Creative Problem Solving (CPS) 2018-01-14T18:52:28+00:00

Creative Problem Solving

Creative problem solving (CPS) is the official name for a standard process that includes identifying a problem, generating alternative solutions, and selecting the best/right answer.

I consider it one of the best processes to do the things that get you recognized for being innovative.

Innovation Process

I do not believe you can create something that is an innovation, no more than a director can create a movie that is award-winning. The designation whether something is innovative or not is up to your audience and users.

However, you can try to do all the right things to make what you do remarkable so that way when your customers see and try it – they will declare it an innovation!

While a misnomer, I refer to this entire process as brainstorming. I find creative problem solving too jargon-like. Besides, everyone gets the basics of brainstorming.

Let’s jump into the key steps of the process!

Stay Informed

Stay Informed of your own business, of your customers, of your industry, of your competitors.

Stay Informed is the first step in the “tasks of innovation” and the creative problem solving (cps) cycle.

To “stay informed” or monitor means being constantly aware of your environment. Follow and track your industry, your customers, your competition, your competition’s customers, your own company from the outside in, and the inside out. Track the trends. See also the topic Monitor.

By staying on constant lookout, it will be easier for you to notice subtle changes and anticipate needs.


  • How to Spot Trends – Great article with key strategies for trend spotting from the Creativity at Work newsletter.
  • The Trend Spotting Trend – Article from Fast Company with an outline of key strategies for trendspotting.

Problem Recognition

Problem Recognition is critical. It is the ability to notice that change is about to take place. Sort of like noticing it getting cloudy and the wind changing before a storm. The earlier you detect changes, the faster you can adapt what you’re doing.

As quickly as you notice something is shifting, you need to quickly go to the next stage, Problem Identification.

Problem Identification

Once you realize you’ve got a problem – discovered in the problem recognition stage, the next step is to determine the cause of an issue. Identifying the root cause of a problem. This is the stage where you “Frame” your problem. You will establish your objective based on the problem identified.

If you have found a need, issue, problem, or opportunity – you need to determine the cause of the problem.

Proper identification of true-cause will lead to the developing the appropriate remedy. You will come up with and implement solutions based on the work at this stage.

Be a troubleshooter. Now that you are able to anticipate a need, issue or opportunity you have to determine its true cause. You don’t want an aspirin to ease a headache; you want to prevent what’s causing the headache. This step is key as proper identification of the need will allow you to develop the appropriate solution(s).

Brainstorming / Idea Generation

The process of generating ideas. Also known as generating alternatives.
The term “brainstorming” was coined by Alex Osborn (the ‘O’ in advertising agency BBDO) in 1938 and described in his book Applied Imagination, this is the classic ideas generation technique, and it is one of the most effective methods when you need to get a large number of ideas from a group of people in a short time. The main drawback is that group dynamics and self-censorship often prevent group members from sharing their more imaginative ideas.


A list of methods for staying informed can be found in our Stage: Brainstorming section.

There is also a comprehensive Compendium Of Idea Generation Methods originally compiled by Martin Leith, passed on to Renee Callahan, and now curated by Idea Sandbox.

Decision Making

Decision Making is the process of reviewing all of the ideas generated and measuring them against the objectives (what you’re trying to solve). It is also smart to filter potential solutions by (for example) expense, ease of implementation, how it affects the brand, and a number of other filters.

This allows you to choose the option that best fits both the problem being solved as well as meets practical business needs.


  • Dot Voting
  • Screening Matrix
  • Storyboarding

Plan Crafting

Writing your business and/or marketing plan. This is the step where it all comes together.

The problem you identified in the Problem Identification stage was turned into an objective. The next step was to brainstorm to create potential solutions for that problem. After you have filtered the fewer, bigger, better solutions in your decision making step, you are now ready to create the plan – a blueprint that will create an action for the solutions and meet (or exceed) the stated objective.

Be The Champion

New ideas are like saplings and can easily be trampled by those who can’t see their future is a tall, mighty tree.

Ideas – especially new or those perceived as risky – need champions. Ambassadors to share the benefits of testing and implementing.

Articles: Champion


Implementation is where all the pre-work comes together and action is taken.

Of course, you’re not done yet… You need to monitor your project and make adjustments, if necessary. This takes us back to the first stage “Stay Informed.” Keeping an eye on this project, as well as all the other factors in your business and industry.

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