A lot of people say they are not creative. I guess we are afraid that if we share our imaginations and dreams, we might be ridiculed or criticized. Yet, every day, an artist opens a new gallery. She is proud and excited to share her creations with others.
Creativity is defined by Dictionary.com as “the state or quality of being creative,” which in turn means original thought or expression. So, an artist creates original oil paintings and we admire them at an art gallery or museum. An architect designs a modern symphony hall and we praise his work with the unique building style fitting into the skyline of the community. My personal creative outlet is in scrapbooking and making greeting cards. Someone who is a “real” artist might criticize the simplicity of my cards, but others find joy in receiving a handmade card on their birthday or anniversary. I am not afraid of what others think because my creativity is my own and I relax while I am creating.
Creativity, then, takes many forms. It can be the creation of an original work of art or it can be the piecing together of various parts. Dictionary.com also defines creativity as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns … to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods …” This is the precise definition we should keep in mind as innovators applying Design Thinking to our life challenges. Leaders can increase creativity in their new product development (NPD) teams by using tools that help team members capitalize on their individual strengths in a collaborative, sharing environment. It is often the assembly of these various individual ideas into a larger whole that “transcends traditional thinking.“ And when we come up with new ideas and concepts, we can apply them to situations that improve customer satisfaction and product quality.
Problem-solving typically involves at least 5 steps to be successful period to be successful period
- Identify the problem
- Define the problem statement
- Generate potential solutions
- Test solutions
- Review and select the best solution
A standard problem-solving procedure is methodical and simple. It should lead you to the best solution and in the shortest time possible. Yet, I observe innovation teams marching through these steps, marking them “complete“ without a full consideration of really addressing the problem. This is where creative problem-solving enters the picture.
Creative problem-solving doesn’t grab the first or the easiest or the cheapest solution. Instead, creative problem-solving is a bit messy and it’s iterative, yet it will generate a better solution in the end. For example, when you identify a problem that challenges your customers, is it a closed discussion in the problem statement such as “improve product reliability by 10%“. Open-ended problem statements can lead to more creative solutions since there are not assumptions built in. “Improving customer satisfaction” is a more open-ended problem statement than including a specific reliability improvement metric.
Creative problem-solving instead investigates the drivers and customer emotions that require product development work. What percentage of customers complain about reliability? How does our product reliability compare to competitors? Where are failures in product reliability occurring?
Again, we return to the tools of Design Thinking to guide creative problem-solving. Design Thinking allows us to empathize with customers to truly identify the problems they face. We shadow and observe how, when, and where they use the product. What is the reliability issue – does it occur immediately upon product usage or after 10 or 100 uses of the product? And importantly, as NPD practitioners, we must ask why is product reliability important to the customer? The food and drug industry will have different answers then companies that specialize in software-as-a-service.
When we’re satisfied that we’ve identified the right customer problem, and we can clearly and concisely define it with a problem statement, we generate potential solutions with creative ideation. Ideation is just a fancy word that means creating ideas and concepts. During ideation, functional NPD team members work with customers to combine, modify, and substitute pieces and parts to generate new ideas and concepts. Ideation is a divergent thinking activity where even wild and seemingly illogical ideas are created. Sometimes, there is a gold nugget within a crazy, impractical idea that leads to a creative product solution.
For example, after an oil spill in the ocean, a large drilling company was stuck on how to clean it up. Using the traditional problem-solving steps, they were only coming up with ho-hum, incremental ideas. But, when they stepped back, applied the ideas of Design Thinking and creative problem-solving, they generated a unique solution to clean-up. It started with the crazy idea that seals absorb a lot of oil into their fur. Yet that innovation materialized in a rotating vessel equipped with oil-capturing brushes and a collection tank that facilitated removal of oil from the water surface.
Design Thinking tools like analogies, role playing, interviewing, and SCAMPER all help teams generate potential creative solutions. Matching, A/B testing, and card sorting are tools that provide insight to customer needs and whether we have defined the right problem to solve. Design Thinking also lets us test prototype solutions for functionality and customer acceptance with a low-cost commitment during product development.
Creativity for Creative Problem-Solving
Creativity is generating new ideas with the ability to transcend existing thinking about a problem. All of us can be creative, even though we might not be famous artists or architects. We can combine colors, textures, and functions to generate novel ideas. Importantly, we can be creative problem-solvers using deep listening with customers to empathize with their problems. Understanding the many different facets of a problem leads to a better, more creative solution.
Design Thinking tools are great to apply as NPD teams create lots of potential ideas and concepts. Lots of ideas is an expected outcome of divergent thinking and supports customer collaboration. Creativity in problem-solving yields superior results and allows an organization to get to market faster with new products that satisfy customer needs. Many of these tools and techniques also serve individuals well as they seek to make balance personal and professional decisions to find joy and purpose in life. Join us on Thursday, 18 April 2019 at 3:30pm to learn about the Life Design Master Mind group. The webinar is FREE and, based on your feedback, we have redesigned the online workshops to make it extremely affordable! Click here to register. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or area code 281, 280-8717 for more information or questions.
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