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Management: perspective and practice
Management: perspective and practice

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4.7 Choosing a technique or approach to problem solving

It is rarely the case that there is just ‘one right way’ in selecting a creative approach to problem solving, but there are various factors that it is worth considering when you are deciding how you are going to approach an issue. For instance:

  • Is the importance of the problem, or the need for novelty, great enough to warrant the time and resource cost of a formal method, or one involving other people?
  • What resources do you have, and what does the approach you are thinking of need?
  • Are people with suitable skills (e.g., facilitation) and motivation available if you want to use group techniques?
  • Is the local or organisational culture supportive of this kind of activity, or is this something you have to do ‘invisibly’?
  • What sort of problem is it? Or what phase of the problem-solving process do you need to use creative techniques for?
  • How ‘messy’ is the issue? Are many different stakeholders involved, for example?

There are also many possible personal reasons why someone may prefer one technique to another. People often like to use a technique they have used before and feel confident about; a slightly inappropriate technique used skilfully can often be more effective than a ‘better’ technique used inexpertly. Conversely, you may choose a technique because you want a change or to learn something new. Also, people with different cognitive styles may well bring different needs and preferences to the problem-solving arena. You may choose techniques that help you in aspects of problem management that you need to develop. For example, you may choose a convergent technique to help you structure your thoughts, or a technique that supports divergent thinking to help you to generate more ideas.

Activities 9 and 10 cover the CPS process and two systems thinking techniques for identifying and analysing problems.

In Activity 11, you will use one or more of these methods to do some more thinking about your problem or opportunity situation at work.

Activity 9 The creative problem solving process

The following sections explore the CPS approach and two different techniques for starting to think creatively about problems and their solutions: CATWOE and rich pictures.

While reading, think about ways that you have approached problems or opportunities in the past.

  • Have you used any of these techniques before? Which ones?
  • How did your approach assist you in identifying or analysing the problem?
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There are numerous CPS approaches. The resources introduced here present just some of the ones you might use to define a problem or opportunity. As noted in the following pages, you might find that one technique works much better for you than another.

In activity 11, you are going to have a go at drawing your own rich picture to represent an organisational problem/opportunity. Before you do that, to prepare yourself, work through the following resource which is a real example of how a manager developed a rich picture and gained a greater understanding of his own situation.