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Creative Problem Solving – The NEW Skill

Today’s most needed new skill is ‘CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING’. I have news for you. THAT WAS ALWAYS A NECESSARY SKILL.

As a business person, executive and consultant to large organizations, I’ve been a problem solver for over 35 years, and if it is one thing I have learned is that the skill is not developed on a learning curve, it takes a lot of effort, focus and practice. You can either solve a problem using creative ideas or you skirt around it; not my approach. Here I will share what makes a problem solver successful.

From personal experience, here are my 10 keys for creative problem solving:

  1. Understand that the problem is not the risk – it stopped being a risk when it became a problem and no one picked up on the warning signs.
  2. During problem \’discovery\’, articulate precisely what the problem is so that someone who is not impacted by it can understand.
  3. Unbundle a complex problem – find and identify what else is buried under what you initially discovered. Often unrelated issues will be bundled in with a stated problem. i.e.: A drop in sales and a drop in profit margin per sale. These two could have completely different sources of the problem yet should be assessed separately.
  4. Properly categorize what you find – and be very objective about it. Think of each finding as though it were brand new (it probably is).
  5. Identify the vulnerability that may cause a problem to show up in other parts of the organization – these are the interdependencies that may have been missed during a risk assessment. These may be due to behavior patterns or even patterns in where certain processes may break down. This is what may get in your way when it’s time for design thinking. Engage and collaborate across the business to identify those vulnerabilities and interdependencies.
  6. Validate your findings with people in the know. Facilitate a discussion with others about the findings and exposures. Communication here will go a long way.
  7. When you think you’ve explored all angles of the problem, prioritize all elements and identify how each impacts the objectives of the business. You could be looking at cost, impact on customers, internal impact, potential compliance failure, a new emerging risk, etc…
  8. Now . . . turn up the creativity and start thinking of how to design a solution. Here there are 3 things you have to consider:
    • Is there an opportunity to be had on the path to correcting the issues?
    • What is the vision of the ideal solution? Is it strategic?
    • What other innovative thinkers should be included in designing the solution?
  9. Be objective is selecting the solution/approach to erase the problem; not just accepting the one that worked for someone else at a different time and place, that seemed to correct the same situation – no two situations are the same – ever!
  10. Is everyone happy with the direction? What training will be needed? Did every contributor in identifying the problem and the solution get their due credit? 

When all the steps above have been completed, there is only thing left to do. EXECUTE the Solution. Choose the right leader to come to full resolution without delay.

Here is where an agile approach is best. You will be able to bring about change with the proper blend of exploration and experimentation by all those who will be adapting to the solution; whether it is a process change, new technology, new people or simply new applications, it will be less painful that waiting it out for months while development builds out a solution. The days of the long wait for the solution are now seen as archaic.

If you have a challenging problem that needs to be resolved with creative ideas and agile advisors, who are you going to call?

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