27 Sep Organizational problem solving
Prior theory on creativity argues that people can be highly creative when they begin with a well-defined problem and then engage in a range of creative activities as they develop novel and useful solutions to the problem. However, there is a growing body of research supporting an alternative model to creativity, in which people can also be highly creative by first generating ideas without a clear problem in mind, and then evaluating those ideas across numerous problem domains in an effort to discover a problem that can be solved by the ideas.
Once a problem has been defined, people engage in a sequence of activities—such as gathering information, generating ideas, and evaluating ideas against criteria—until a viable solution has been reached. Gathering information involves the collection of data and materials that will help individuals solve a problem. Generating ideas involves drawing on resources to develop a set of ideas that can potentially solve the problem. And evaluating ideas involves taking a subset of promising ideas and evaluating them against the problem criteria. When an idea satisfies all the criteria, it becomes a viable solution to the problem and can be selected for implementation, thereby ending the creative process. But if an idea fails to satisfy all the criteria, people must revert back to earlier stages of the process.
Problems become ill structured when aspects of the problem space are unknown. The simplest form of ill-structured problems occurs when the goal state is known and the initial state and intermediate states are unknown. Under these conditions, a problem must be solved heuristically: That is, an individual must use their intuition to develop ideas that might solve the problem, but there is more uncertainty because they are operating with incomplete information.
In the context of creative problem solving, resource constraints and problem constraints determine the behaviors that people can engage in during the problem-solving process. Therefore the degree to which people feel like they have control over the resources and problems that structure their problem space determines how constrained they feel during the creative process. For the sake of simplicity, we dichotomize this dimension, differentiating between internal constraints and external constraints, but we acknowledge that this dimension can be more accurately depicted as a bipolar continuum, such that constraints can range from being completely internally controlled to completely externally controlled (e.g., Ryan & Deci, 2000). Internal constraints refer to resource or problem constraints that are self-imposed on creative problem solving; external constraints refer to resource or problem constraints that are imposed by an external source—for instance, by a higher-level manager or supervisor.
- Cromwell, J., M. Amabile, T., Harvey, J. (2018). “An Integrated Model of Dynamic Problem Solving Within Organizational Constraints”. Individual Creativity in the Workplace, Explorations in Creativity Research, Pages 53-81.
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). “Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being”. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78