatives and weighing their consequences can really pay off.

Once a number of ideas have been generated, you need to assess each of them to see how effective they might be in addressing the problem. Consider the following factors:

• Impact on the organization
• Effect on public relations
• Impact on employees and organizational climate
• Ethics of actions
• Whether this course is permitted under collective agreements
• Whether this idea can be used to build on another idea

Some individuals and groups avoid making decisions. Not making a decision is in itself a decision. By postponing a decision, you may eliminate a number of options and alternatives. You lose control over the situation. In some cases, a problem can escalate if it is not dealt with promptly. For example, if you do not handle customer complaints promptly, the customer is likely to become even more annoyed. You will have to work much harder to get a satisfactory solution.

## Implement the decision

Once you have made a decision, it must be implemented. With major decisions, this may involve detailed planning to ensure that all parts of the operation are informed of their part in the change. The kitchen may need a redesign and new equipment. Employees may need additional training. You may have to plan for a short-term closure while the necessary changes are being made. You will have to inform your customers of the closure.

## Evaluate the outcome

Whenever you have implemented a decision, you need to evaluate the results. The outcomes may give valuable advice about the decision-making process, the appropriateness of the choice, and the implementation process itself. This information will be useful in improving the company’s response the next time a similar decision has to be made.

## Creative Thinking

Your creative side is most useful in identifying new or unusual alternatives. Too often, you can get stuck in a pattern of thinking that has been successful in the past. You think of ways that you have handled similar problems in the past. Sometimes this is successful, but when you are faced with a new problem or when your solutions have failed, you may find it difficult to generate new ideas.

If you have a problem that seems to have no solution, try these ideas to “unfreeze” your mind:

• Relax before trying to identify alternatives.
• Play “what if” games with the problem. For example, What if money was no object? What if we could organize a festival? What if we could change winter into summer?
• Borrow ideas from other places and companies. Trade magazines might be useful in identifying approaches used by other companies.
• Give yourself permission to think of ideas that seem foolish or that appear to break the rules. For example, new recipes may come about because someone thought of new ways to combine foods. Sometimes these new combinations appear to break rules about complementary tastes or break boundaries between cuisines from different parts of the world. The results of such thinking include the combined bar and laundromat and the coffee places with Internet access for customers.
• Use random inputs to generate new ideas. For example, walk through the local shopping mall trying to find ways to apply everything you see to the problem.
• Turn the problem upside down. Can the problem be seen as an opportunity? For example, the road outside your restaurant that is the only means of accessing your parking lot is being closed due to a bicycle race. Perhaps you could see the bicycle race as an opportunity for business rather than as a problem.

## Problem Solving, Decision Making and Creativity Research Paper

Introduction, the relationship.

Enhancing one’s abilities to solve problems and make decisions has become imperative in all organizations. Problem solving involves resolving of a discrepancy between the existing situation and the desired goal. Obstacles that create discrepancies may be known or unknown. The problem may be completely new or the situation may not have a specific known solution.

On the other hand, decision-making involves making a choice from possible alternatives in order to get the desired outcomes or goals. According to Huitt, “the steps in both problem solving and decision-making are quite similar and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably” (Huitt, 1992).

Creativity involves a novel approach of defining and solving a given problem.

Edward notes that a “strong relationship exists between problem solving and decision-making” (Edwards, 2002). The aim of problem solving and decision-making is similar because they all attempt to make organizations to function effectively.

They both use similar models to achieve the desired goal, but a wrong result could have severe consequences in either case. While decision-making normally has stages of making a choice, people have failed to realize that problem solving also involves making of choices. It is important not to limit a definition of a problem in order to generate several choices.

Decision-making and problem solving have similar approaches of defining a given situation, same structures, methods of collecting and analyzing information, selection of possible options, and implementation (Edwards, 2002). Further similarity between decision-making and problem solving is that both concepts aim to improve the current situation and meet the set objectives.

Both problem solving and decision-making processes require a clear identification of the situation. However, one must recognize that a clear situation may not exist. Such cases may exist in situations where the problem cuts across several areas or departments of an organization.

Creativity is a component of problem solving and decision-making. However, several approaches fail to account for creativity in their models. Creativity relies on different strategies of thinking. One can observe creativity in stages that attempt to explore or define a situation. Creativity does not involve the entire decision-making and problem solving stages. Instead, decision-makers must ensure that the creative idea is a valid approach at the planning stage through conducting a logical analysis in order to prove it.

Creativity is important for decision-making and problem solving processes. It helps in criticism of existing ideas, innovating, generating new ideas, gathering and evaluating information and facilitating changes.

Decision-makers can use various strategies to generate creative ideas. People require knowledge in order to be creative. Creativity requires knowledge that originates from various disciplines and sources. Several courses can help one to be creative. In addition, there are different techniques, such as brainstorming and criticism, used in developing creative ideas.

Problem solving, decision-making, and creativity relate in several ways. Creativity helps in developing new and novel approaches to certain situations in order to facilitate problem solving and decision-making analytically. Decision-making and problem solving relate because of their roles, objectives, and structures.

In fact, one can substitute the other one. Decision-making involves selecting the best alternative from several options while problem solving entails resolving an existing situation in order to achieve the desired outcome. Creative, decision-making and problem solving skills have become critical in organizations for management purposes. They ensure achievement of long-term goals and success of an organization. Managerial decisions require unique ideas and effective decision-making and problem solving strategies.

Edwards, W. (2002). Decision-Making and Problem Solving: An exploration of their relationships and how rational tools can help. Web.

Huitt, W. (1992). Problem solving and decision making: Consideration of individual differences using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Journal of Psychological Type, 24 , 33-44.

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IvyPanda. (2023, October 31). Problem Solving, Decision Making and Creativity. https://ivypanda.com/essays/problem-solving-decision-making-and-creativity/

"Problem Solving, Decision Making and Creativity." IvyPanda , 31 Oct. 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/problem-solving-decision-making-and-creativity/.

IvyPanda . (2023) 'Problem Solving, Decision Making and Creativity'. 31 October.

IvyPanda . 2023. "Problem Solving, Decision Making and Creativity." October 31, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/problem-solving-decision-making-and-creativity/.

1. IvyPanda . "Problem Solving, Decision Making and Creativity." October 31, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/problem-solving-decision-making-and-creativity/.

Bibliography

IvyPanda . "Problem Solving, Decision Making and Creativity." October 31, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/problem-solving-decision-making-and-creativity/.

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