Although many people think that brainstorming and creative problem solving are the same thing, our experience suggests otherwise.
Creative ideas result more from perspiration than from inspiration. Einstein, da Vinci, Marconi, Ford, Goodyear, Edison, Whitney and others tried to solve specific problems or achieve well-defined objectives by applying the laws of science, and they succeeded.
In our own experience, our founder Dr. Metin Sitti, a world renowned professor of mechanical engineering and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, was interested in developing lightweight materials that would allow robots to climb complicated surfaces, for aerospace inspection, without leaving a residue or becoming fouled.
As for solving problems creatively, we’ve come to rely on a straightforward 7-step process that can be applied to any business challenge:
1. Identify the Problem – Break it down into its component parts and analyze each component. If possible, assign different components to various members of your team and combine those observations into a concise statement that gives direction for performing Step 2.
2. Research the Problem – Go online and also talk with people inside your industry who don’t compete with you, as well as those outside of your industry, including former colleagues, friends, relatives or thought leaders who may provide you with valuable insights. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help, as individuals are more willing than you might think to share their expertise and perceptions on a given topic.
3. Formulate a Creative Challenge, or a Set of Challenges – After clarifying the problem or the goal you’d like to achieve, focus on that single objective, such as developing a product to serve a given market, or growing market share within a particular sector.
4. Generate Ideas – Write down ideas on a piece of paper or electronically, or dictate them into your smartphone. Ideas need not happen during a “brainstorming” session, nor in any other group setting. Take some time to be alone, perhaps at a favorite outdoor spot, and think about the possibilities when you’re not being distracted by other people or devices. Be sure to include all ideas in your list, and don’t discount or eliminate ideas that you believe to be “outrageous” or “unworkable” because that evaluation will take place in Step 5.
5. Combine & Evaluate Ideas – Re-convene with your team and determine which ideas have the most potential to be implemented successfully.
6. Create an Action Plan – Develop a timetable and assign responsibilities for implementation, including assigning a person or group to monitor and measure Step 7.
7. Implement the Plan – This step is the easiest one, provided that responsibilities are spelled out clearly. If circumstances change, you can revise the action plan. If circumstances change, you can revise the action plan.
If you’ve used this process, or something similar, about how it worked, or what its drawbacks were.
If we can help you with creative problem solving,
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