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Creative Problem Solving and the Buffalo in the room

A week away from an end of module exam completing the Open University Business School Module ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change’ (B822) explains my unusual absence from the blogosphere (or at least this part of it). I am re-learning how to write long hand. The last time I sat an exam I used a fountain pen, this time round I am resolved to using biros. As a sports coach I should understand that I am about to put my hand through a marathon and that lack of the right kind of training means I will get cramp.

When will it be possible to sit an exam and type up a response?

Meanwhile┬áI stumbled upon this. It is timely for anyone faced with an exam on 24th April for B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’, so much so I am going to transcribe this, analyse and learn its lessons as going through old exam papers this short video, in a fun and engaging way, answers to questions precisely.

This is why I chose to study B822 as an elective within the Masters in Open & Distance Education.


Creative Problem Soliving: the workshop and the process

Creative Problem Solving with Jan Buijis

  • What’s the problem?
  • What’s your idea?
  • How are you going to pull it off?

Nothing could be simpler. The ‘Buffalo System’ of creative problem solving adds a bit more, in business, not prone to responding intuitively to situations unless you’re the owner of the place, a good deal more ferreting around is required:

  • Mess
  • Data
  • Problem
  • Idea
  • Solution
  • Acceptance

When I ran a creative problem solving workshop for the second Tutor Marked Assignment of the OU MBA Module B822 it ran like this:

I might have typed it out like a Running Order for a TV show.

Here I was able to remind myself to ‘diverge’ and ‘converge’, to push people to expand their minds, to break away from initial concepts and ideas … and then to draw them back to some kind of focus.

Problem Solving in business

‘The way in which a problem (and our attempts to manage it) is perceived and described will inevitably constrain our thinking and action with respect to it.’ (Henry et al. 2010:47)

N.B. Preferred personal style, experience, the culture you work in and the type of situation you are facing.

Activity 4.1. Free Association ideas. Gordon (1961)

Fig. 4.1. The Buffalo Creative problem-solving method

Synectics. Vincent Nolan (1989) The Innovator’s Handbook.

Open up a problem, don’t define it.

N.B. How well you chose to overcome the challenges it raises.

REF: Friend and Hickling.

‘Simply using an electronic medium does not remove non-rational factors, nor the need for skilful communication or facilitation’. (2010:57)

  • Precepts
  • Techniques
  • Method
  • Framework

‘If a technique is a separate dish, and a method is a menu for a complete meal, then a ‘framework’ is the broad concept behind a given menu – the difference between creating a menu for a ‘fast-food snack’ a ‘family celebration’, or a ‘slimmer’s lunch’, a ‘romantic dinner’, or whatever’. (2010:59)

Problem solving as:

  • Answering
  • Searching
  • Cultivation
  • Mapping
  • Debate
  • Reperception

Binary Judgements for actions. Nolan (1989)


Friend, J and Hickling, A (1997) Planning under Pressure (2nd edn)( Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Gordon, W.J.J. (1961) Synectics. New York, Harper & Row

Isaksen, S.G. and Treffinger, D.J. (1985) Creative Problem Solving: The Basic COurse, Buffalo: Bearly LTD.

Nolan, V (1989) The Innovators’ Handbook

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