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Atlantic Review of Economics 

            Revista Atlántica de Economía

Colegio de Economistas da Coruña
 INICIO > EAWP: Vols. 1 - 9 > EAWP: Volumen 3 [2004]Estadísticas/Statistics | Descargas/Downloads: 10724  | IMPRIMIR / PRINT
Volumen 3 Número 14: Creativity and problem Solving.

René Victor Valqui Vidal
Technical University of Denmark

Reference: Received 21st September 2004; Published 17th December 2004.
ISSN 1579-1475

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Este artículo presenta algunos conceptos modernos e interdisciplinares sobre la creatividad y los procesos creativos, de especial relevancia para los que trabajan en Investigación Operativa. Haremos un breve repaso de las principales publicaciones realizadas en el área de Investigación en Creatividad Operativa. Asimismo, analizaremos algunas herramientas creativas y el enfoque de Resolución Creativa de Problemas. Finalmente, delimitaremos posibles aplicaciones derivadas de estos conceptos y herramientas y proporcionaremos algunas referencias importantes para profundizar en el estudio de los temas relacionados con la creatividad y las herramientas creativas.


This paper presents some modern and interdisciplinary concepts about creativity and creative processes of special relevance for Operational Research workers. Central publications in the area Creativity-Operational Research are shortly reviewed. Some creative tools and the Creative Problem Solving approach are also discussed. Finally, some applications of these concepts and tools are outlined. Some central references are presented for further study of themes related to creativity or creative tools.

1.- Introduction

  During the last decades the industrialised countries have experienced radical changes in many areas. New information, communication and biological technologies are reshaping the material, human and social basis of Society, giving new opportunities for development and at the same time creating new problems: pollution, depletion of resources, deterioration of the material world, deterioration of human beings, etc. For several years politicians, business people, experts, and NGO´s have been emphasising the crucial need of creativity and innovation to be able to utilise the new opportunities and to solve the many serious problems that the World is facing today, both in North and South.

  This development means that problem solvers are facing new demands: creative problem solving in collaboration with a group of actors, participants or users. This means that the problem solvers need to have the capability to be able to redefine the necessary skills for a given task, and to access the resources for learning very fast these new skills (learn to learn). The main qualification in this respect is the ability to facilitate change processes, involving participants actively and be able to regard the problematic situation in relation to a dynamic context of different environments. The essence is the ability to alternate between modes of routine, reflection and creativity in interaction with the stakeholders, rather than been "locked" into one of these modes. The traditional understanding of problem solving as a highly rational and programmed process is simple and straightforward, but it is insufficient if the problem is new and part of a bigger relationship and system that is changing too. Therefore, the need of creativity methods for problem solving that will generate synergetic effects in co-operation with the users.

  In addition, people working creatively and facilitating creative processes experience a constant contact with the pleasure of creation; their work sometimes becomes artistic activities. This will contribute to having a good and enjoyable life. Creative thinking can also become a life style, a personality trait, a way of regarding at the World, a way of interacting with others, a way of working in groups, a way of living and growing. Living creatively means developing your talents, tapping your unused potentials and becoming what you are capable of becoming through interaction with other people, self-discovery and self-discipline.

  The field of creativity is fundamental to the assessment of man´s condition. The dominant trend is to take a view of man, which reduced him to a conditioned automaton. Koestler (1976) asserts: " I believe that view depressingly true - but only up to a point." And he continues: "There are two ways of escaping our more or less automatized routines of thinking and behaving. The first is the plunge into dreaming or dream-like states, where the rules of rational thinking are suspended. The other way is also an escape - from boredom, stagnation, intellectual predicaments and emotional frustrations - but an escape in the opposite direction; it is signalled by the spontaneous flash of insight which shows a familiar situation or event in a new light." The creative process enables man to achieve a higher level of mental evolution. Creativity is an act of liberation: the defeat of habit by originality, concludes Koestler.

  The main purpose of this paper is to present some modern and interdisciplinary concepts about creativity and creative processes related to problem solving of special relevance for Operational Research (OR). In Sec. 2, the main OR publications related to the theme of this paper will be shortly reviewed. What is creativity? Is the subject discussed in Sec. 3. Here is shown the multi-disciplinarity of this concept depending on the focus: The person, the product, the process or the environment. This question is further discussed in Sec. 4 where an outline of the research work on creativity is presented. Sec. 5 and 6 presents the best-known creative tools and methods while Sec. 7 shows the principles of the so-called Creative Problem Solving Process. The last two sections present some applications of creativity in OR and the final remarks, respectively.

2.- Creativity in OR

  It is commonly accepted that real life problem solving supported by OR is both a science and an art. There are many publications and research work about the science (the rationality) of problem solving: decision analysis, modelling, optimisation, simulation, algorithms, heuristics, statistical analysis, validation, and so on. On the other hand, relatively little has been written about the art (the creativity) of problem solving, this topic has been largely ignored in spite of the fact that creativity is a powerful element of the OR problem solving process. There are so few references that an extensive review is easily done.

  One of the first papers is about creative thinking in modelling by Morris (1967). He argues that model building is very much an art, and as such, requires a significant amount of creativity. He has provided one of the few discussions of this aspect of modelling and emphasises the modelling process as being intuitive, and as such it can be supported by creative techniques. Morris suggests specific steps to help individuals acquire modelling skills.

  In 1978 appeared the following book: The Art of Problem Solving (Ackoff, 1978). This is probable the first book about Soft OR. Ackoff has shown decisions-makers the way to more creative, artful problem solving. This book is a practical guide that step-by-step shows you how to develop an understanding of the art of creative thinking and the design of creative solutions to planning problems. Later, Ackoff and Vergara (1981) published a remarkable paper, an invited review of the research on creativity of relevance for problem solving and planning. This paper presents several approaches for enhancing creativity. In this context, creativity is restricted to "the ability of a subject in a choice situation to modify self-imposed constraints so as to enable him to select courses of action or produce outcomes that he would not otherwise select or produce, and are more efficient for or valuable to him than any he would otherwise have chosen." Ackoff (1993) recommends the use of idealised design or redesign of a system and its environment in creating corporate visions for an organisation. Such a design is one that the stakeholders in the system would have now if they could have any system they wanted.

  Evans (1989, 1991a) has done a very important work in connecting Creativity and OR. The first publication is a double paper that is a first version of the second one, the only book on Creativity and OR. The purposes of these publications are: To review the diversity of literature, to examine the use of creative problem solving techniques to enhance OR methodology, and to offer insights and suggestions for integrating creativity into the practice and education of OR. In the period of 1991-1993 a series of papers related to Evans´ research were published in Interfaces, see for instance Evans (1991b, 1992, 1993a, 1993b). The work of Evans has been restricted to hard OR and mathematical modelling.

  Saaty (1998) advocates the need for a systemic integration of the diverse approaches used in (hard) OR within a single framework for all areas, including dependencies and feedback among influences to maintain the full integrity of the problems we solve using creativity and intelligence to move the process of creating a theory beyond the traditional process of problem solving.

  Keys (2000) argues that the place of creativity, design and style in OR has never been doubted but there has not been a unified approach to understanding the varied and significant roles they play. In this paper a means of examining creativity, design and style is presented that seeks to show the key role that they play in explaining how practice in OR goes beyond the application of technique and involves analyses in a rich mix of processes and activities. Thus, hard OR leads to an emphasis upon the creativity involved in understanding situations and designing tools, usually quantitatively or IT based, to support decision makers, such a focus is called "technical creativity". On the other hand, soft OR leads to an emphasis upon the creativity involved in managing the relationships between consultants and clients and the design of such processes (the facilitation of problem solving processes), such a focus is called "social creativity". A further discussion of this hard/soft paradigm related to creativity and OR problem solving can be found in Tsoukas and Papulias (1996).

  Now-a-days it is not sufficient to talk about OR in general, we have to specify whether we are dealing with hard, soft or critical OR, see Mingers (1992) for a meta-theoretical discussion of these different modes of practicing OR. Usually, hard OR is focusing on mathematical modelling and model solving, soft OR is concerned with participation and negotiation using soft methods and critical OR is preoccupied by the problems of alienation and empowerment while using hard and/or soft OR. Obviously, the creativity concepts and tools to be discussed in the next sections are of central relevance to the different modes of OR, it is in this sense that we can talk about technical creativity, social creativity and critical creativity.

3.- What is Creativity?

  E. Paul Torrance (Millar, 1997) has been a pioneer in creativity research and education for more than 50 years. Torrance sees creativity as a process and has developed a battery of tests of creative thinking abilities. He believes that all individuals are creative and that their creativity can be enhanced or blocked in many ways. He considers creativity developmentally, opposite to those who believe that a persons creativity was established at an early age (two or three years old), however his research has shown that creativity does not develop linearly and that it is possible to use activities, teaching methods, motivation and procedures to produce growth, even in ageing. Torrance asserts that creativity is an infinite phenomenon; you can be creative in an endless manner.

  You find creativity in many apparently different areas: humour (haha), science (aha) and art (ah). Koestler (1976) presents the theory that all creative activities - the conscious and unconscious processes underlying artistic originality, scientific discovery, and comic inspiration have a basic pattern in common, he calls it "bisociative thinking" - a concept he coined to distinguish the various routines of associative thinking from the creative jump which connects previously unconnected frames of references and makes us experience reality on several planes at once. Koestler introduced the concept of a "matrix" to refer to any skill or ability, to any pattern of activity governed by a set of rules - its "code". All ordered behaviour, from embryonic development to verbal thinking is controlled by the rules of the game, which lend it coherence and stability, but leave it sufficient degrees of freedom for flexible "strategies" adapted to environmental conditions. The term code is deliberate ambiguous, and reflects a characteristic property of the nervous system: to control all bodily activities by means of coded signals. The concept of matrices with fixed codes and adaptable strategies, is proposed as a unifying formula, appears to be equally applicable to perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills and to the psychological structures variously denominated frames of reference, associative contexts, universal discourse, mental sets, schemata, etc. Koestler has shown the validity of this formula from morphogenesis to symbolic thought. Matrices vary from fully automatized skills to those with a high degree of plasticity; but even the latter are controlled by rules of the game which function below the level of awareness. These silent codes can be considered as condensations of learning into habit or associative thought. Habits are the indispensable core of stability and ordered behaviour; they have also a tendency to become mechanised and to reduce man to the status of a conditioned automaton. Bisociative thought is the challenge of habit by creativity.

  The creative person

  We can characterise at least three types of creative persons. First, the problem solving one where the person (subject) is trying to solve a problem (object) in a creative way, this is the case of OR workers, engineers, scientists, advisers, etc. that is problem solvers in general. Secondly, the artistic person (subject) who creates a new piece of art (object), usually it will be a close interaction between the subject and object, the "soul of the artist" will be in the object, this object can be a product (painting, music, film) or a process (dance, theatre, performance). And thirdly, the persons that adopt creativity as a life-style being creative at work, at home and everywhere, both in an extrovert and introvert way, this the case of some inventors, artists, mode designers, etc. In practice very often these different ideal types will be interchanged or combined, that is sometimes the work of an engineer becomes art or the artist is just doing rational problem solving.

  Amabile (1998) has documented that creativity in each individual has three components: expertise, creative-thinking skills and motivation. Expertise is in few words knowledge in its many forms: technical, procedural and intellectual. Knowledge can be acquired both theoretically and practically. Learn to learn is an important tool for becoming an expert in modern Society. Creative-thinking skills determine how flexibly and imaginatively people approach problems and tasks. It demands courage to be creative because you will be changing status quo. Individuals can learn to be more creative and can learn to use creative tools in problem solving. Motivation is the last component. An inner passion and desire to solve the problem at hand will lead to solutions far more creative than external rewards, such as money. This component, usually called intrinsic motivation, is the one that can most immediately be influenced by the work environment. Amabile´s research has identified six general categories that support creativity: Challenge, freedom, resources, work-group features, supervisory encouragement, and organisational support.

  Teresa Amabile (1983) after many years of research focusing on creativity on organisations has also concluded that individual creativity gets killed much more often that it gets supported. Mostly, it is not because management has a vendetta against creativity, it is undermined unintentionally because of the optimisation of short business imperatives: co-ordination, productivity, efficiency and control. Her research has shown that it is possible to develop organisations where both profit and creativity flourishes, but you need a conscious strategy. Torrance research has also shown that children´s creativity gets killed in the primary schools and it is possible to design schools and education systems where both rational and creative work flourishes. Amabile has drawn attention to the crucial importance of intrinsic motivation in creative endeavour. Business has traditionally rewarded people extrinsically with pay and promotion but creative actions often arise out of a long-standing commitment to and interest in a particular area. She appreciates this is only one part of the equation, and that expertise in the domain concerned, and sufficient mental flexibility to questions assumptions and play ideas, are also important. In addition, she points out the critical importance of challenge, for instance, matching people to tasks they are interested in and have expertise in, permitting people freedom as to how they achieve innovation, setting a sufficiently diverse team the task of innovation, along with sufficient resources, encouragement and support.

  It is difficult to give a simple and general definition of creativity. It is easier if we restrain to study creativity in relation to problem solving tasks. Herrmann (1996) gives a short definition that encapsulates many other definitions presented in the literature: "What is creativity? Among other things, it is ability to challenge assumptions, recognize patterns, see in new ways, make connections, take risks, and seize upon chance." Let us elaborate a little more on this definition: Challenge assumptions means questioning the basis of the problem formulation; recognise patterns because usually chaos and complexity are caused by simple patterns which, when recognised, lead us to the solution to the problem; see in new ways means looking for patterns from different perspectives: a rational or logical, an organisational or procedural, an interpersonal or emotional, and an experimental or holistic; make connections, or biasociate, because many creative ideas are the result of synergy occurring between two thoughts or perceptions; take risks because there always exists the probability that your ideas will lead to failure due to many factors out of your control; and seize upon a chance means to take a calculated risk in order to take advantage of an opening that will allows to move forward toward a creative solution.

  Barriers to Creativity

  To be creative you have to be open to all alternatives. This open mindedness is not always possible to meet because all humans build up blocks or mental locks in the maturation and socialisation process. Some of those locks can have external causes, such as family environment, the educational system, and organisational bureaucracy. Other blocks were internally generated by our reactions to external factors or by physical factors. A key to improve your creativity is to get aware of your locks and do something about them. While everyone has blocks to creativity, blocks vary in quantity and intensity from person to person. Most of us are not aware of our conceptual blocks. Awareness not only permits us to know our strengths and weakness better but also gives the needed motivation and knowledge to break down these blocks. Adams (1986) identifies the mental locks as perceptual, emotional, cultural, environmental, and intellectual.

  Perceptual locks are obstacles that restraint us from clearly perceiving either the problem itself or the information needed to register the problem. It is well known that our eyes can deceive us in observing some figures. Our perceptions are not always accurate.

  Emotional locks restrict our freedom to investigate and manipulate ideas. They prevent communicating our ideas to others. These locks are also called psychological barriers and are the most significant and prevalent blocks that impede innovation. Fear of something new is a common characteristic of many individuals in the developed world.

  Cultural locks are adapted by exposure to a given set of cultural patterns. The culture of the industrialised countries trains mental playfulness, fantasy and reflectiveness out of people by placing stress on the value of efficiency, effectivity and moneymaking. Taboos and myths are predominant blocks to creative behaviour. Therefore, it needs courage to be creative in a culture that does not support creative changes.

  Our near social and physical environment imposes environmental locks. Creative persons have usually had a childhood where they were free to develop their own potentialities. We have seen that Amabile has documented that organisational climate can be a barrier or a stimulus to creative activities.

  Intellectual locks are caused by conservatism and lack of willingness to use new approaches. The same approaches, the same tools and the same persons are tackling the same problems for years. Persons with intellectual locks are usually very negative to changes and are fast to criticise new proposals.

  The Systems View of Creativity

  Creativity is usually seen as a mental process but creativity is also a cultural and social activity. Csikszentmihaly (2001) asserts that any definition of creativity will have to recognise the fact that the audience is as important to its constitution as the individual who is producing novelty. This environment has two main aspects:

- The domain, a cultural or symbolic aspect, and
- The field, a social aspect.

 For creativity to occur, a set of rules and practices must be transmitted from the domain to the individual. The individual (or a group) must then produce a novelty in the content of the domain. The field for inclusion in the domain then must select the novelty.

  Creativity occurs when a person (or a group) makes a change in a domain, a change that will be transmitted through time. But most novel ideas will be forgotten if some group does not accept them entitled to make decisions as to what should or should not be included in the domain. These gatekeepers are the field. Field is the social organisation of the domain, those who decide what belongs to a domain and what does not. Therefore the occurrence of creativity is not just a function of how many gifted individuals there are, but also of how accessible the various symbolic systems are and how responsive the social system is to novel ideas. Csikszentmihalyi has outline a systems theory of creativity, relating creative effort by individuals to the state of the domain they are working in and the characteristics of those who assess the worth of the creative endeavour in the field concerned. This offers a penetrating analysis of how creative endeavour emerges within a social field. Drawing on years of research in the field, he hypothesises about the interplay between knowledge about the domain, gatekeepers in the field and creative individuals. In addition, many of the points made by him in relation to other domains apply equally well to creativity and innovation in organisational settings. Csikszentmihalyi has drawn attention to the social context out of which creativity and innovation emerge. For example he has demonstrated the beneficial role of working at a place and time in which other individuals are engaged in related creative activities.

4.- Creativity Research

  Creativity research can be dated back to the description of the incubation process by the French mathematician Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) while discovering the so-called fuchsian functions, based on these experiences the psychologist Wallas (1926) formulated a four step creative problem solving process: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Incubation involves the flashes of insight while in the process of puzzling over a problem or dilemma, mulling it over, fitting the pieces together, trying to figure it out, this the part of the creative process that calls for little or no conscious effort. The flashes of insight come while you are going to sleep, travelling, dreaming, taking a shower, reading a newspaper, relaxing or playing (Eureka experience). Research on creativity started after the Second World War. In the 1950s American psychologists started to investigate the mental origins of creativity and develop creativity tests, the works of Torrance and Guilford started at this time. In Europe, Koestler research work was carried out during the 1950s and his monumental book "The Art of Creation" was published first in 1966. Stenberg (1999) has edited a book presenting an overview of 50 years of research in the creativity field.

  Now-a-days creativity research work can be classified in the following five domains: the product, the environment, the personality, the process, and learning and cognition.

 The product

  Focusing on the tangible that is new, useful, original, surprising, etc., this includes works of art, scientific discoveries, inventions, consumer goods, solutions of problems, adaptations, modifications, etc. Bionics is the name given to borrowing ideas for novel products or processes from nature. The list of improvements inspired by an observation of nature is very long. The inventor of the ballpoint pen was allegedly walking through a park on a frosty morning and watched some youngsters rolling a ball down a slope covered with dew. The brilliant idea was to make the connection between what he saw and the apparently un-connected problem he had on trying to improve the liquid-ink-based fountain pen.

 The environment

  Focusing on the organisational culture or climate that encourages or kills creativity. There will be things that happen either formally or informally and either of these may in turn help or hinder; there may also be things that the organisation does not do that affect the quality of problem solving. Environmental factors conductive to creative thinking include: The freedom to do things differently, an environment that encourages risk taking and self-initiated projects, and provides help and time for developing ideas and individual efforts; an optimal amount of work pressure, a nonpunitive environment, a low level of supervision, resources and realistic work goals; shared responsibilities, timely feedback, confidence in and respect for co-workers, and shared decision-making (participation); interaction with others outside the work group; and open expression of ideas, particularly of-the-wall ideas. All these factors will increase individual motivation and the happiness of enjoying your work, essential elements for creative and innovative work. Many organisations do not foster these conditions. Cultural change, education, and training are necessary within a global strategy to develop an action plan to make an organisation more creative. Managers at all levels, especially engineers and scientists, educators, and graduate students have much to gain from understanding how to foster a creative climate. Barriers to creativity include habits and routines, judgmental thinking, oppression and hierarchy, and various perceptual, emotional and cultural blocks seen in the last section.

 The personality

  Focusing on the characteristics of the individual who creates. Factors such as temperament, personal attitudes, and habits influence creativity. Creative thinking is largely a function of divergent thinking - the discovery and identification of many alternatives. Psychologists have performed considerable research on the characteristics of creative individuals that promote divergent thinking. These included: knowledge, imagination, evaluative skills, awareness and problem sensitivity, capability to redefining problems, memory, ideational fluency, flexibility, originality, penetration, self-discipline and persistence, adaptability, intellectual playfulness, humour, nonconformity, tolerance for ambiguity, risk taking, self-confidence, and scepticism. Recent research has shown that creativity is more than just divergent thinking. The two complementary patterns of convergent and divergent thinking must run alongside one another. Gardner (1983) has identified seven kinds of intelligences or pathways to learning: linguistic (writers and speakers), logical-mathematical (scientists), musical (composers), spatial (visual artists), bodily kinaesthetic (dancers, athlete), interpersonal (educators), and intrapersonal (therapists). It could be possible to think of creativity in the same way.

  However, creativity scholars and practitioners have not made any move in this direction, but they have recognised that there are many ways of being creative. The intelligence testing (IQ) movement originated in attempts to predict academic competence. Using familiar situations with prior knowledge and reasoning (intelligence) may be sufficient to solve some problems or dilemmas. However, there are instances in everyday life in which new and different problems and dilemmas emerge, which require some cognitive bridging or creativity. It has been published results showing there is not a meaningful correlation between intelligence (essentially IQ) and creative problem solving. Maslow (1987) distinguishes between "special talent creativeness" and "self-actualising creativeness" and he found that creativity is a universal characteristic of self-actualising people. Self-actualisation may be described as the full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, potentialities and the like.

  Such people seem to be fulfilling themselves and doing the best that they are capable of doing. He identified the following characteristics of self-actualising creativeness: perception or fresh appreciation and wonder of the basic good of life; expression or ability to express ideas and impulses spontaneously and without fear of ridicule from others; childlike or innocence of perception and expressiveness, natural, spontaneous, simple, true, pure and uncritical; affinity for the unknown; resolution of dichotomies or the ability to synthesise, unify, integrate; and peak experiences or fearless, wonderful, ecstatic experiences which change the person and his/her perception of life. Their codes of ethics tend to be relatively autonomous and individual rather than conventional. They regard upon the world with wide, uncritical, undemanding, innocent eyes, simply noting and observing what is the case, without either arguing the matter or demanding that it be otherwise. Self-actualising creativeness is "emitted", like radioactivity, and it hits all of life, regardless of the problems. Maslow mischievously wrote: "Science could be defined as a technique whereby noncreative people can create".

 The process

  Focusing in the way that creative solutions and products were developed. Wallas´ four stages process has given inspiration to the development of methods to be used by individuals or groups in the creative solving process, later we will see some of these methods. Some definitions of creativity are closely related to the process of sensing problems or gaps of information, forming ideas or hypothesis, testing and modifying these assumptions and communicating the results. In this respect creativity is the ability to see a situation in many ways divergent thinking) and continue to question until satisfaction is reached (convergent thinking). The creative process can involve tiny creative leaps or giant breakthroughs. Both require that an individual or a group go beyond where they have gone before, embracing the unknown, the mysterious, the change, and the puzzling without fear.

 The creative process may be considered as a new way of seeing, a different point of view, an original idea or a new relationship between ideas. It is the way or manner in which a problem is solved. It is the process of bringing something new into being. It is the process of combining previously unrelated ideas or perceiving a new relationship from previously unrelated ideas. Whether solving problems alone or in a group, you really must have a guided process i.e. a plan or a map of the steps to be followed. This is especially so in a group due to the need to align the capabilities of the members in a positive way. This map is usually called the creative problem solving process and under this denotation there exist a huge number of methods, tools and techniques to support the creative process. Some of them will be presented later. It is also a good idea to facilitate the group creative process, the facilitator will support the process, will elaborate a plan of the steps to be followed and will manage the whole process to secure that an action plan will be elaborated and implemented, see further Vidal (2002)

 Learning and Cognition

  Focusing in the abilities of creative learning, thinking and cognition in relation to problem solving. All this activities are related to the physiology of thinking and therefore to the function of the human brain. Creative learning is a natural, healthy human process that occurs when people become curious or exited about understanding or knowing more. Anytime we are faced with a problem or dilemma with no learned solution, some creativity is required. Creativity, by its very nature, requires both sensitivity and independence. In our culture, sensitivity is a feminine virtue while independence is a masculine virtue. Landrum (1994) outlines some specific differences between male and female approaches to learning.

 The female approach can be characterised as based on: negotiations, feelings, understanding, personal relationships, intuition, and win-win outcomes. The male approach is based on: aggressiveness, competition, ego gratifying, impersonal relationships, and win-lose outcomes. All people learn trough their senses: touching, smelling, tasting, feeling, hearing and seen. According to Matte and Henderson (1995) more than half of the population in the USA are visual learners (they want to read it). The rest of the population are with fifty percent probability either auditory (they want to hear it) or kinaesthetic (they want to experience it). The understanding of different forms of cognition and creativity is related to the structure and function of the brain, a research area known as neuro-psychology that has been in a huge expansion during the last years and that has contributed a lot to the understanding of individual creativity.

5.- Which tools?

  We have seen a variety of abilities that characterises creative individuals or groups. Four of the key abilities will be discussed in this section as well as tools to enhance them in concrete problem solving situations. They are: Fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. In this section we will only present four tools, those being the most popular other tools will be presented in the next section. Higgins (1994) presents many other tools and techniques.


  Fluency is the production of multiple problems, ideas, alternatives or solutions. It has been shown that the more ideas we produce, the more likely we are to find a useful idea or solution. Fluency is a very important ability especially in the creative problem solving process. To have too few alternatives is not a good thing in problem solving specially if you have to be innovative. There are many tools for producing ideas, alternatives and solutions. Several researchers have shown that training and practice with these tools cause a better fluency.

  One creative tool, which has been widely used with big success for generating many ideas, is Brainstorming. Osborn (1953) invented it for the sole purpose of producing checklists of ideas that can be used in developing a solution to a problem. The tool is directed to generating unconventional ideas by suppressing the common tendency to criticise or reject them summarily. Osborn tried to separate idea-evaluation from idea generation because he believed that if evaluation comes early, it reduces the quantity and quality of the ideas produced. Therefore in a Brainstorming session no criticism is permitted, and freewheeling generation of a large number of ideas and their combination and development are encouraged. Brainstorming is founded on the associative premise that the greater the number of associations, the less stereotyped and more creative the ideas of how to solve a problem will be.

  However, nothing in Brainstorming is directed at changing the assumptions or paradigms that restrict the generation of new ideas. This is an excellent technique for strengthening fluency, fantasy, and communication skills. It is a good idea to have a facilitator to prepare and warm-up the Brainstorming session, to lead and support the session, and to evaluate the whole process. This tool gives the possibility for the group to use more than one brain achieving a synergetic effect. Generate a multitude of ideas and some of them will be truly useful, innovative and workable. Asking individuals for inputs gives them an increase sense of importance and produces an atmosphere for truly creative and imaginative ideas to surface and be acknowledged. Brainstorming has been used for a wide diversity of problems, including not only marketing and product issues but also strategy development, planning, policy, organisation, leadership, staffing, motivation, control, and communication. However, this tool is not appropriated for broad and complex problems demanding high-qualified expertise and know-how. Some of the ideas produced may be of low quality or obvious generalities. Brainstorming is not a good idea for situations that require trail and error as opposed to judgement.


  Flexibility is the ability to process ideas or objects in many different ways given the same stimulus. It is the ability to delete old ways of thinking and begin in different directions. It is adaptive when aimed at a solution to a specific problem, challenge or dilemma. Flexibility is especially important when logical methods fail to give satisfactory results. Looking at modern paintings requires flexibility, they demand looking from different perspectives in order to see different objects, images and symbols. Seeing persons or objects in the clouds requires the flexibility of seeing concrete shapes in cloud formations. Flexible thinking provides for changes in ideas, detours in thinking to include contradictions, differing viewpoints, alternative plans, differing approaches and various perspectives of a situation.

  A family of creative tools, known as verbal checklists, has been developed to enhance flexibility in the creative process. Usually this is a checklist of questions about an existing product, service, process, or other item to yield new points of view and thereby lead to innovation. Osborn has also develop a very extensive verbal checklist while he was a partner of a major US advertising firm. The idea behind the verbal checklist is that an existing product or service can be improved if one applies a series of questions to it and pursues the answers to see where they may lead. The main questions take the form of verbs such as Modify? Or Combine? These verbs indicate possible ways to improve an existing product or service by making changes in it. Then you will add definitional words to the verb, for instance combine ideas, combine appeals, combine purposes, combine units, etc.

  Elberle (1971) developed a short verbal checklist known as the SCAMPER technique to assist people in improving their flexible thinking. When using such checklist, you will usually follow the following steps:

- Identify the product or service to be modified
- Apply each of the verbs on the checklist to suggest changes in the product or service
- Make sure you use many definitional words for the listed verbs, and
- Review your changes to determine which one meets your solution criteria.

  Another important tool for encouraging flexibility is the use of provocative questions. These questions will open up a situation to a broader and deeper direction of thinking which otherwise might not be produced or considered. They demand to think about ideas or concepts they have not thought about previously. Some provocative questions can be: What would happen if: water tasted like whisky? Cats could bark? Women could fly? How is: A PC like a ship? A flower like a cat? A sunset like a lake? A car like a fork? What might happen if: It never was Sunday? It was against the law to be perfectionist? People were not creative? Image what might happen if: By law it was forbidding to have children? Cars could fly? Men could have children?


  Originality means getting away from the obvious and commonplace or breaking away from routine bound thinking. Original ideas are statistically infrequent. Originality is a creative strength, which is a mental jump from the obvious. Original ideas are usually described as unique, surprising, wild, unusual, unconventional, novel, weird, remarkable or revolutionary. You need courage to be creative, because as soon as you propose a new idea, you are a minority of one. Belonging to a minority is unpleasant. In addition the original thinker must be able to withstand the ridicule and scepticism, which will be directed toward his/her ideas and himself/herself. To enhance creativity we have to be respectful of unusual or crazy ideas or alternatives.

  Picture Stimulation is a very popular technique used to provide ideas beyond those that might be obtained using brainstorming. The members of the group will look at a set of selected pictures and relate the information gained from the picture to the problem, otherwise the rules of brainstorming should be followed. Photo excursion uses the same principles of picture stimulation but instead of using prepared pictures for stimulation, participants are required to leave the building walk around the area with a (Polaroid or digital) camera, and take pictures of possible solutions or visual ideas for the problem; when the group reconvenes, ideas are shared. Another related technique is the Object Stimulation tool where instead of pictures a variety of different objects (e.g. a hammer, a pencil, a board game, etc.) will be used. Sometimes you can use words instead of pictures or objects, an associate them to your problem.

  There exist a number of computer programs that can be used to generate alternatives and otherwise add creativity to the problem solving process. They will include a huge amount of words, phrases together with many idea-associations that are linked to several thousand questions. The words, phrases or questions, randomly selected, will provoke ideas and associations that have to be relate to the problem in question.

  Originality can also be enhanced by analogies and metaphors. An analogy is a comparison of two things that are essentially dissimilar but are shown through the analogy to have some similarity. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which two different universes of thought are linked by some point of similarity. In the broadest sense of the term, all metaphors are simple analogies, but not all analogies are metaphors. Nature is a good source to provide analogies. Poetry is a good source of metaphors. Similes are specific types of metaphors that use the words "like" and "as" - for instance, the wind cut like a knife; his hand was as quick as a frog´s tongue, he sees like a condor and digs as fast as a mole. Similes can be used to suggest comparisons that offer solutions.


  Mind Mapping is a visual and verbal tool usually used to structure complex situations in a radial and expanding way during the creative problem solving process. A mind map is by definition a creative pattern of relate ideas, thoughts, process, objects, etc. It is difficult to identify the origin and the creator of this technique. It is sure that this tool has been inspired by the brain research of Sperry and his colleague Gazzaniga on the interplay between the left and the right hemisphere of the brain. It can also be dated back to the Bulgarian doctor and psychiatrist Lozanov that experimented with the brain and accelerated learning. It has been among others Buzan (1983) who has made Mind Mapping a well-known technique with many applications.

  The principles to construct mind maps are few and easy to understand. The best way to learn it is by practice. After short time you will do it automatically. If it is difficult for adults is because they think linear and take notes in a linear way (using the left hemisphere of the brain). To make mind maps you have to draw ideas from the centre of the paper and move in a radial and parallel way, to do that you have to use both your creative and your logical brain. With some experience you develop your own style, your own pallet of colours, your own symbols, your own icons, etc.

 A Mind Map contains usually the following elements:

- The subject or the problem that has to be studied or analysed will be placed in the centre of the paper
- It is used keywords (names or verbs) to represent ideas, as far as possible only a word is used in a line
- The keywords are connected to the centrum through a main branch and sub-branches
- Colours and symbols are used to emphasise ideas or to stimulate the brain to identify new relations and
- Let ideas and thoughts flow free; avoid too much evaluation during the period of elaboration of the map.

  When I construct a mind map, I will start from left to right building main branches in a circular way. Then, I will continue drawing sub-branches moving in a circular way until the whole sheet of paper is fill up with ideas. That is, I have been moving following an expanding spiral pattern. Then, I will move in the reserve way following a contracting spiral pattern supplementing the map with new ideas and connections. These spiral movements provoke the interplay between the creative and the logical brain to be able to combine holistic thinking with particular details of the subject or the problem in question.

6.- The Creativity Continuum

  Creativity tools can be classified in many different manners. McFadzean (1998) has develop a framework for classifying creativity tools using three categories:

- Paradigm preserving, where neither new elements nor relationships between the elements of the problem are introduced
- Paradigm stretching, where either new elements are introduced or new relationships between the elements of the problem are conceived
- Paradigm breaking, where both new elements and new relationships between the elements are introduced.

 Paradigm preserving tools

  We have seen that brainstorming does not create many ideas that challenge or break away from the prevailing paradigm. This is so because this tool only uses free association, no forcing the persons to use their fantasies to produce new ideas or to think in an expanding way. Let us seen other technique within this family.

  Forced Field Analysis is a usually used in situations related to changes. Each participant has to write two scenarios. The first one is the description of the situation if a disaster was to occur. The second scenario would be a presentation of the ideal situation. The non-ideal and the ideal scenarios will be placed on a continuum with a centre line drawn between them. The participants will be asked to list the (negative) forces that will make the situation non-ideal and those (positive) forces that will make the situation ideal. Thereafter, the group has to generate ideas to reduce the negative forces and enhance the positive forces.

  The (5W+H) tool is simple and very useful. The five W´s and the H are acronyms for Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How? It is a good tool for gathering information systematically about a mess or a problematic situation. I use this technique when I have to write a paper, an article or a report.

  Word diamond is a technique developed in order to generate ideas from the problem statement. Four words or phrases will be chosen from the problem statement. These will be placed in a diamond shape so that each word or phrase is located in a corner. The participants combine two of them and tell the facilitator the associated ideas due to the combinations. The facilitator writes on a flip chart all the ideas. This process is repeated until all the combinations are examined.

  These and many other tools for creative thinking do not necessarily encourage the individuals and the group to regard the problem from different perspectives. That is the participants will tend to preserve their paradigms. These tools are valuable because they are somehow "safe", people usually feels comfortable in their use. Free association and hitchhiking is used to spark off other ideas and then produce new solutions. Paradigm preserving techniques are very popular because they are easy to use from the participant´s and facilitator´s viewpoint. In addition, these tools create usually fun and a good atmosphere and therefore they can be use as warm-up techniques before going to other more advanced tools. The use of these tools does not demand experienced groups and facilitators.

 Paradigm stretching tools

  These techniques will encourage the participants to regard the situation from a new perspective. They may use new relationships between new elements to develop a new element to create a new solution. This is usually called unrelated stimulus. Let us see some of these tools.

  We have seen that the checklists described above are well known approaches within this family. They use unrelated stimuli to spark off new ideas. They demand more imagination and expression than paradigm preserving techniques.

  Metaphor is also a tool belonging to this family. The facilitator first constructs metaphor categories, for instance: journey, nature, people, food, music, countries, and so on. Afterwards minor categories are stipulated, for example for journey: in space, on land, under sea, etc. The participants are asked to describe the problem using the metaphor category. The facilitator needs to stipulate whether the description should be at the present situation or the ideal situation. Using the descriptions developed by each person, the participants can generate new ideas. These new ideas can be related back to the problem situation.

  Another technique is Role storming. This tool involves the group generating ideas from someone else perspective. You could be Leonardo, Edison, Picasso, Robin Hood, Donald Duck, Bush or some Super Heroes. Each participant is asked to describe a character and together with the others, generates ideas related to the problem using the character´s profile or his tools and implements. The ideas will be discussed and developed by the group.

  Heuristic Ideation Technique can be used to create new concepts, ideas, products or solutions. The group will first make two lists of objects or concepts. An object from list 1 is then chosen together with one object from list 2. The participants are then asked to force a relationship between the two. For instant forcing together a telephone with a PC can give origin to the Internet. The participants continue until all ideas have been exhausted. The ideas are then discussed and developed into innovative solutions.

  Reversal is a tool that can help the group to look at the problem from a different platform. Reversing the problem statement can often provide a new perspective and therefore new ideas. The participants will be asked by the facilitator to reverse in someway the problem statement. They can change the subject, the verb or the object of the sentence. For instance: How to increase production? Can be reversed to: How to decrease production. Using the reversed statement we can use another tool, for example brainstorming, to generate ideas. Continue until enough ideas have been generated. Discuss and develop the ideas into innovative solutions.

  A similar tool to the last one is the so-called Assumption Reversals technique. Here the assumptions regarding the problem situation are stipulated. Reverse each of the assumptions and generate new ideas in a similar way as in the case of Reversal.

  All these tools enhance creativity by looking at the problem from a variety of perspectives and by breaking old mind patterns and forming new connections and perceptions. De Bono (1992) call this process lateral thinking or moving sideways in order to try different concepts and perceptions.

 Paradigm breaking tools

  These techniques will encourage the participants to completely break down the paradigm. In other words the participants can regard the problem or situation from a variety of different and probably contrasting perspectives. Incorporating both new elements and new relationships to the problematic situation will create innovative solutions. Let us see some of these tools.

  We have already discussed Picture Stimulation as a technique that enhance the production of original ideas. This is a very popular technique that provokes visual thinking, a very important ability of creative individuals.

  Wishful Thinking is another technique in this family of tools. The facilitator emphasises that everything is possible and that the participants have to use their fantasy. Each participant is asked to develop some fantasy statements about the future using formulations as: In the future, it would be nice if ... If, I was the leader in this situation I will do... The participants then examine each fantasy statement and suggest ideas and actions on how these fantasy statements could be achieved. Thereafter the new ideas are linked back to the actual problem. This can be achieved by using formulations such as: Even if it is difficult to reach, we can ... It will be possible, if ...

  Another well-known technique is Rich Pictures. The facilitator asks each participant to draw two pictures. The pictures might be a metaphor of the situation. The first drawing should be a picture of how the participants would like to see the situation in the future. The second picture should be a drawing of how the participants see the present situation. Each participant explains first the picture of the present situation; the (5W+H) technique could be used to structure his explanation. Next, the participant describes the future in the same way. All the participants may then generate ideas of how to move from the present to the future.

  Imagining is a tool that can generate many creative ideas but it will not work with very conservative groups. This tool is ideal for groups with visionary participants and for groups where the participants feel rather confident to each other and like to have fun. These kinds of groups are like a dream for a facilitator. The facilitator chooses a word and one participant starts to make a story around this word. After a minute somebody else should take over the story and continue. Any body now can jump in when they please. The participants should be encouraged by the facilitator to be wild, exotic and colourful as possible. The richer is the description the better. Changeovers can be steered by the facilitator to introduce a factor of surprise. The images can be written down by the facilitator and then used as unrelated stimuli to create ideas relating to the problematic situation. This technique is usually called Wildest Ideas if instead of a word uses a wild idea to start with.

  As we have mentioned above these paradigm breaking tools should be used only with experienced groups or groups that feel rather comfortable with the facilitator. These tools are demanding from the participants the ability to use fantasy, intuition, and feelings and to play. Due to the above mentioned mental locks many people will be afraid and anguish to participate in such sessions. Some can react very negative and consider the workshop unserious.

 The continuum

  Creativity tools can be located in a creativity continuum ranging from paradigm preserving tendencies to paradigm breaking tendencies as suggested by McFadsean. Paradigm preserving tools are considered to be "safe", that is they do not provoke anguish to the participants; they do not demand imagination and expressivities from the participants; they use free association to produce ideas and they do not demand experienced groups. On the other extreme, we have paradigm breaking tools that can be viewed as "unsafe"; they demand imagination; they use fantasy and unrelated stimuli to generate original ideas and experienced groups should only use them. In the centre of this continuum are the paradigm stretching tools.

  O´Dell (2001) presents a similar way to locate creativity tools in a continuum but using a different scale, at one extreme we will have the more structured tools as for instance checklists and in the other extreme are the less structured tools as picture stimulation.

  Creativity tools can also be classified according to the four styles of creativity suggested by Miller (1993): Modifying, visioning, experimenting, and exploring. Technical people, like engineers, prefer to use more structured or analytically oriented tools whereas behaviourally oriented participants tend to prefer less structured or intuitive tools. Research has shown that pragmatic-minded persons usually overlook paradigm breaking tools; they prefer logical or rational modes of analysis while artists are more willing to use their intuition and fantasy. Although, logical and rational type of approaches can be useful for well-structured problems, it will not work as well with most ill structured problems. Different tools are therefore useful for different types of problems. Paradigm stretching or paradigm breaking techniques may be more useful for ill-structured problems whereas paradigm preserving tools can be used to solve more structured problems or well known situations. If a problem is open-ended and ill structured, it is probably a good idea to generate a fantasy or a metaphor in order to explore a desired scenario for the situation. Dealing with ill-structured problems very often it is a good idea to start with a paradigm preserving tool to warm-up and then switch to paradigm stretching or paradigm breaking techniques.

  Selecting one or more creativity tools to facilitate a group in a creative problem solving process is a difficult decision-making problem where the facilitator has to reflect about three (usually incompatible) forces:

- The organisational culture behind the group and what they represent
- The task or problem and its complexity, and
- Your style as facilitator and your own goals for the process.

  Let us reflect a little about the task of a facilitator. He or she has to support the problem solving process. It is very important that he or she pre-plans the session or workshop to design an appropriate agenda. The facilitator should have knowledge an experience with many different tools and approaches to problem solving, among them creativity techniques. Since the problem solving session is a very dynamic process the facilitator must be receptive to the group if the participants are feeling uncomfortable during the process. The facilitator must also be aware of the cohesiveness of the group and the participants´ experience of using creativity tools. Complex problem situations demand very often more time than just a session of four to six hours, a workshop over a weekend seems more appropriate, then the whole problem solving process has to be structured in stages and at each stage creativity tools can be used. The concept of design and management (facilitation) of a Vision Conference has been developed by Vidal (2002).

7.- The Creative Problem Solving process

  Experience has shown that it is recommendable in a creative process to start with a divergent thinking to produce as many ideas or solutions as possible and thereafter to switch to a convergent thinking to select the few most promising ideas. This is usually illustrated in the form of a diamond.

  Some of the rules for divergent thinking are:

- Imaging, reframe and see issues from different perspectives
- Defer judgement, criticism or negativity kills the divergent process, be open to new experiences
- Quantity breeds quality, to have good ideas you need lots of ideas
- Hitchhiking is permitted, it this way a synergetic effect can be achieved
- Combine and modify ideas, in this way you can create many ideas
- Think in pictures, to create future scenarios you can even essay to simulate potential solutions
- Stretch for ideas, imaging ideas beyond normal limits, and
- Do not be afraid to break paradigms, avoid destructive criticism, and add value to the challenged concept.

  Some of the rules of convergent thinking are:

- Be systematic, find structure and patterns in the set of produced ideas
- Develop ways to evaluate ideas, assess qualitative and quantitative measures of ideas
- Do not be afraid of using intuition, this is the way how most important decisions are taken
- Avoid quickly ruling out an area of consideration, take your time or better sleep on it
- Avoid idea-killer views, try the impossible, do not be afraid to clash a wall it is not sure that the wall will always hold
- Satisfy, do not expend to much time in looking for the optimal solution of an ill-structured multi-criteria problem
- Use heuristics, use common sense and experience based rules, and
- Do not avoid but assess risk, does not mean being blind to risks, for serious consequences be sure to have a contingency plan.

  As we will see below creative problem solving processes always contain phases of divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking produces as many solutions as possible within the available time. The participants will vary in the way they prefer to produce ideas; some will do it by association others by unrelated stimulus. Convergent thinking on the other hand requires from the participants to use skills in reality testing, judgement and evaluation to choose the one or two best options from a number of possibilities. It is not unusual that in a group some members will very easily diverge, that is build a list of alternatives, while others will converge very fast by trying to select the best solution from the list and the rest will be passive not knowing what is required of them. Therefore the need of a facilitator, he or she designs a clear and visible process to align the group. Usually the facilitator does not select the participants of the group; very fast he has to identify the profiles of the participants.

 The CPS (Creative Problem Solving) Process

  All of us have experience since primary school up to university that the problem solving techniques we have learn and practice involved cases that:

- Have been solved many times
- Have a obvious standard form
- Have a clearly formulated goal
- Have all the information needed
- Have standard rules to follow
- Have one right answer and
- Have as a main motivation an external approval - a grade, reward, approval, and exam.

  Traditional problem solving methods (as hard OR) are suitable for well-structured problems but are not very useful to the unknown, uncertain, and dynamic problems of real life. Creative problem solving is what millions of people use to survive every day of their life, yet we get no practice on these skills in our structured, deterministic, safe, and supervised learning environments. Creative problem solving deals with situations where one or more of the characteristics outline about is negated.

  Already Osborn (1953) described several basic steps to support groups and individuals be more successful in creative problem solving. Some of these steps were described by Wallas in his study of the creative process. Later, based on these proposals, several researchers have formalised and extended these ideas into a systematic approach to creative problem solving known as the CPS model or process. 4-steps, 5-steps and 6-steps models have been proposed. Here we present the most general version. It is called the 6-diamond model, where the upper part of each diamond represents the divergent sub-processes and the lower part corresponds to the convergent sub-processes. The 6 steps are:

  1.- Mess finding: Identify areas of concern. Generate ideas of possible problematic situation from a holistic viewpoint. Identify the three most critical and general problems. Select one for further work.

  2.- Fact finding: Observe carefully, like a video camera, while collecting information and data about the problem situation. Both objective facts and subjective experiences should be collected, explored and identified.

  3.- Problem finding: Fly over the challenge or the problem by considering different ways of regarding it. Think about those possibilities.

  4.- Idea Finding: Search for a variety of ideas, options, alternatives, paths, approaches, manners, methods and tools. Select potential solutions or ideas.

  5.- Solution finding: Dig about the ideas in new and different ways, from other viewpoints and criteria. Assess the consequences, implications, and reactions to the selected ideas. Select ideas and solutions to develop an action plan.

  6.- Acceptance finding: Develop ideas about how to implement the action plan. Search for ways of making the ideas or solutions more attractive, acceptable, stronger, more effective, and/or more beneficial. Develop a working plan for implementation.

  Considerable research into the CPS process shows that a willingness to consider alternatives, to take some risks, to venture into insecure land, and to tolerate some uncertainty and ambiguity are important; see further Parnes (1997) and Courger (1995). Let us now focus in the different type of creative sub-processes that are needed at each step of the 6-diamond model:

1.- Mess finding. Here we will have the following creative sub-processes: Fluency, flexibility, originality, deferred judgement, and evaluation
2.- Fact finding. Here it will be emphasised: Analysis and evaluation.
3.- Problem finding. Here the main sub-process is synthesis.
4.- Idea finding. Here we will have the following sub-process: Fluency, flexibility, analysis, originality, and deferred judgement.
5.- Solution finding. Here the main sub-processes are: Synthesis, elaboration and evaluation.
6.- Acceptance finding. The following sub-processes are present: Synthesis, evaluation, originality, and flexibility.

  As we can see at all these stages creativity tools can be used, but depending in the problem or the situation under study, other both "hard" and "soft" methods can also be applied specially in the convergent phase of each step in the CPS process.

  Depending of the size and complexity of the problem the whole CPS process might take long time. During this process the group at some stages will need a facilitator, an expert, or a supervisor to support the different types of decisions to be taken. These are some of the roles I will play as the adviser or mentor of a group of students at the university working on theses or projects. On the other hand, a very important aspect in this respect is learning. The use of creativity tools and the CPS process can be learned by every person that has a "proactive" stance to life, because of their simplicity many of these tools can be used in everyday life. Children at school and elderly people can creatively empower their life by been proactive instead of reactive. Moreover, being creative in a group is usually fun; creative teams at work usually laugh a lot, see further Goff (1998).

  In practice, as a problem solver and /or as a facilitator, you need a very important skill: intuition. Intuition is usually defined as the sixth sense, the power of knowing, or knowledge obtained without recourse to inference or reasoning. It is important to emphasise that intuition is not something contrary to reason but something outside the province of reason. Intuition will help you to deal with what we have called mental locks to creativity, your own locks and how to deal with them and the ability to second guess the locks of others and help them to cope with them. Our task as facilitators is to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar.

  Depending on the actual problematic situation some more specialised approaches could be used combined with creative tools, as for instance: Synectics (Gordon, 1961), Future Workshops (Jungk and Müller, 1987), TKJ (Kobayashi, 1971), SWOT (Sørensen and Vidal, 1999), The Search Conference (Emery and Purser, 1996), The Vision Conference (Vidal, 2002), Idealized Design (Ackoff, 1978) and TRIZ (Kaplan, 1992)

8.- Creativity in Practice

  There are several attitudes, simple techniques and ways of life that will awake, support and develop your creative potentialities. Everyday creativity at different situations is a very important attitude and way of life that surely will enhance your creativity also at your work. Let us see some few recommendations that work for individuals and group of persons.

  Break away from routines, the modern person is fill up of routines, some are close to be automatons or robots. Try to break some of them, do things that you have not done before. In the morning, at work, at the evenings, you should start with small things. Go to the library and study books about subjects you have not known even existed before. Read about the life of highly creative people: Leonardo, Einstein, Picasso, etc. Experiment for instance while cooking. If you do not cook, begin just now because cooking can become a highly creative activity. Your relatives will surely assess the quality of your innovative dishes.

  Create inspiring circumstances. Potentially everything can be used as a source of inspiration, as far as we are open to seeing connections or relations to our own situation. Words, pictures, books, films, persons, etc. can stimulate the ability of our brain to produce analogies. Music, pieces of art and performances are usually central sources for inspiration. Some people have been inspired by walking in a forest or at the beach to find an analogy to solve a problem. Some examples are Velcro, potato chips, etc. Inspiration is a key factor while creating metaphors. Studying poetry you can see how inspiration is a way to create metaphors. Or play, play and play as a child.

  Be both open and close-minded. Open minded means to be willing to consider new ideas, to diverge, to expand, to fly, and to see wholeness. Close minded means to be willing to consider a single idea, to converge, to focus, to dig, and to see details. For me a creative person is able both to fly, to have overview and to dig, to discover the roots. It is a mythical creature half a condor and half a mole, with a well balanced big brain that switches from flying to digging.

  Search for information and knowledge. Now-a-days using Internet you have access to an enormous amount of information and knowledge that can be of relevance to your problem or the subject you are dealing with, but you have to be critical about the quality of the obtained information and who is providing it. This is important because you do not need to start from zero or rediscover the wheel before designing a new vehicle. You have to be creative while searching for information and knowledge, finding the right key words, and here serendipity plays a central role. Serendipity is the faculty of discovering pleasing or valuable things by chance; this means that you have to be ready, well prepared to be able to see the illuminating idea or clue.

  Last, use your fantasy and visualise a situation then try to simulate how such situation develops. Creative people are usually visual thinkers. Relax, play some relaxing music and daydream about a situation or a problem. Stop working if you are not able to find a clue to a situation or a problem, do something else or go to sleep. You might incubate in your dreams and often illumination will arise when you wake up. Get acquainted with artists, inventors, designers, composers and other creative and learn some of their tricks and techniques they use when they run out of ideas.

 Styles of Creativity

  Creativity research has shown that individuals exhibit various degrees of creativity throughout their lifetime. Usually, we have settled into a pattern or style of creative thinking. Just as it is valuable to understand your locks to creativity, it is important to understand your own style of creativity. Each of us has different personalities, although we all have the ability to be creative, personal differences and preferences cause us to approach creative problem solving in different ways. This is very central especially while working in groups, because each person has a contribution to make due to his or her unique profile. Creative groups are very effective if different styles of creativity are combined, to stimulate our thinking in different directions and to cause us to re-think our usual approaches.

 Miller (1989) has developed a questionnaire that helps persons to identify their style of creativity that is their preference to promote creativity and change. It is founded in three assumptions:

- Each person has the ability to think creatively, the mean issue is: How is he creative?
- Each person has equal potential for creativity, but persons have different approaches to making change when they work, and
- There is not a single style, but a combination of styles, yet still each person has a favourite style.

  A person´s creativity style is founded in how he uses information to stimulate his creativity. Each creativity style prefers a different method for generating and evaluating ideas. Miller´s research shows that preferences for style can be classified in four categories:

  1.- The modifying style likes to ask: What can we adapt to improve upon what has worked before? These people are more comfortable working with facts and making decisions. They seek solutions using methods that have worked before. They are precise, reliable, efficient and disciplined.

  2.- The visioning style likes to ask: What can we realistically image as the ideal solution over the long term? These people trust in their intuition and like to make decisions. They seek solutions that focus on maximising potential. They are persistent, determined, hard working and visionary.

  3.- The experimenting style likes to ask: What ideas can we combine and test? These people emphasise fact-finding and information gathering. They seek solutions by applying pre-established processes and experimental trial and error. They are curious, practical, and good team players.

  4.- The exploring style likes to ask: What metaphors can we use to challenge our assumptions? These people like using their insights to guide them. They collect lots of information hoping that it will help to approach problems from different angles. They are adventurous, dislike routine, and like to be challenged.

  Herrmann (1996) using another classification has developed a test to determine your creative style as: analyser, strategiser, organiser, or personaliser.

 Uses of Creativity

  We have seen that creative tools and the CPS process can be used in connection with group problem solving, in general, and more specifically in relation with the design of a project. Here we will see other types of applications.

 Future studies, is an area closely related to strategic development and scenario analysis. It is the examination of future alternatives and possible results before they are put into action. Studying the future encourages individuals to thing more creatively about future possibilities and the impact of present actions on the future. Future studies have four essential characteristics:

- Opportunities to think creatively and to be creatively expressive
- Interdisciplinary studies and activities
- Lots of practice in teams
- Future oriented topics of wide interest and concern.
- Combination of creative tools with both hard and soft approaches.

  Inventing and innovation is another interesting area. It involves interdisciplinary studies and the exploration of science and engineering with a purpose. Learners need opportunities to see concrete applications of scientific principles, which they get by studying and experiencing the inventing process. Inventions are such a significant part of our lives that it is difficult to imagine any subjects taught in to day´s schools which do not have direct relation to the broad topics of inventing, inventions, innovation and inventors. The inventing process is a very creative one, depending of the participant´s style of creativity. Getting the initial idea is like an engine getting a spark to start, it sets off a series of reactions and sequence of events. Once an idea is communicated it is then time to brainstorm about it. Then develop a prototype. A careful evaluation is then made of costs, feasibility, marketability, time, other resources, etc. in other to decide whether or not to continue with the idea. If yes, then an action plan will be make. From here a working prototype is developed. Be patient, James Dyson invented the bagless vacuum cleaner in 1979 it took over 15 years to develop his idea. Inventing and innovation is closely related to the problem of product development that many manufacturing firms are confronting with. This is an area where creativity tools and the CPS process are widely used to survive in a dynamic and global competitive world. The role of creativity in this area can be read in the fascinating book The Art of Innovation (Kelly, 2001).

  In OR, heuristics is often used to deal with real-life complex optimisation problems (Silver et al, 1980). The design of a heuristic approach demands a lot of inventiveness, but very seldom there has been a direct use of creativity concepts and tools. This a field that deserves more research specially because metaphors and analogies are very often utilised to develop heuristic approaches, for instance: simulated annealing, genetic algorithms, evolutionary methods, etc.

  Conflict solving is an area where creativity tools and the CPS model could be used. Conflict is considered as a join problem that the participants have to solve. Tools and methods will be used to support the difficulties that might arise. Obviously all the participants have to have as a goal to contribute constructively to the development of alternatives and solution of the conflict. This process needs the support of an experienced facilitator.

  Every-day-creativity is an activity that can be carried out at work, at educational centres, at home, etc. The purpose is to focus in those small or big problems that are irritating and takes time and resources during the day, everyday. Usually, nobody is responsibly for them. It is recommendable to carry out a creative workshop of one-day duration to take care of all these problems. Community Work is also a well-established field in OR (Ritchie et al, 1994). In the poor world, many families are extremely creative solving many crucial problems in their daily struggle to survive.

9.- Final Remarks

  Operational researchers in their professional life both as facilitators of problem solving processes and as (hard or soft) model builders, need creativity concepts and tools to create satisfying ways of dealing with problematic situations. Creativity is a young multi-disciplinary discipline that will play a central role at all levels of Society in this millennium. There is a growing demand that educators all around Society enhance creativity in their teaching activities. Creativity is a way to cope with complexity. According to Heinlein (1973), a human being should be able to: Change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance an account, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, teach children, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. And he concludes: "Specialization is for insects". You need creativity to avoid the fate of specialization.


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*Some useful web addresses:



About the Author

Autor: René Victor Valqui Vidal
Dirección: Informatics and Mathematical Modelling. Technical University of Denmark. 2800 Lyngby, Denmark .
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