Creative Problem Solving

Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is a process of thinking through challenges or problems. It is composed of stages, and its goal is to reach a novel, useful solution. CPS was originally described by advertising executive Alex Osborn in his book Applied Imagination.

When confronted with a challenge, it is common for people or groups to get stuck in their thinking. CPS provides a framework for moving through a challenge thoroughly while utilizing tools for better, more creative performance.

Creative Problem Solving gets you unstuck and helps you to think in more creative ways.

CPS is divided into stages to move from a big vision all the way to a detailed plan of action, although different situations may call for different starting points.

In each stage of CPS both divergent (generating many possibilities) and convergent (narrowing down to best options) thinking must be employed. A wide variety of tools for each type of thinking can be used throughout the process.

The Stages of CPS:

The clarifying stage involves exploring the vision and formulating the challenge. These inform the rest of the process. Sometimes you may find out that the challenge you thought you had does not really get to the crux of the matter. It is important to have a well stated challenge to move forward. Some tools for this stage are mind mapping and “Why? What’s Stopping You?”


This is where the ideas happen. The more ideas you have, the more likely you are to have a truly novel, useful idea. From this multitude of ideas, you then choose what you will do to address your challenge. Some tools for this stage are brainwriting, forced connections, and highlighting.


Now it is time to develop the idea. Here, you analyze the aspects of the idea and improve upon it. This is the time to make it a truly workable solution. Some tools for this stage are POINt and evaluation matrix.


With a solution on hand, you must explore acceptance and formulate a plan. In this stage you work through the details of what needs to happen, by when, and by whom. Some tools for this stage are assisters/resisters and action plan.