Competition, accelerated technological development, diminishing
returns from present methods, and a shift to creating wealth through
knowledge require a new organization that is innovative. Innovation
is simply creativity that adds value. This article presents a brief
overview of the Osborn-Parnes creative problem solving (CPS) process,
the oldest and most widely used creativity process. The elements
of the process are presented in a simple "Creative Problem Solving
Cycle" so executives can experiment with introducing it into their
current decision processes. Case examples illustrate its effectiveness
in making a company innovative.
WHY IS INNOVATION NEEDED IN AN ORGANIZATION?
Anderson has defined creativity as "... nothing more than going
beyond the current boundaries, whether those are boundaries of technology,
knowledge, current practices, social norms, or beliefs. Creativity
is nothing more than seeing and acting on new relationships, thereby
bringing them to life."1 While there are many definitions
of innovation, it is defined here very simply: using creativity
to add value. Value can be economic, social, psychological, or aesthetic.
There are many economic and technical forces that are driving an
organization to be innovative. First, margins can no longer be sustained
by downsizing and reengineering. Either all of the excessive costs
have been squeezed out or reengineering and downsizing have not
worked. Second, competition is fierce, coming from global sources
and companies outside the industry. New products and processes are
necessary to compete. Third, product life cycles can be shorter
than the time required to develop a new product. If there is a competitive
product on the market, speeding up the process to get a "me too"
product to market is not a profitable strategy because the market
window will close before the "me too" product is ready. The solution
is to innovate one or two life cycles ahead, creating a product
that the market will be moving into, thereby beating competition
and earning a substantial margin. Fourth, continuous improvement
will reach a point of diminishing returns. At some point an entirely
new platform or category is needed. Motorola seemed to have made
this mistake by improving analog cellular phones after the market
had shifted to digital technology.2
After studying 17 companies that grew shareholder return by 35%
or more per year, Hamel concluded that their secret is strategic
innovation that either defined new industries, such as the digital
industry, or redefined existing industries, as Home Depot did to
the home improvement industry. He suggests, "We have reached the
end of incrementalism in the quest to create new wealth. Quality,
cost, time-to-market, process improvement--these are important,
but we are hitting the point of diminishing returns."3
He notes further that "Opportunities for innovative strategy don't
emerge from sterile analysis and number crunching--they emerge from
novel experiences that can create opportunities for novel insights."4
Finally, there is a paradigm shift in what adds value. Material
is becoming less important in creating wealth. The high-growth electronics
industry is based on silicon chips, which are sand with great quantities
of knowledge added. Reengineering is the efficient use of existing
knowledge, while innovation is the creation of new knowledge.
Can the results from using creativity processes be measured? Firestien,
Sheppard, and Vehar reported the case of a Canadian chemical manufacturing
facility with 120 employees. Facilitators were trained in a five-day
program and everyone else received creative problem solving (CPS)
training in a two-day program. CPS methods were applied to the problem
of a production line that was making only 28 tons of material per
hour, instead of the rated 35 tons. In a few days production was
increased to 35 tons per hour. Output finally moved to 40 tons per
hour. Since the product sold for $300 per ton, this amounted to
an increased revenue of $3,600 per hour.5
Firestien reports a success story from the Meade Fine Papers' Papeterie
Marketing Group.6 The problem was creating a paper that
was 95 percent bright. One hundred percent brightness means that
it reflects all light. Meade was only the backup supplier to one
of the largest greeting card manufacturers. The prime supplier's
paper was 95 percent bright. Loading the paper with expensive dyes
achieved less than 94%. After attending a creativity workshop, the
team set as a goal moving the standard product from an 89 to a 92
and the top line product above 95. The result was a new process
that raised the standard line to 93 and the top line to 98, which
matched the high standards in Europe, thereby making them a global
A small hand tool manufacturer was facing competition from cheaper
products. A CPS consultant trained the staff in innovative thinking.
The CEO formed four competing teams. Two focused on product costs
and two focused on innovative product ideas. The outcome was a 52%
cut in product costs and new tools with a value of over a million
Thus, creativity can produce measurable results.
Is creativity a personality trait that is available to only a few?
No. Research has shown everyone has some creativity, but it has
been stifled by Freud's thinking that artistry and creativity are
associated with mental illness and the scientific emphasis on materialism
and analytical thinking. Partridge notes that there are "... 120
different, special and measurable aspects of creative thinking which
particularly distinguish humans from other species. These wide-ranging
creative faculties have been, and continue to be, critical to mankind's
ability to adopt to changing situations, environments, and systems....Extensive
studies of creative thinking have firmly established that individuals
exhibiting higher than average scores in creative thinking also
exhibit higher than average scores in areas of mental/emotional
health. Systematic courses of instruction in applied imagination
produce significant gains in personality traits such as confidence,
self reliance, persuasiveness, initiative, and leadership."8
The challenge is to create an environment that will bring out the
creativity of everyone and make those who have demonstrated creativity
even more creative.
The 3M Corporation philosophy shows how creativity can be encouraged.
David Windorski is a new product development specialist with the
Stationery and Office Supplies Division of 3M. His management placed
his idea for a Post-itTM Easel Roll on a very low priority, so he
used the "3M 15% Rule," which allows employees to spend 15% of their
time on projects of their own choosing. He used the CPS process,
plastic sewer pipes, and boards from the lumber yard to prototype
his idea. The product is now on the market. It received an award
from the Society of Plastics Engineers for innovative manufacturing
and an award from the International Frankfurt Trade Fair for "exceptionally
innovative, technological, functional qualities and superlative
Amabile's research has confirmed what has been observed by Nobel
scientists: Highly innovative individuals are driven by an inner
curiosity, a need to know. It is intrinsic motivation that drives
them. It is not work because they love what they are doing. Extrinsic
motivators must be chosen carefully to recognize creative ideas,
clearly defined goals, and provide constructive feedback. Extrinsic
motivators to control behavior can be detrimental to creativity.10
Kohn has noted that rewards can be punishing, especially to those
who did not get the prize. They feel like losers.11
The social environment can affect intrinsic motivation. Amabile
and colleagues developed a reliable and valid 78-item instrument
to learn how the work environment of highly creative projects differed
from those of less creative ones. Their research identified six
factors of environmental stimulants to creativity (freedom, positive
challenge, supervisory encouragement, work group supports, organizational
encouragement, and sufficient resources) and two environmental obstacles
to creativity (organizational impediments and excessive workload
pressure.)12 To create an innovative environment the
executive will need to examine the employees' perception of the
state of these eight factors.
The Synectics Corporation, a consulting firm, had over 700 responses
to its survey of senior managers in more than 150 of the largest
and best-known companies. The survey revealed that companies failed
at innovation because the executives competed, rather than cooperated;
cross-functional teams did not work; meetings did not produce innovative
results; there were no formal innovation programs or techniques;
and they were unwilling to consider fresh perspectives.13
Much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation,
can be traced to our traditional educational systems. Most of the
practice of creative methods is being done outside the traditional
educational institutions by consulting firms and by persons in companies
who have been trained in creative problem solving methods. In universities
not much has changed since 1950, when the distinguished psychologist
J. P. Guilford in his inaugural address as president of the American
Psychological Association stated that education's neglect of the
subject of creativity was appalling.14 Some business
schools have introduced creativity into their curricula and research
centers, but it has not been the widespread trend that will be needed
to supply companies with innovative leaders. Isaksen and Parnes
summarized the literature on education and concluded that while
creative learning has been supported by Plato, Montaigne, Milton,
Franklin, Rousseau, Jefferson, Newman, Spencer, Dewey, and Whitehead,
most of today's classroom activities are the result of curriculum
developers preparing students for citizenship, which tends to mean
employment that will make the economy efficient.15 Such
training does not create independent learning free of a teacher
or prepare the individual for solving problems that could not be
expected while the student was in school. Adding to this sequence
of events is the fact that textbooks are at least three years out
of date when they are published and that Roger's16 study
of the adoption of innovation found that educational systems were
the slowest adopters of innovation (25 years). Thus, we see that
educational institutions need a strong dose of creative problem
The youth of Stanley Mason, an inventor and holder of many patents,
demonstrates the negative impact of some educational systems. He
was locked in the principal's office in the third grade because
he would not color within the lines. But in an art class outside
of school he learned the importance of visualizing and his working
in a library exposed him to diverse ideas. Until the ninth grade
he received poor grades because of his day dreaming and his lack
of focus on assignments. After a ninth-grade math teacher recognized
how he liked to think, he turned into an honor student.17
One can only wonder how many inventors have never discovered themselves
because an educational system would not let them "color outside
the lines." The development of creative skills needs to be part
of our educational processes, according to Strickland and Coulson,
who argue that education today focuses on transferring knowledge
that will soon be out of date, whereas creativity will never be
out of date.18
THE OLD ORGANIZATIONAL MODEL INHIBITS CREATIVITY
A creative environment requires more than providing intrinsic rewards.
It requires rethinking organizational designs. Wheatley notes, "At
the end of the twentieth century, our seventeenth-century organizations
are crumbling. We have prided ourselves, in all these centuries
since Newton and Descartes, on the triumphs of reason, on the absence
of magic. Yet we, like the best magicians of old, have been hooked
on prediction. For three centuries, we've been planning, predicting,
analyzing the world. We've held onto the intense belief in cause
and effect. We've raised planning to the highest of priestcrafts
and imbued numbers with absolute power. We look to numbers to describe
our economic health, our productivity, our physical well-being.
We've developed graphs and charts and maps to take us into the future,
revering them as ancient mariners did their chart books. Without
them, we'd be lost, adrift among the dragons. We have been, after
all, no more than sorcerers, the master magicians of the late twentieth
We have made organizations fit Newtonian mechanical models by putting
responsibilities into functions and people into roles with boundaries
and a secure sense of control.20 When we studied organizations,
we thought we confirmed these models because we used research designs
that assumed cause and effect relationships. We assumed also that
these relationships move toward equilibrium, when, in fact, they
move away from equilibrium as they learn and renew in response to
an ever changing environment. Explanations and predictions of organizational
behavior were weak, but until recently the basic model was rarely
questioned. We added more variables and more powerful analytical
methods. We were making the same mistake as the astronomers who
built more complex prediction models when their model with the earth
in the center could not predict the location of heavenly bodies.
When they changed their model and put the sun in the center, the
models became simpler and predicted better.
Stacey challenges the present organizational model when he notes
that stability, harmony, predictability, discipline, and consensus,
which are central to most Western management practices, are all
wrong. Instead of equilibrium, he argues, we need bounded instability,
which is the framework in which nature innovates.21
The Newtonian model of the world is characterized by materialism,
reductionism, determinism, predictability, equilibrium, and control.
Moving away from this model to quantum theory radically changes
our understanding of organizational behavior. The new model will
be very discomforting because we must abandon most control systems
and the predictability of deductive processes. When we accept that
organizations are fluid, chaotic, and subject to unseen fields of
energy, present concepts of leadership must change. Gone is the
hierarchical model with the person at the top controlling everyone
by holding all information. No one person possesses all of the knowledge
or skills to control a fluid, rapidly evolving system. Leading gives
way to facilitating relationships in a system where knowledge and
skills are networked. Leadership in the new organization consists
of facilitating shared values. This facilitatorship must take place
in an environment which has relationships that freely share ownership,
information, and ideas. Facilitation and sharing are basic to creative
problem solving (CPS) processes, which is why CPS is needed to transform
an organization into a continuously innovative one.
THE OSBORN-PARNES CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING PROCESS
In 1941, Alex Osborn wondered why some people in his advertising
agency, Batten, Barton, Durston, and Osborn, were more creative
than others.22 His study of the process used by creative
people broke the 2,000-year-old assumption that only a unique few
can produce creative ideas. He originated the widely-used process
of brainstorming. In 1954 he established the Creative Education
Foundation, and in 1955 he held the first Creative Problem Solving
Institute at the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo. This
Institute now holds a week-long training session each June in Buffalo,
NY, for over 900 persons from more than 30 countries. Sessions are
held at other locations throughout the year. For 31 years The Foundation
has published the academic journal, The Journal of Creative Behavior.
Sidney J. Parnes, a professor at Buffalo State College, NY, collaborated
with Alex Osborn to develop what is known today as the Osborn-Parnes
Creative Problem Solving Model. It consists of the following six
steps: identify the goal, wish, or challenge; gather data; clarify
the problem; generate ideas; select and strengthen solutions; and
plan for action.23 These steps are shown in the center
of the circle in Exhibit 1. The activities in the first part of
each step are designed to stimulate divergent thinking, hence the
diverge symbol (<). The concluding part of each step converges (>)
this thinking for transition to the next step. Some people may find
it more comfortable to think of divergent and convergent thinking
as imaginative and practical thinking.24 The goal of
the divergent phase is to make as many connections as possible,
using methods that provide a stimulating environment to expand one's
vision. The convergent phase distills and translates these connections
into practical ideas that can be taken to the next step. The final
convergence is a practical, actionable plan that will be accepted
and implemented by stakeholders. Each step makes extensive use of
the Socratic inquiry method by asking questions to facilitate idea
generation. Samples of questions that are used by facilitators appear
outside the circle. This is the basic tool for transforming a team
into an innovating one. We focus here on the Osborn-Parnes model
for stimulating creativity because it is the oldest, the most widely
used, in a continuous state of evolution, and the author's study
of many subsequent models has yet to find one that does not have
its roots in the Osborne-Parnes model.
Many executives are presently using pieces of this model, but they
may be missing important steps. For example, many strategy sessions
begin with a definition of the problem, without a clear statement
of the goal, wish, or challenge. Or an alternative may be selected
without considering an action plan that identifies those who will
support or resist some of the actions. Furthermore, one pass through
these steps is rarely enough. It will be necessary to iterate around
the circle to refine the plan. The convergence of one step becomes
the point for diverging at the next step. Strategists sometimes
focus only on divergence or convergence. For example, brainstorming
(an Osborn invention) is a popular means for generating ideas, which
is divergence. But without a convergence process for reducing and
refining ideas there can be lots of fun but no plan for action.
Conversely, it is easy to get stuck in a convergence mode. Excessive
analysis of data is an example of this trap.
INTEGRATE CREATIVITY INTO CURRENT DECISION PROCESSES
The CPS model should be regarded as a generic model that can be
integrated into any decision process. For example, in Exhibit 2
the CPS steps inside the circle are linked outside the circle to
the following steps for a typical business decision process, the
development of a new product:
- Situation analysis
- Opportunities, Problems, Subproblems, Causes
- Alternative solutions
- Resources required
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Action plan
- Measure Results
Political, governmental, educational, healthcare, or any other
organization can match the CPS steps to its decision process. It
is critical to note, therefore, that introducing creativity does
not require a drastic redesign of an organization's decision process.
Using the present process will speed the acceptance of creativity.
Creativity can be introduced at any point in the circle, but it
is critical to continue around the circle to determine if a decision
at one stage will require a re-evaluation of a decision that was
skipped. At times it will be necessary to check back to a previous
step and at other times it will be necessary to anticipate a stage
in the next iteration, thereby jumping across the circle. For example,
it will be necessary to check with the client to make certain that
the ideas generated are consistent with the objective, which is
a step backwards in the process. It is necessary also to think ahead.
Will the solution be consistent with the facts that exist in the
future? This type of question must be asked in the next iteration
around the circle. Perhaps the market, technology, regulation, and
competition will change in predictable ways, and these changes should
be considered now. In the micro fact finding stage, the evaluation
of the organization's openness to change will have an important
impact on which stakeholders will support or oppose the implementation
of the plan. The circle provides a picture for facilitating the
flow of the creative process and for allowing participants to see
where they are in the process.
FOUR IRONCLAD RULES TO FACILITATE CREATIVITY
The Osborn/Parnes model stresses four critical rules that must
apply to each divergent stage: withholding judgment, freewheeling,
generating a quantity of ideas, and hitchhiking on the ideas of
others. The reasons for these rules are supported by psychological
Judging, more than any other event, will shut down idea generation.
The physiological reasons for this shutting down require an understanding
of the functions performed by the three sections of the brain, known
as the triune brain.25 In basic terms, they are the outer
layer, the neo-cortex; the middle layer, the limbic system; and
the inner-most layer, the brain stem. Each performs a different
function. The brain stem, known as the reptilian brain, focuses
on food, fight, flight, and reproduction, i.e., survival of the
species. It responds immediately to physical and psychological threats.
Judging is a psychological threat. The limbic section governs emotions
and feelings. The neo-cortex controls thinking, speaking, and problem
solving. Creativity occurs at this outer level. Because judging
is a threat, the brain shifts from the neo-cortex, through the limbic,
to the brain stem to assure social-psychological survival. This
shift shuts down the creative process. Because the creative solving
process requires lots of creative ideas, judging during divergent
activities must be avoided at all costs. Conversely, research has
shown that positive feedback increases the combination of divergent
stimuli in new ways.26
Unfortunately our culture has taught us that large doses of judgment
are prerequisites for extrinsic rewards. Professor Melvin Tumin,
a Princeton sociologist, concluded that "...nothing is quite so
hostile to the maximization of creativity as the competitive grading
system which prevails in our schools."27 Furthermore,
he believed that intrinsic, not extrinsic, rewards should be used.
Thus, the joy of creating and learning is a reward unto itself.
A study of students showed that it took four praises to one criticism
to keep them on track and a ratio of 8-to-1 to change behavior28
This same study found that teachers' most common methods for changing
student behavior were pain, fear and anxiety, frustration, humiliation
and embarrassment, boredom, and physical discomfort with positive
comments last. If this pattern is common in classrooms, we can see
why conformity, not creativity, is the outcome of our educational
The process should be freewheeling to take the participants past
the mental conformity blocks that they have learned in school. Freewheeling
means it's all right to be off the wall. Even your craziest idea
cannot be criticized because of the no judgment rule.
Hitchhiking creates ideas that combine the best ideas of everyone
in the team. It can also help during implementation if all members
see a piece of their idea in the final solution.
Instead of criticizing people who come up with ideas that are outside
the cultural box, they should be encouraged by giving praise for
wild, crazy ideas that others may turn into something very practical.
For example, a company's problem was that their repair crews had
to be sent out to fix telephone wires broken by ice on the lines.
The creative session was started with a random word, "bear." The
first idea was very crazy: train bears to climb the poles and shake
the wire. This required getting honey to the top of the poles. Using
a helicopter was suggested. Then the group realized that the solution
was that the helicopter propellers could shake off the ice.29
Here is an example of how a group turned a crazy idea into a practical
one by building on the idea. Criticism at the outset would have
turned off the group process that led to a practical solution.
The importance of high quantity of ideas is like mining for gold:
you need to dig a lot of dirt to find a nugget. Experiments have
shown that the last ideas, the ones beyond the mental blocks and
into the subconscious, are the highest quality ideas.
Forcing participants to create more and more ideas in less time
is a stretching process that takes them outside their comfort zone.
They complain about the magnitude of the task in the imposed time
constraints, but this psychological stretching helps them to be
more creative in the future. It is applying the "no pain no gain"
principle. If you take the group "temperature" at this point in
the session you will find lots of hostility. When it all comes together
at the end of the session, the evaluations become very positive.
CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT IS COMFORTABLE WITH CREATIVITY
The quotation from Fortune at the opening of this article stressed
the point that innovation requires a style of organizational behavior
that is comfortable with new ideas, change, risk and failure. Creating
an environment that is tolerant of mistakes is difficult. It must
be made clear that mistakes are acceptable if they are based on
solid thinking, enhance learning of what will not work, and are
caught early before the damage is severe. There must be support
for the people who were on the team of the project that failed.
One company has a "wake," complete with black candles on a black
cake, to shorten the grieving time and move on. Another company
calls a project an experiment, thereby recognizing that experiments
fail, but they provide new knowledge.
As noted earlier, our educational systems have destroyed innovative
thinking styles by requiring conformity and by giving rewards based
on easy measures. Innovation is very difficult to measure. To encourage
innovation, we must help individuals to understand each other's
preferred problem solving style. Creative problem solving sessions
require teamwork among individuals who have different thinking styles
because of their training and experiences. Effective teaming requires
that each member understand his or her style and the styles of others
on the team.
There are many measures of individuals' decision styles. One of
the most familiar tools is the Myers-Briggs, which places individuals
along the following four dimensions: extroversion-introversion,
sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceptive30
The individual can be classified by four letters, such as INTJ or
ESTJ. The behavior of persons so classified is quite different.
For example, the INTJ is an innovator, uses intuition, and has an
inner vision. The ESTJ is practical, realistic, and has a natural
head for business or mechanics. Both can be strong-willed persons
who want to dominate a team. The facilitator must bring out the
strengths of each type by demonstrating that the team needs both
kinds of styles.
The Kirton Adaptor-Innovator (KAI) Inventory measures preferred
styles for problem solving.31 The adaptor prefers to
be creative within the present system. The innovator wants to create
new definitions of the problem and new systems. Thus, both types
are creative, but their styles are different. Adaptors include bank
managers, accountants, production managers, and programmers. Innovators
include persons in marketing, finance, fashion buyers, and R&D managers.
The relative position of persons along the scale is more important
than their absolute score. Thus, two adaptors with a 20-point difference
in their KAI scores would view each other differently. The higher-scoring
person would view the lower-scoring person as an adaptor and the
lower-scoring person would think of the higher-scoring person as
Adaptors and innovators are perceived to behave differently, to
take a different approach to problem definition, to generate solutions
differently, to prefer different policies, and are vital at different
times in the life cycle of an organization. Adapters are seen by
innovators as predictable, safe, inflexible, and intolerant of ambiguity.
Innovators are seen by adapters as glamorous, exciting, unsound,
impractical, and threatening to the system. Adaptors tend to accept
the given definition of the problem, while innovators redefine it.
Adaptors tend to generate fewer novel ideas, preferring to do things
better. Innovators tend to generate many ideas which may not seem
relevant, and are generally focused on doing things differently.
Adaptors prefer structured situations, while innovators do not.
Adaptors are essential for ongoing functions, but have difficulty
operating outside their expected role. Innovators are essential
for change, but dislike ongoing organizational activities. The author
has found it useful to form subgroups of a team that are homogeneous
or heterogeneous on the KAI according to where they are in the CPS
When there are team members with a large gap between their scores,
there will be problems with communication and collaboration. This
range will stimulate creative problem solving, but tolerance will
be required. The bridgers, persons between the extremes, could help
in such situations. A person who is alone at one extreme will try
to conform to the style of the rest of the team. This coping behavior
can be very stressful.32 Without revealing individual
scores, the facilitator can emphasize how the team needs both styles.
Thomas Edison embodied all of the characteristics and risks of
an innovator. He generated 3,500 handwritten journals. He was a
divergent thinker, musing about cosmology, making observations about
the natural world, sketching, and writing poetry. He created a diverse
environment by stocking samples of metal sheets, rods, pipes, 8,000
chemicals, and every kind of screw, needle, cord and wire made,
along with natural products such as hair, silk, and sharks' teeth.
He was not afraid of failure. Before settling on carbonized cotton
for the light bulb filament, he had 3,000 failures with material
from bamboo to platinum. Lessons learned in one failure led to success
in another project. In addition to the light bulb, his 1,093 patents
included familiar ones such as the phonograph, microphone, mimeograph,
batteries, and an unfamiliar one for poured concrete. The last invention
was an attempt to build a middle-class house in six hours. His most
trail blazing contribution was the invention of a scientific laboratory.
He directed a dozen colleagues in as many as 40 projects at one
time. He set as his goal a minor invention every ten days and a
major one every six months. Clearly he practiced the concept that
quantity will produce quality. But Edison's divergent thinking ran
into industry's need for convergence. Even though General Electric
was founded in part by Edison and he had worked on x-ray tubes,
the company gave its manufacturing to a competitor because corporate
managers viewed him as unreliable and unpredictable.33
Here is another example of the need for a team of divergent and
Creative leadership must facilitate positive relationships in organizations
to produce profitable growth through innovation. We now know that
creativity is not a personality trait that is available to a few
geniuses. Everyone has unique knowledge and experiences that can
be tapped, given the proper environment. This environment must be
free-flowing and nonjudging to take people through the mental blocks
that they learned in early childhood. These mental blocks are associated
with the risk of being wrong. Many educational processes give rewards
only for getting the right answer, not for experimenting with new
approaches or exploring the risky unknown.
The motivation for innovating comes largely from the joy of doing
something that has never been done before. It is like going on an
expedition and risking everything to be the first person to climb
a mountain or sail alone around the world. It taps the same drive
that exists within a composer or an artist who wishes to create
something for immortality. It is rewarding to be part of the base
camp that supports the climber who is the first to reach the top
or the ground crew that supported the winning sailor. Creativity
can transform a dream or wish into a new form of retailing, a fast-food
concept, a new form of government, an airplane, a light bulb, a
new way to grow rice to reduce hunger, or it may be a dream by an
individual to lead a fuller life.
This brief review of the Osborn-Parnes model of the creative problem
solving process leads to the conclusion that it is scientifically
sound, very practical, continuously evolving, and can be readily
adapted to present decision processes for rapid adoption by teams.
One need only look within himself or herself and to families, government,
schools, and companies to see the need for dreams and creative problem
But the facilitator of sessions in these environments should remind
the group that the facilitator is like an expedition's guide into
the unknown: there is no trail. Making the trail can be the most
exciting and risky part of the expedition. Each team member must
contribute knowledge and skills to the expedition, expect risks,
learn from mistakes, and share in the success of having been on
the team that was the first to reach the dream.
Executives who want detailed cases that prove the effectiveness
of CPS may be trapped in the Newtonian mechanistic model that stresses
cause and effects. Creativity, it has been noted above, is outside
this model. Thus, in waiting for such proof the executive will be
missing opportunities. The only real proof is to try the process
by mapping the decision process into the CPS steps, as in Exhibit
2, and then asking the questions in Exhibit 1. A few short sessions
on a small problem led by a trained facilitator should demonstrate
that the process can move an organization toward a state of continuous
The executive who applies CPS to the organization's decision processes
should remember the advice of Machiavelli as noted in The Prince:
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous
to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead
in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator
has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions,
and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."
1. Joseph V. Anderson, "Weirder than fiction: the reality and myths
of creativity," Academy of Management Executive, 6:4 (1992), 41.
2. G. Christian Hill and Don Clark, "Motorola Plans to Slash Staff,
Take A Charge," The Wall Street Journal, June 5, 1998, A3.
3. Gary Hamel, "Killer Strategies That Make Shareholders Rich,"
Fortune, June 23, 1997, 73.
4. Ibid., p. 82.
5. Examples are from the transparencies of the Innovation Systems
6. Roger L. Firestien, Leading on the Creative Edge (Colorado Springs,
CO:Pinon 1996), pp. 88-93.
7. John W. Meyerhoff, Executive Vice President and CEO, Creative
Education Foundation, letter dated April, 1996.
8. Robert A. Partridge, M.D., "Epilogue," in Sidney J. Parnes,
Optimize the Magic of Your Mind (Buffalo, NY: Bearly Limited, 1997),
9. Dave Windorski, e-mail, April 23, 1997.
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