The Creative Problem-Solving Tool Kit

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We had some technical issues with Skype that were difficult to overcome. The third stage helps you select the best ideas and the fourth tests the feasibility of your best ideas. Always start with the ABC Avalanche and then use 1 or 2 of the next 5 tools to expand the list of possible solutions. This tool asks people to generate at least 26 ideas for a specific challenge sorting them by their first letters.

Creative Problem Solving - ICG

It takes about minutes. Because participants focus on generating a specific number of ideas they postpone their judgments.


Depending on the number of people in the session you can split into sub-groups. Feel free to build in a little competition between the groups if you like. One of the very classical thinking techniques because to be truly creative you need to break patterns. Then you ask them to take the opposite view i. This technique will generate a long list of associated keywords that can be used to generate even more ideas related to the original challenge. Use the 8 words from the acronym to approach the challenge from a different angle and generate a larger list of creative ideas.

Let them go wherever they want to go to create more productive access points to tackle the original challenge. Sometimes people are using this technique as biomimicry. A Future Workshop can last a few hours or take place over several days. The most common model, however, is the 1-day workshop, where the morning is devoted to the critical analysis phase, the first part of the afternoon to the visionary phase and the last part of the afternoon to the implementation phase.

Prior to the actual work of the Future Workshop, an oral presentation can be held outlining the workshop's problems for participants.

See further Vidal Its main tool is analogy or metaphor. The approach, which is often used by groups, can help to develop creative responses to problem solving, to retain new information, to assist in generating writing, and to explore different aspects of the problem. It helps users break existing minds sets and internalize abstract concepts. Synectics can be used with all ages and works well with those who withdraw from traditional methods. See further Gordon Sociodrama is concerned with social learning in a group.

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A sociodramatist will base their work around an understanding of the roles people play, the systems within which they work and the social forces which impinge on the situation being examined. By using role reversal, doubling, sculpting and role playing within a number of different scenes, sociodrama is based on many of the principles of adult learning: it draws on people's experiences; is relevant to their concerns; it engages people in the learning process and follows the learning cycle of people being involved in a learning experience, which they have time to reflect and theorise upon afterwards before planning new actions.

Sociodramatists are always concerned about the wider social, political and economic influences operating in any particular situation. The real world doesn't always work according to text book formulae. People make decisions from a combination of external and internal factors and sociodrama gives people the opportunity to explore these different facets.

In the context of education, sociodrama can be used in teaching to enable students to explore situations from a variety of viewpoints and gain a better understanding of why decisions were taken and what other options were on offer. When people participate in a common experience, many assume that there is shared meaning about that experience.

The participants will be invited to explore a situation from individual points-of-view with the intention of gathering collective information. Through personal stories a group story about a problem will be constructed. Then the collective story can be revealed to identify the underlying strands that define the problem. The session will create a space to learn, inquire, and reflect to enable the problem definition to emerge from the stories told.

The purpose of this workshop is to use stories to build common understanding of a problem. See further Allan et al. This is a methodology, tool set, knowledge base, and model-based technology for generating innovative ideas and solutions for problem solving.


TRIZ provides tools and methods for use in problem formulation, system analysis, failure analysis, and patterns of system evolution both 'as-is' and 'could be'. TRIZ, in contrast to techniques such as brainstorming which is based on random idea generation , aims to create an algorithmic approach to the invention of new systems, and the refinement of old systems.

See further Clarke In linguistics it refers to identification of a word stem from a full word form see morpheme. As a problem-structuring and problem-solving technique, morphological analysis was designed for multi-dimensional, non-quantifiable problems where causal modelling and simulation do not function well or at all. This approach was developed to address seemingly non-reducible complexity. Using the technique of cross consistency assessment CCA the system however does allow for reduction, not by reducing the number of variables involved, but by reducing the number of possible solutions through the elimination of the illogical solution combinations in a grid box.

A detailed introduction to morphological modelling is given in Ritchey These oral presentations should follow the guidelines shown in Table 3. Creative presentations are enhanced. The group presenting a method should plan a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of a method where all the students should participate. This activity is training in critical thinking. The following 6 weeks the students will work in groups with a practical project selected by them, approved and supported by the professor.

Every Friday the professor will discuss with each group the different problems and task, the selection of methods, the design of the most suitable approach, etc. Some examples of projects are the following: Design of a Master Thesis, Application of the creative process to a real-life problem in an innovative way, Solve creatively a problem that has been solved before using a rational method, Combination of rational and creative approaches to a real-life problem, Creative design of a web page, From an idea to business or how to start your own firm, Strategy development in organizations, Dealing with complex social problems, Design of computerised systems, Design of a product or a process, Design of a new board game, Design of a firm that uses depleted tires as main raw material, Design of an organization for foreign students, Design of a new canteen at the University, Design of an action plan for an eventual landing of aliens, To find applications of a new technology: Intelligent glasses, Design the school of tomorrow, etc.

The students will search for information, apply the creative methods and tools, interview relevant stakeholders, discuss in groups, use creative techniques, and they will be supervised to write a paper about their project. The students are encouraged to integrate the activities that belong to different parts of the human brain, logical as well as intuitive, factual as well as imaginative, quantitative as well as qualitative. The CPS approach Table 4 Vidal, a will be the main guideline for the problem solving process, supplemented by methods and techniques used in a designed approach for the problem in question.

Experience has shown that it is recommendable in a CPS process, at each step to start with divergent thinking to produce as many ideas or solutions as possible and thereafter to switch to convergent thinking to select the few most promising ideas. It is not unusual that in a group some members will very easily diverge, originating a list of alternatives, while others will converge very fast by trying to select the best solution from the list and the rest will be passive not knowing what is required of them.

Hence the need of a facilitator, he or she designs a clear and visible process to align the group. The facilitator will support the process, will elaborate a plan of steps to be followed, will organise a work-shop, and will manage the whole problem solving process to secure that an action plan will be elaborated and implemented. The art of facilitation is an essential topic in our course, the students will work in groups, the group will be facilitated and a student will facilitate the group work.

Table 5 shows the suggested disposition of the final report to be written as a paper for an international journal.

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At the very first day the students will be presented with the purpose of the course and the program to be followed. The students might suggest changes and modifications. Then, groups will be formed. Some few students from will drop out of the course already this same day or they will not show up the next week. Usually students will book for more courses that they can cope in a semester and the very first week they make a final decision about which courses they will follow the semester.

The main reason for dropping out of this course is the demand that the students should be members of a group. This demands some social competences and commitment to a group of people that some students find rather difficult to satisfy. At the Campus net of the University the students can evaluate the course replying to a standard evaluation scheme. Those students no replying are usually foreigners that are only coming for a semester. Summarizing, the students in these replies express:. For most students this course is the first time that they will confront with the principles of Active Learning.

How Many Steps are There in Problem Solving?

Most of them have been from 3 to 4 years at the University. The students are overwhelmed about the possibility of take responsibility for their own learning in team work. This course is not a burden, students are happy to participate in all the activities in a cooperative and collaborative way. The students also praise the engagement, wisdom, enthusiasm, and charisma of the teacher.

At the beginning of the course the teacher will use a hierarchical teaching style as a traditional teacher. In the second part the groups will takeover the lecturing activities and the teacher will be an adviser to the groups. Finally, at the last part of the course the teacher will function as a facilitator.

Seen from the teacher's chair, the objective of the course has been fully fulfilled. This will be reflected in the marks obtained by the students. These are normally distributed from more than satisfactory to excellent. Main weight will be given to the final report, while variations in the individual marks can occur due to the oral presentations and the personal engagement.

In this course all the students have experienced to:. That is all the students obtain a grounded basis in creative tools and methods that can be used in their future work with other courses, work with their final thesis, and for their future professional life. Some students will be highly motivated to continue working with the teacher towards the design of a project that can be the subject for a Master Thesis.

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Some of these projects have been: The establishment of a consulting firm selling creativity, Strategy development for a consulting firm, Creativity tools for small firms, and the application of a multi-methodological approach to software design for optimization. All these five students, after the finishing of their theses, have continue working with creativity either establishing their own firms or getting jobs in consulting firms where it is expected to work with innovative projects.

Many students find the demands of a creative role based in the principles of action learning, both unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It is, therefore, important that they learn methods that will help them to develop a creative attitude to problem solving work. They need to be able to recognize when a creative approach is required and to be able to engage in a creative mode.

Creative Problem-Solving: Tools and Techniques

In order to do this they need to have an appropriate toolkit which will enable selection of the right tool for the task in hand. The informing part of these needs can be fulfilled through traditional teaching methods, but in order to gain experience it is essential that projects are used. It has long been recognized that projects are the best methods for achieving this and developing recognition of creative ability, which is vital to the overall education of problem solvers.

Forty Years of Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Process Evolution

One essential element in this course is what has been called collaborative learning. This means that students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process and that they learn best when they work in small groups.

The Creative Thinker's Toolkit

They will be motivated for learning when parallel with the subject to be learned, they learn to learn in a study team. Study teams are long term groups existing over the course of a semester with stable membership whose primarily responsibility is to provide members with support, encouragement, and assistance in completing course requirements and assignments when someone has missed a session.

Collaborative learning is an effective way to deal with complex problems and at the same time to learn to learn in practice. Another theme of interest is that our course is based on what is known as Project-Based Learning Kolb, an approach pedagogically founded on constructivist learning in a setting represented by a learning cycle composed of four different ways of learning:.

This cycle is repeated in our learning situation.