Creative Problem Solving

Introduction

In the current competitive business environment, creative problem-solving techniques are critical in enabling a firm to overcome numerous challenges within the internal and external environment. Managers find themselves in situations where they have to embrace paradigm shift when undertaking various administrative duties. Technology has become a major concept and a tool for change.

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Barbot (33) explains that the emerging technologies have proven to be critical not only in operational activities but also in the decision-making processes. Managers need to be certain about the outcome of a given strategy before authorizing an investment to be made. Technology offers them the opportunity make scientific prediction of the outcome of these strategies. In this paper, the focus of the researcher is to discuss creative problem-solving techniques based on the emerging technologies.

Creative Problem-Solving in Global Organization

Global organizations often have to deal with both local and international challenges to ensure that they remain competitive in the market. Sullivan (21) explains that these firms must remain creative enough to overcome various market forces in the market. According to Janasz (31), creative problem-solving technique starts with defining goals that a firm should achieve. The management will then explore possible strategies that can be used to achieve these goals, the anticipated outcome, and challenges that may be encountered.

When defining steps that should be used to achieve the set goals, the team should also develop stages of solving expected challenges. It should involve defining what should be done when a given issue arises during the implementation phase. It is at this stage that a firm needs to embrace creativity. Understanding the compositional of every step that should be taken and improvising creative ideas in each step lowers the rate of failure when undertaking a new project.

The two steps make it possible for the management to understand what to expect upon completion of a project. Looking back and learning from the previous mistakes may also help a firm to improve its productivity. Barbot (39) argues that insights may also help in defining the path that a firm should take when embracing new strategies.

Global organization may sometimes be forced to embrace different strategies in different countries depending on the local culture and practices. According to Janasz (46), the popular culture in the United States is significantly different from that in China, the Middle East, and some African countries. For instance, home delivery is becoming a popular trend in North America and parts of Europe among many retailers (Hawkins 64).

However, the same business model cannot be used in most parts of Africa because of poor means of transport, insecurity, and many other challenges (Janasz 43). It means that the firm would have to come up with a different model in overseas market that meets the local conditions. Problem-solving mechanism may be the same in different markets but the final solution must be based on the local forces. Sullivan (45) states that a common sense approach to solving problems requires a firm not to ignore unique local environmental forces.

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Methodological Approaches to Problem-Solving

Methodological approaches to solving problems within an organizational setting are steps and strategies that a firm uses to counter challenges that it faces in its operations. Strategies that the Coca Cola Company would embrace may be different from that of National Bank of Abu Dhabi because the two firms operate in dissimilar industries. The methodological approach that a firm uses should be defined by the local market forces such as culture, the available resources (including human resource), government policies, level of competition, the level of technology available for the firm, and market size among others.

Autonomy and responsibility are other factors that cannot be ignored. Janasz argues that the approach that a firm embraces should allow it a considerable level of autonomy while at the same time holding specific stakeholders responsible for actions they take (45).

Analog reasoning, according to Hawkins (56), holds that people often look for a pattern in what they observe, and when it is identified, they relate it to other patterns previously observed to predict the future. The approach of analyzing the present based on the past to predict the future has been popular in the past, but this methodological approach of solving problems has flaws that management should understand.

The disruptive technologies may fail to follow a given pattern that had been previously observed. It means that further analysis of the issue at hand may be needed beyond simple analysis of the patterns. Although it remains a popular approach, it should be used alongside other strategies when addressing technology-based challenges. The approach also requires the implementation team to have adequate skills, knowledge, and experience in pattern development. This concept is in line with honing theory, which holds that creativity arises from self-mending and self-organizing nature of the worldview (Hawkins 79). When an individual re-hones revolutionary ideas and integrates them into daily work practices, it becomes an invention.

In the current competitive business environment, it may be necessary to embrace techniques useful for creating ideas when dealing with various challenges. Having a checklist of specific factors that need to be addressed at a given time would help in the planning process. After developing a checklist, a morphological analysis would have to be conducted to explore the possible solutions and identify the most appropriate.

Force-fitting trigger technique may be appropriate to generate problem-solving ideas by identifying the approach that fits most appropriately based on the problem that needs to be solved. The management can also use component detailing, attribute listing, and brainstorming to address a given problem. These three related approaches involve proposing different solutions based on the attributes or characteristics of a given problem. Sequence attribute modification matrix is another methodological approach that involves monitoring of sequentially connected elements when solving a problem (Hawkins 40). It involves identifying specific sequences in different problems and developing solutions based on the identified patterns.

When selecting an appropriate methodological approach of solving a given problem, it is often advisable to follow a conventional pattern irrespective of the issue at hand and the solution that would be finally proposed. The model of problem-solving below identifies six steps that the management should use in creative problem-solving process. It starts with problem identification. The firm should identify specific problem and its effect on its normal operations.

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The next step is to determine interests of every stakeholder. The goal of determining their interest is to get them involved in developing appropriate solution and to minimize resistance. The third step is to list possible solutions. All stakeholders involved should be allowed to propose possible solutions and provide justification to their proposals. The team will then evaluate the proposals based on various factors.

The optimal solution will be selected, stating why it was preferred over other proposals. The final stage is monitoring and evaluation where the team will assess whether the selected solution addresses the problem in the most optimal manner as was expected. The stages are shown in figure 1 below.

Problem-Solving Model
Fig. 1. Problem-Solving Model (Janasz 59).

Paradigm-Breaking Techniques

Paradigm-breaking techniques are fuelled by the emerging technologies. Whenever an invention is made in given field, it becomes necessary to redefine approaches of undertaking a given task. According to Sullivan (61), the desire to make work easier has led to emergence of new concepts and strategies in various fields. Innovative ideas have transformed various industries in different ways over the recent past. In this section, the researcher focuses on forces behind paradigm shift in different industries.

Disruptive Technology

The concept of disruptive technology, as defined by Barbot (39), refers to inventions that redefine the manner in which activities are undertaken in a given field. Since the discovery of fire, numerous inventions have been made in different industries that have redefined the approach taken to address specific issues. The film industry is one of those that have been revolutionized over the past five decades. Eastman Kodak enjoyed a global monopoly in the film industry before the 1980s (Clapp 24).

A new technology emerged in the industry that involved the use of digital films instead of the traditional films. Although the management of this firm was aware of this disruptive technology, it ignored the need to embrace it. The decision to resist change enabled the market rivals to take advantage of the new opportunity, a move that almost forced Kodak out of the market. It was a clear indication that a firm cannot ignore disruptive technology even if it is the dominant player in the market.

Imagery and Symbolic Representation

Creative problem-solving approaches that often lead to disruptive technologies always emerge from the desire to make work easy. It starts by visualizing an idea of how to undertake a given task in a different and better way than the current strategies. The imagination would then lead to symbolic representation of the idea in a way that others can understand. Sullivan (89) explains that the process of coming up with a new idea is different from wishful thinking.

It involves role-playing in a given area with the primary goal of coming up with something new. An individual with innovative minds must have specific attributes that makes him or her different from the rest. The personality and thinking style of the individual should always be based on developing something new. The learning style should emphasize on understanding the existing problems and ways to overcome them. Barbot (39) explains that moods and emotions may sometimes compel someone to come develop a new concept.

Using the Technique to Solve Organizational Problems

Paradigm-breaking techniques are useful in solving organizational problems. Putting ideas into practice is one of the ways of addressing organizational challenges in a given environment. Once a new concept is tested and confirmed to be viable, Clapp (45) suggests that a firm should take the shortest time possible to implement it. The management should use it sphere of influence, by maintaining effective and regular communication with all the stakeholders, to minimize resistance to change once a new concept is introduced.

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Examples of Methodological Approaches to Solving Problems and Paradigm-Breaking Techniques in My Workplace

The personal experience I have had in the workplace shows that creative problem-solving techniques are critical in achieving specific goals within an organization. As a team leader of the electrical section in the engineering division of the firm, I often encounter various challenges, especially when the firm is introducing a new product or a system of operations. It takes time for people to adjust from one system to another.

The methodological approaches proposed above can be used in my workplace to improve efficiency. My team members can use analog reasoning to develop a pattern of solving a wide range of problems. The model proposed above can also be useful in my workplace to help in potential problem analysis and develop their solutions. Computer simulations can also be useful in monitoring the progress of a given concept and in post-implementation analysis.

Paradigm breaking techniques are also critical in my workplace, especially given high rates at which new concepts and devices of operations are emerging. The process of implementing new ideas should sometimes be based on body of research (Clapp 54).

Taking into consideration new concepts can help improve the performance of my colleagues in the workplace. Cognitive mapping approach theory may be necessary when the team leader is trying to attach success to specific rewards. They need to know that any new successful concept that they develop will be rewarded. I believe that my team can achieve greater success if it embraces program evaluation and review technique (PERT) in managing projects.

What I Have Learned and How I Will Use It

The course has had a major impact on the knowledge I have about creative thinking. One of the most important lessons learned is that organizations cannot achieve sustainability if they resist change. As new trends emerge, it is critical for organizations to find ways of changing their mode of operations in line with the emerging trends and practices (Janasz 121). I have also learned that managers must always strive to be change agents.

They have to identify areas within the firm that need change, and initiate processes that would facilitate its implementation. Junior employees should also be involved in change management. The challenges that they face in their respective workplaces makes it possible for them to suggest ways in which these problems can be solved. They should be offered an opportunity to make their contributions when initiating a new strategy that may have a direct impact on daily activities they undertake within the firm.

Climate for Change

Promoting an environment for change is critical for a firm that seeks to embrace creative problem-solving skills. According to Sullivan (112), the top management unit has the primary responsibility of creating a climate for change. It starts by creating a culture for change. Employees should learn to not only embrace change but also be active in proposing new strategies. The managers can also create a climate for change by encouraging employees to seek further education.

The new knowledge will enable them to have a better understanding of the challenges they face at work. Barbot (39) also emphasizes on the need to have innovation centers within a firm where new ideas can be tested and developed into strategies that will improve organizational performance. When an employee makes a mistake when trying to implement a new concept, he or she should not be subjected to punishment as long as it is established that the mistake was not deliberate. An open communication system among employees and between the top managers and junior workers also helps in promoting a climate for change. It makes it possible for an idea to be shared and developed within a short time.

Resistance to Change and Its Management

When introducing a new concept, it is normal for a section of the stakeholders to express their displeasure, especially when they feel that they lack the capacity to cope under the new system. Resistance to change may be classified into four blocks. Strategic blocks refer to systems and structures that a firm has in place that does not create room for change. Sullivan (90) explains that many firms have strictly defined patterns of operation.

Employees are expected to stick to those patterns at all times. Such systems limit the ability of a firm to embrace change. Value block is another factor that may encourage resistance to change. It is necessary for a firm to be flexible enough to adjust its values regularly based on the emerging market trends. Having regard values that define how employees can act may limit their creativity. Perception block is one of the major factors that limit change in an organizational setting.

Stakeholders’ perception of a new system would determine if they would support its implementation. If they feel that the new system may bring serious challenges in the workplace or even threaten their position within the firm, they will reject it. On the other hand, if they feel comfortable with the proposed solution, they will support it. Sometimes the perception is defined by the fear of the unknown.

They may resist change primarily because they do not understand how the new system will affect them in the long-term. Self-image blocks are the factors that can also hinder the ability of a firm to embrace change. Eastman Kodak believed that its traditional films were the best and could not be replaced easily with the digital film (Clapp 57). The need to protect this image and their huge market share made them to ignore the need to embrace digital films.

It is important for the management to find ways of managing change. One of the ways of managing resistance to change is to involve all stakeholders when planning to come up with a new concept. They should feel part of the new system to help eliminate the fear of the unknown. Another strategy of overcoming resistance to change is to use Kurt Lewin’s model of change that emphasizes on a systematic approach of introducing a new concept.

As shown in Figure 2 below, change should be introduced in three stages. The first stage is unfreezing, where stakeholders are made to understand why the existing system is ineffective and what the new one entails. The second step is to introduce change when the firm feels that stakeholders have been prepared adequately and are ready to embrace change. The last phase is to refreeze, a stage where stakeholders are educated on the new system.

Kurt Lewin’s Change Model
Fig. 2. Kurt Lewin’s Change Model (Sullivan 78).

Conclusion

Creative problem-solving techniques are critical in addressing challenges that multinational corporations face in the global market. Using conventional methods of addressing problems may be necessary, but some problems require innovative ideas. Firms have to foster a climate for change to promote creativity among its employees. The report also emphasizes the need to adopt new technologies within the shortest time possible to ensure that it can enjoy benefits it offers. Managers should not fear paradigm shifts.

Works Cited

Barbot, Baptiste. Perspectives on Creativity Development. Hoboken, 2016.

Clapp, Edward P. Participatory Creativity: Introducing Access and Equity to the Creative Classroom. 2016.

Hawkins Harriet. Creativity: Live, Work, Create. Routledge, 2017.

Janasz, Tomasz. Paradigm Shift in Urban Mobility: Towards Factor 10 of Automobility. Springer Gabler, 2016.

Sullivan, Brian K. The Design Studio Method: Creative Problem Solving with UX Sketching. Focal Press, 2016.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, December 11). Creative Problem Solving. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/creative-problem-solving/

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