Creativity Problem Solving and Changes on the Workplace
The necessity to more closely study the process of creative thinking appeared from the rapid growth of competition in business. Due to the continuous pressure on companies, which are ought to enhance their outdated systems and products, their managers started to pay attention to creative problem-solving. This is based on the fact that the implementation of the new product or services and business processes enhances the company's ability to survive in a rapidly changing and competitive business environment. Hence, the need for creative problem solving and decision-making strategies was created by the global competition and growing markets. The urgency to use creative problem solving is based on the fact that companies usually face multiple challenges with almost equal importance that have a limited number of appropriate solutions. Thus, the use of creative thinking while dealing with business issues helps to identify and solve those problems by producing new ideas and perspectives. Hence, as Proctor (2013) showed in his book, the creative problem-solving process is important for business in dealing with new arising issues.
There is no single definition of creativity among researchers; however, all researchers agree that creativity is an inevitable part of successful management. For instance, Cetinkaya (2014) states that creativity allows managers to become more sensitive to business issues, absent elements, incompatibilities, and lack of information. Besides, the researcher proves that creativity allows determining difficulties, searching for new solutions, making predictions, choosing the best options, trying them, retrying, and revealing results. The Creative Education Foundation (2015) uses a broad meaning of creativity as a type of thinking that has the following characteristics: it is imaginative, focuses on the process, and includes the new and novel.
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Further, Proctor (2013) illustrated how creativity may be used in management. According to the author, creativity allows managers to use their time more effectively and find ways of motivating their staff. Moreover, creative thinking allows managers to improve a product's appeal to customers and meet customers' needs. Additionally, creative solutions are also focused on cutting costs through more effective production methods and identifying new and profitable product-market opportunities.
Changes on the Workplace
Changes on the workplace are mainly related to the organizational changes (Llopis, 2013), which, in their turn, can be divided into several types described by Vrazel (2013). The first type includes structural changes, such as division restructuring. The second type includes process changes, i.e. updating the process of contract signing (Ighiebemhe & Awua-Ikhia, (2016). The third type of organizational changes is connected with cost-saving factors and focuses on identifying areas where resources can be leveraged. The last type includes cultural changes that are aimed at a human side of the organization. These changes might cause conflicts inside the company and increase the pressure on managers (ACAS, n.d.). Hence, these issues could be coped with the help of creative thinking.
Qualities of Creative Thinking and Creative Thinkers
Birgili (2015) defines creative thinking as a combination of activities aimed by the individual at a specific object, condition or problem, or as a complex of efforts made in regard to a specific event or problem. The effectiveness of such efforts is determined by the capacity of every separate individual. In its turn, Proctor (2013) also states that there are two types of thinking: productive and reproductive. The author differentiates these two types of thinking by the way people use it in order to provide the answer to a particular problem. For instance, reproductive thinking is based on creating a solution that was already used for similar problems in the past. Hence, reproductive solutions have already been employed before and are not original. On the other hand, productive thinking is based on generating multiple ways of solving the issue. Ideas generated under this type of thinking are unconventional and often unique. Hence, unlike the reproductive thinking, the productive thinking allows devising many different approaches to a particular problem.
Birgili (2015) also adds that, in order to generate such creative ideas, people use their imagination, intelligence, and insight. For instance, they apply it while thinking about the product they might try to suggest an authentic and new design, or generating ideas for solving the existent problems by finding definitely new approaches. In this case, individuals are making unusual connections to produce alternative solutions from multiple perspectives. For example, Scaltsas (2016) provides a way of triggering such creative solutions. The researcher offers to imagine that each circumstance, which is blocking the progress of problem solving, is lifted one by one. As a result, specific versions of challenges will be produced and one of them may be similar to the problem, which has been solved earlier. Hence, a set of new solutions will be created, and in the case if the chosen solution will be untypical for the original version, it will be qualified as a creative solution. This process includes combining parts forming something original and constructing new theories and objects. Consequently, creative thinking has the following characteristics: wondering, authenticity, flexibility, reaching different solutions, thinking fast and independent, rationalism, multiple thinking, open to criticism, doubtful, realizing and defining the problem, and suggesting possible solutions.
Skills of the Creative Thinkers
It is evident, that not all people are able to immediately produce creative ideas. Hence, in order to become successful creative thinker, a person should have several characteristics that are common to all creative thinkers. Firstly, these people should not be afraid of challenging the status quo and confronting assumptions (Proctor 2013). Secondly, they also should like to investigate new possibilities and exhibit curiosity to the outside world. Thirdly, creative thinkers are able to take risks, are initiative, highly imaginative, and future-orientated. Hence, they are ready to cope with any mistakes and are able to adapt to different work environments and changing circumstances. Creative thinkers also tend to think visually and are capable of creating relationships between elements that seem to be disconnected. As a result, they can synthesize diverse elements and look beyond the first right idea.
Proctor (2013) also highlights four basic creative strengths and skills that are necessary for each creative thinker. The first skill is the fluency that can be defined as an ability to produce many ideas. In order to develop this skill, a person should hold creative thinking sessions at which ideas of a hundred different applications of everyday objects should be generated. Secondly, the flexibility is required. It can be defined as the ability to produce multiple ideas. To improve this skill, a person might list at least fifty different kinds of application for everyday objects and then proceed with working on related challenges. The third skill is the elaboration. This skill can be defined as a persons ability to add perspectives, detail, depth, and the mix of positions. In order to develop this skill, a person might describe any object in considerable details using all the physical senses. Finally, the fourth skill of the creative thinker is the originality. This skill describes the level of uniqueness, novelty, newness, and innovativeness of ideas generated by a person. Birgili (2015) also states that novelty is especially important for creative thinking since it means that the idea is new for an individual that has generated it, and it is not necessarily has to be novel for the society as a whole. In particular, in order to deal with changes on the workplace, each should develop employability skills related to the problem solving. According to the Regional Skills Training (n.d.) and Serban and Iorga (2016), these skills include the ability to choose an appropriate communication method, conflict management, and the capability to discover and resolve concerns connected with the workplace issues.
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Additionally, skills of a creative person that can help to deal with the issues on the workplace also include the following. Firstly, this person should have the developed imagination since visual, auditory, and kinesthetic creativity allows expressing ideas and feelings by applying ones imagination to produce unique creations. Secondly, a creative thinker should be literary, i.e. be able to write short stories, plays, or poems. The next skill of a creative person is the ability to image a new way to have a group process executing better or improve a program that provides services to others. This person also should be innovative and able to use information from a variety of different sources. This skill will help to create many unique solutions to a problem. Further, in order to successfully judge something, a creative person should be aesthetics and have a sense of beauty. It is also necessary to be able to create a mental image of an object or an idea and design plans for a new project. Finally, creative thinker is a person who is risk-orientated, independent, and energetic.
Creative Problem Solving
Definition of Creative Problem Solving
Creative problem solving also has diverse definitions. For instance, in their research, Sophonhiranrak, Suwannatthachote, and Ngudgratoke (2015) define it as the association between problem solving process and creative thinking. On the other hand, Phaksunchai, Kaemkate, and Wongwanich (2014) provided a broader definition, according to which creative problem solving focuses on thinking to find various forms of choices that are new and different from the usual before applying to the problem solving, and refers to the ability of an individual of solving problem using deep thought that is beyond the level of normal thought. Wimmer (2016) assumes that creative problem solving process is the solution of complex problems. The researcher stated that, in order to be referred to creative problem solving, such solution should be new to the solver. Otherwise, this will be not a problem but a task. Gilhooly (2016) also adds that the creative problem solving involves the production of approaches and solutions that are novel to the solver even if historically they are not new and have been previously used. It is necessary to pay attention that a solution generated by the creative problem solving always should be useful; otherwise, the problem would not have been successfully solved.
The Structure of the Creative Problem Solving
Firstly, the creative problem solving structure was developed in 1952 by Osborn (Sophonhiranrak et al., 2015). At that time, the researcher included seven steps of creative problem solving process: orientation, preparation, analysis, hypothesis, incubation, synthesis, and verification. This version has been used by many researchers for a long time. According to Sophonhiranrak et al. (2015), the latest version of creative problem solving structure consists of four elements, which could be divided into eight minor steps. Thus, the first step is to understand the challenge. This step includes three minor steps: constructing opportunities, exploring data, and framing problems. Secondly, it is necessary to generate ideas. Thirdly, the problem solver should prepare for an action using the following substeps: developing solutions and building acceptance. Finally, according to Sophonhiranrak et al. (2015), the fourth step of creative problem solving process is to plan an approach using the following substeps: appraising tasks and designing process.
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On the other hand, Proctor (2013) and Phaksunchai et al. (2014) describe a creative problem solving process that includes six stages. According to the authors, the first stage is the objective finding. At this stage, a problem solver is looking for a target or an indicating challenge situation, and defines the problem area. There are the following useful tools that are usually implemented at this stage: brainstorming, web of abstraction, brainwriting, and excursions for divergent thinking; hits, clustering, and restating clusters for convergent thinking (OmniSkills, n.d.).The second stage is the fact finding. At this stage, a person is finding information or facts that are related to the problem conditions. The third stage is the problem finding that is connected with indicating all the possibilities, setting priorities, and focusing on the most important issues. At this phase, it is necessary to correctly define existent problems. For this purpose, the OmniSkills (n.d.) recommend to use the following tools: brainwriting, brainstorming, restating clusters for convergent thinking, web of abstraction, hits, word dance for divergent thinking and clustering.
The fourth stage is the idea finding. At this stage, a problem solver should find the most effective problem solving methods with alternative features and generate solutions to the problem. It is necessary to mention that the discovered methods should be different from the traditional one. According to the OmniSkills (n.d.) recommendations, there are the following tools that are useful at this stage: idea box, brainwriting, brainstorming, SCAMPER, forced connections, visual connections, and excursions for divergent thinking; hits, clustering, and restating clusters for convergent thinking. The fifth stage is the solution finding. At this stage, the manager assesses all possibilities of chosen problem solving methods and selects the best and the most suitable method for dealing with the issue. Finally, the last stage is the acceptance finding. At this phase, the chosen problem solving method is integrated for implementing the stages of problem solving.
Besides, Proctor (2013) also defines three additional stages of the creative problem solving. The first additional stage is the constant analysis of the environment to find potential problems. This stage is located before all described stages. Its goal is to determine the problem space and make process decisions. For this purpose, SWOT analysis, or any diagnostic tool are used (OmniSkills, n.d.). The next additional stage is focused on specifying assumptions and is placed after problem finding and before the idea finding. The third additional stage is a plan for action, which is the final stage. At this stage, a problem solver is focused on controlling to ensure that objectives are achieved in its post-implementation. As a result of this implementation stage, a manager should create an action plan that will identify the objects of problem solving, duration of this process, and responsible persons. Hence, this plan should include concrete steps that people will follow while solving the problem. According to the OmniSkills (n.d.), the RACI chart can be used at this stage. This chart lists responsible persons who are accountable for the problem solving, who can be consulted for help and guidance, and those who need to be informed when the process will be finished.
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In order to illustrate a process of problem solving, the case of DuPont Company can be taken. As Glassman (2017) describes, this company arranged a four day problem-solving Creativity and Innovation Meeting, which purpose was to shift paradigms and formulate innovative ideas that will help to improve manufacturing process, provide knowledge to employees about creative problems solving, lead to specific action plans and commitments, and promote teamwork and networking between companys workers. This meeting consisted of seven sessions; each of them was focused on delivering an appropriate step of problem solving. For instance, during the first session, managers formulated the aims, developed an agenda of meeting, and formed creativity teams. Further, during the first stage of problem solving, managers started a team building process. During the second session, people engaged into the meeting defined problems using advanced creativity tools. The third session was dedicated to creating various poems and metaphors related to the chosen problem. During the next two sessions managers developed trigger-ideas and poems pertaining to the chosen problems. The sixth session was dedicated to the identification of criteria of ideas selection, and, on the base of generated proposals, formulated appropriate solutions. Finally, during the last session, these proposals were upgraded and specific commitments and action plans were created. As Glassman (2017) states, as the result of such creative problem solving, creativity teams generated almost wrote 30 one page written proposals and 950 ideas in total.
Barriers to Creativity
However, despite the fact that the majority of researchers understand the importance of creativity for problem solving, multiple barriers to creativity still exist. For instance, according to Nazari and Shahdadnejad (2011), one of the main barriers to creativity is the lack of motivation and trust. Hence, in the case of law motivation, the working group will not be confident in continuing generation of the creative ideas. Similarly, if the employer fails to ensure trust with the participants of problem solving process, they will lose confidence in their working group. The second barrier to the creativity is the lack of acceptance and tolerance of criticism in the conflict (Creative Education Foundation, 2015). If there is no constructive criticism during the process of generating ideas, participated persons will be less motivated to produce innovative concepts. The third barrier is the conservatism and authoritarian management. If the organization's top and middle managers maintain the status quo and oppose any changes, the creative thinking of the working group will be resisted (Nickols, 2016). The research conducted by the Tutorials Point (2017) also defined several barriers to innovative ideas. According to it, many people feel more comfortable when using traditional ideas, instead of taking risks and generating something new and innovative. Thus, organizations tend to experience a variety of snares when trying to become more creative.
Consequently, creativity is an important factor of successful problem solving in a modern highly competitive business word. However, not all people and organizations have appropriate knowledge that helps to implement creative thinking into their problem solving process. The most common definition of creative thinking reveals it as a set of cognitive activities that use productive thinking in order to deal with the certain issue. Creative thinkers have a list of skills that merger them from other people. Mainly, they are not afraid of changing a status quo, are able to take risks, initiative, and have an ability to synthesize diverse elements. Additionally, creative thinker should have a good imagination and a sense of beauty, be innovative and risk-orientated. Due to the fact that creativity characteristics are not stable, they can be developed. The most common approach that describes the structure of creative problem solving includes six steps: objective finding, fact finding, problem finding, idea finding, solution finding, and acceptance finding. These stages can be extended by the additional ones: constant analysis of the environment to find potential problems, assumptions specification, and a plan for action.