Home » B822:Creativity, Innovation and Change » How to choose activities for a Creative Problem Solving workshop

How to choose activities for a Creative Problem Solving workshop

 To prepare for the exam on Tuesday 24th I did three papers over as many days.

The first time I ran for the full three hours, the second I fell asleep 15 minutes before I planned to start and woke up 90 minutes later. The final mock I kept myself to practising a ‘mind dump’, selecting a question, doing a mind-map or essay plan and then writing a synopsis/treatment rather than the full response.

All this part of the B822 Module ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change’ 

It strikes me that a very archaic approach was taken to the assessment; with a title like this they might have done something else.

One the day TWO out of the three questions I had to do had therefore be covered in this way giving me the confidence to run with the topic.

Choose FOUR Creative Problem Solving techniques

The choice of the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) activity is vital, get this right and you should indeed come up with a number of creative responses that will work, however, those tasked with the problem need to be informed, enabled and empowered. Get it wrong and the manager will look a fool and colleagues will not buy into the solution if one is even delivered.

Especially actions that DISCOURAGE speculation/creativity Henry (2010:93)

  • Curiosity
  • Forgiveness
  • Love

Charles Handy (1991) Creativity in management, Block 1, B822

A sense of direction

Schon, D.A. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner

Some ‘Set Breakers’ Henry (2010:96)

1. Develop broad background experience and many interests

2. Find and challenge your own blind spots

3. Explore many different perspectives

4. Challenge yourself

5. Develop good browsing facilities

6. Change techniques or different mental modes

7. Seek out people with other points of view

8. In a group

The most important considerations in order of importance are:

1)      What is the problem?

2)      Follow the precepts.

3)      Have you considered the culture and climate of your department and the organisation?


Understanding the nature of the problem starting with its suitability for CPS is vital. Only if it is what Akoff, Rittel, Mason & Mitroff have described as ‘wicked’, ‘soft’ or ‘messy’, should a creative problem solving technique be adopted.

Explorer the nature of CPS beyond taken.

A ‘messy’ problem (Mason & Mitroff) is:

  • Interconnected
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous
  • Conflicting
  • Full of uncertainty
  • Shifting
  • and likely to be solved in one go if at all.


During the CPS following these broad steps defining the problem seeking ideas and accepting the results and while facilitating and impulsions to seek help responses followed by focused colleagues at each step facilitator should bear in mind 12 precepts.

  1. Value playfulness
  2. Adopt a set to break sets
  3. Nurture it was always there
  4. Broad picture local detail
  5. Explore the givens
  6. Connect and respond
  7. Know what you really want
  8. Cycle off and close late
  9. Live with looseness
  10. Involved people
  11. Manage the process
  12. Build up don’t break down

In other words be an enabling, supporting, nurturing and coaching facilitator who allows people to play to their nature and skills.


The manager is likely through observation and working with people to have a reasonable idea of how they behave and perform that this might only be within the confines of their job specification. Perhaps some male personality infantry which might include who they are and what is vital is to stage-managed what is in effect and improvisation that brings people together who showed differing uncomplimentary behaviours.

The CPS I undertook involved nine people want latecomer rushing from a different department designed as a potential bunch of bananas unsubtle or unstick another again from different faculty that very different skill sets will provide further insights walk on the immediate. Team that work representatives from each level director manager and officer. Facilitating this group required careful management so that at all times everyone felt it was equally able to contribute.

For the design of the CPS would have by taking the climate culture of the organisation is when is the fabric of the building and available space in which to work. Taking a sports coaching NNO allergy is vital to plan everything to have a running order of the events and something to build in some flexibility and to fully recced location beforehand.

Knowing all the above meant that the design of the activity and choice asymmetric activities were chosen to match the people placing the problem.  Whilst there was some planned playfulness with such activities and tension as  human sculpture and timeline knowing the makes it was felt awkward to venture  too far into those errors that might lead people feeling uncomfortable but this  Reason the likes of finger-painting individualization kept off the agenda.

‘Successfully creative people are often deeply committed to a particular domain, that has strong internal significance to them, and they focus very firmly on particular goals’. (e.g. Tessa Ross, Lionel Wigram, William Hague)

‘Passion and persistence can motivate sustained work; attract the loyalty of helpers; create awareness of you and your project in people who have relevant resources; and reassure those who need to take risks on your behalf.’ Henry (2010:114)


Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Berne, E. (1970) Games People Play, Harmondsworth, Penguin Book.

Dilts, R.L. (1994/95) Strategies of Genius, Vol 13, Capitola, Meta Publications

Henry, J & Martin J (2010) Book 2 Managing Problems Creatively

Mason, R.O. and Mitroff, II. (1981) Challenging Strategic Planning Assumptions, Chichester: Wiley

Rittel, H (1972) ‘On the planning crisis: systems analysis of the “First and second generations”‘, Bediriftskonomen, No8. pp. 390-6

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: