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Creativity Triggers for Everyone by Edward Glassman Ph.D.
Edward Glassman : Climb the Problem-Solving Ladder

Climb the 8-Rung
Problem-Solving Ladder

By Edward Glassman, PhD

(Adapted from Creativity Triggers are for Everyone)

I hesitate to bring it up, but sometimes the "S" word (Serious) intrudes and spoils frolicking creative fun. You must eventually solve your problem seriously.

To start, imagine a ladder with eight rungs. To solve your problem creatively, climb the problem-solving ladder. Rungs are numbered 1-8 as follows:

  1. Analyze the problem.
  2. Establish the criteria so you can select the real problem statement(s).
  3. Select problem statement(s) on which you will focus.
  4. List many ideas.
  5. Combine ideas into creative trigger-proposals.
  6. Identify the criteria to select quality solutions.
  7. Convert trigger-proposals into quality solutions that meet the criteria.
  8. Make action plans to implement a quality solution.

(Note: Bold indicate the 3 key creative rungs on the ladder)

This problem-solving ladder incorporates some important concepts essential to shift paradigms and produce high quality solutions.

First: Use all three key creative rungs creatively to solve problems.

  • Rung 1: Analyze and uncover the real problem.
  • Rung 4: List many ideas.
  • Rung 5: Combine ideas into creative trigger-proposals.

Expect ideas to fly galore when on these rungs.

Second: Welcome bizarre and exotic ideas in each rung. Use them to spark better ideas. Stay positive throughout. Let your imagination soar. Do not discard or ridicule any idea. Instead, choose what you want to use and keep what's left for future reference or discard them by gentle neglect.

The more bizarrely you analyze a problem, the more likely your imagination will produce a paradigm shift and a practical solution that differs from past approaches. Thus:

Statements »
Ideas »
Proposals »
New and

Third: Avoid rushing to generate solutions until you extensively analyze the problem to make sure you work on the right problem. Do not stuff the new problem into a comfortable old mind-rut or paradigm.

People who spend more time on Rung #1 (analyzing the problem) usually produce solutions more creative than people who rush to Rung #4 (generating ideas). This makes a great deal of sense, since jolting your mind first to pursue new directions, new paradigms, and new perspectives ensures that you generate unusual ideas and solutions that focus on the real problem.

Fourth: Do not actively reject unacceptable problem statements, ideas, or trigger-proposals. Just leave them behind as you chose others. Discarded thoughts may work later.

Fifth: Do not identify the criteria before Rung #6. If you do, you box in your creativity as you prematurely measure problem definitions and ideas against the criteria. Scuttle premature criteria.

Often you prematurely obtain criteria from others or remember unstated, phantom criteria from previous experiences. Deal directly with such criteria, or they will inhibit and drown your creativity. Get rid of them. Use forced-withdrawal and reverse the criteria. Here's how:

  1. Non-evaluatively list all given and unstated, phantom criteria. Set a quota for at least 10 to 20 phantom criteria.
  2. Reverse your criteria. Distort them. Shrink them. Magnify them. Play "what if" with them. Do whatever you can to make them insignificant.
  3. Later, when you finish generating ideas and trigger-proposals (see Chapter 13 of my book), you can return to realistic criteria (Rung 6). Then select ideas and proposals that fit your criteria.

Sixth: After all that effort and fun, every solution you intend to implement deserves an action plan with detailed action steps (see Chapter 16). Proposals without an action plan perch perilously close to perishing. •

© 2012 by Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

Edward Glassman, PhDEdward Glassman, PhD was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity. More »