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Inclusion/Case Study : John, an engineering Postgrad PhD student with Cerebral Palsy.
Inclusion/Multimedia Demo: Xerte.
Inclusion/Workshop: Creative Problem Solving: YouTube
Loads of ideas in VanGundy’s book: VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Techniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57
Innovation/Paper: Spaced-Ed, now QStream. A platform initially designed to support junior doctors as they revised for formal knowledge assessments. Paper (Paper available in OU Library)
Innovation/demo: QStream 90 day trial.
Innovation/Workshop: Creative Problem Solving:
Problem, opportunity, challenge, issue, concern …
I’ve been professionally lodged in calling everything a problem to be solved. I may think this through and stick to this concept. I was introduced to the Creative Brief at JWT, London in the mid 1980s. Through Design & Art Direction (D&AD) workshops, then a year, full-time at the School of Communication Arts the ‘problem’ as the preferred, indeed the only term, was reinforced.
The advertising Creative Brief goes:
What is the problem?
What is the opportunity?
Who are you speaking to?
What do you want to say?
How do you want them to react to this message?
What else do you need to know?
I have seen no reason to change this, indeed some 135+ video productions later, information films, training films, change management, product launch, lecture, you name it … the same set of questions, answered on a SINGLE SIDE of A4 governs the initial client meetings. If we cannot get it onto a single sheet, then we haven’t the focus to deliver a clear response. Back to the drawing board.
From the agreed Creative Brief I then write a synopsis or two, the ideas are shared and I go off and prepare a treatment or two; I offer alternatives. Then, with agreement on the treatment, based always on how well it lives up to the brief, I go off and write a script. Sometimes the script is visualisation and dialogue (voice over, interviews transcripts even dramatisation), usually very little needs to be changed at this stage; the script is a direct expression of what was agreed in the treatment. We then produce (shoot, post-produce) and review the end result. Once again, a fail-safe process that only sees the product improved upon at each stage.
So why is this page of this chapter an Epiphany?
I guess, because I know that some clients struggle with the term ‘problem’. I stubbornly refuse to accept an alternative and argue my case. Yet apparently there is a case. Or is there? VanGundy (1988) rightly suggests that
p18 ‘Each of these different terms expresses its own metaphor for what is involved and suggests its own slightly different ways of working’. Henry et al. (2010:18)
To be a problem there needs to be a ‘gap’ between what is desired and the current position. VanGundy (1988:04)
Why would I change what has always worked?
When I bring with my argument decades of experience from the most successful, persuasive and memorable communicators of all? This ‘Creative Brief is an industry standard.
My view is that if there isn’t a problem, there is no need to do x, y or z. Anything less than ‘problem’ diminishes the nature and ambition of the communications challenge (here I argue that internal and external communications, PR, marketing and advertising, are all on the same spectrum: you are trying to persuade people).
Think of problems and solutions as part of an extended hierarchy.
We then get into ‘Gap Analysis’
p19 ‘The imperative that drives creative people can transform the theoretical ‘what could be’ into a more powerfully motivating ‘what should be’.
Then drift away from the challenge when the ‘problem’ is no longer (in my view of things) considered a communications issue.
p24 The problem exists in the overlap between ourselves and the situation … this means that solutions can often be as much a mater of changing ourselves as changing the external situation’.
- Change the situation
- Change yourself
- Get out
- Learn to live with it
As an external supplier, a communications problem fixer, then only point 1 can apply, which becomes an argument for the extensive use of external suppliers. Think about it, do you want someone to address the problem/challenge you take to them, or shilly-shally about, making do, dodging it or making themselves absent?
p26 ‘Play’ – the dynamic gap between vision and reality.
Activity 2.1 (p16)
Frustration over having an audio-cassette to listen to. By sharing the problems it was resolved.
Cause: keeping up with the technology
Ans: A problem shared is a problem halved. Ease of relationships.
p17 ‘A densely interconnected part of a huge web of issues and concerns that change and develop over time and may transform radically in appearance depending on your viewpoint’.
Spend a few minutes identifying some of the features of this story that might perhaps generalise to other situations and that:
- helped to generate the challenge
- helped to overcome it.
Solving ‘problems’ however, is not as clear-cut as a specific problem relate to communications.
I need more of VanGundy. Is he free from the OU Library? Or even an not too expensive download as an eBook to the Kindle and iPad. Despite admonitions to spend less time reading and more time addressing the practical side of Block 2, I feel I have to read on, to investigate an issue (oops, problem, I mean) that has bugged me for more than 25 years.
Henry, J., Mayle, D., Bell, R., Carlisle, Y. Managing Problems Creatively (3rd edn) 2010. The Open University.
VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of structured problem solving (2nd edn), New York: Van Nostran Reinhold.
B822 Techniques Library : Random Stimuli of Various Kinds
1) Identify what it is you want ideas for.
2) Grab an idea from a paper, from looking out of the window, or by throwing dice. (In our case the facilitator had a collection of odd items for this purpose).
3) Connect this idea back to the issue, if necessary using Free Association or Excursion.
4) If it doesn’t work try something else.
Could pick a fixed or specific element of the problem and do the same.
* Select grammatically appropriate stimuli: noun+verb, adjective+noun, but make bizarre combinations (which is how David Bowie often wrote song lyrics).
* Deliberately do something different, or speak to someone new or travel home in a different way.
* Allow the idea to incubate while going about your normal day.
We took a business problem and defined this in a way that was clear.
WRITTEN UP ON FLIP CHART
Various items were picked out from a selection brought to the workshop by the tutor for this purpose. He picked out a small, smiling lobster ornament as the stimuli and passed it around. We then played collective word association writing our word onto a PostIt note that the facilitator then put onto a set of double doors.
Once we had around 70 ideas and we had fairly exhausted our thoughts we stopped.
The role of the facilitator was to ensure that everyone offered ideas, that no one dominated. Collectively we put the words into groups and labelled these groups.
We took ONE theme and put it on a triple A1 sheet of paper.
We drew, collectively, a mind map still trying to generate ideas.
Finally, from these ideas the person whose problem it had been was invited to see if any answers had been offered.
The solution that was of most interest was indeed something that would not otherwise been thought of.
Whiting (1958), Taylor (1962), de Bono (1970), Rickards (1974) and VanGundy
Repeatedly drives parents nuts; I asked it all the time. ‘Because I say so’. Was too often the response.
In business we are asked to repeat this question over and over again. I have experience of it. Decades ago a manager at Krison Printing in North London used it, citing Dexion and how by repeatedly asking ‘why?’ to a problem the inventor came up with some shelving system (or was it pallets?)
It can be made less irritating by setting it in the following parameters:
The commonest questions are:
- Why else?
- Who else?
- What else?
- Where else?
Based on VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed., Van Nostrand Reinhold, Techniques 3.04, 3.05, 3.10 pp. 49-67, passim.