MIRAGES IN THE MIRROR
Institutions that have often started out with that surge of the creative
spirit have soon found themselves turn into graveyards of the creative process.
By wittingly or unwittingly preserving status quo, the conservative spirit of
the institution chokes its disruptive aspirations from within. To remain
relevant or in the reckoning, institutions need to necessarily maintain a
creative ambience within themselves and engage in regular creative problem
solving. The Simplexity Thinking System, formulated by Dr. Basadur, is an
excellent tool that can help institutions maintain their creative rigour.
Dr. Marino Sidney Basadur, Professor Emeritus of Innovation in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University, is well-known as an expert in applied creativity. His patented Simplexity Thinking System seeks to improve the collective creativity of a workplace. Originally known as the Simplex System, it incorporates a set of tools meant for creative problem-solving, which is expected to increase the creative output of organisations by facilitating unobstructed thinking and developing a sense of shared ownership of the creative solutions thus developed.
TYPES OF CREATIVE MINDS IN AN INSTITUTION
As a prelude to increasing its creative output, an institution needs to identify different types of creative minds it possesses and tap the diversity. The styles creative problem-solving people adopt are at once unique and diverse. Basadur recommends developing a Creative Problem-Solving Profile (CPSP) of the individuals who comprise an organisation and preparing an inventory of these unique styles. Drawing heavily on American psychologist J. P. Guilford’s theoretical work, Basadur distinguishes between four unique styles of creative problem-solving: Generation, Conceptualisation, Optimisation, and Implementation in his book Creative Problem-Solving Profile.
Guilford identifies six operations that the human intellect carries out:
Cognition: The ability to understand, comprehend, discover, and become aware of information.
Divergent Production: The ability to generate multiple solutions to a problem by lateral/divergent/creative thinking.
Evaluation: The ability to judge whether or not information is accurate, consistent, or valid.
Convergent Production: The ability to deduce a single solution to a problem through logical/linear thinking.
Memory Recording: The ability to encode and store information.
Memory Retention: The ability to recall stored information.
According to Guilford, there are people who are better at learning by doing rather than by thinking. For example, children learn better by doing than thinking. They touch, they feel, and they learn.
However, during the process of schooling they are made to learn by thinking. It is typical for adults to learn by thinking. They also use knowledge they gain either for evaluation or for divergent thinking. Basadur has identified certain combinations of these operations of the human intellect to define different creative thinking styles present in an institutional framework. Those are as follows:
1) Generator: A generator learns by doing and uses the learnt knowledge for lateral/divergent thinking to generate options for a solution. These are the handy types who are also expressive in their communication. However, they may find it difficult to develop a comprehensive view of things or, in other words, a coherent vision.
2) Conceptualiser: A conceptualiser learns by thinking and uses the knowledge for lateral/divergent thinking. They are experts in generating a large number of meaningful options towards finding a creative solution. They also present these concepts in an impressive manner in order to capture the attention of their peers. They are good at developing a coherent vision for the institution. They are the great synergists, bringing apparently scattered things together and developing the impressive big picture of everything.
3) Optimiser: An optimiser learns by thinking and uses the knowledge thus gained to evaluate things. They are experts in abstract thinking and are the most natural candidates for excellent editorial work. They may not generate any creative options for a solution but are extremely helpful in judging the merit of identified solutions. This is their way of participating in the creative life of an institution. They are also the best at optimising different solutions and at carving out the best solution out of all of them.
4) Implementer: An implementer learns by doing. They are also good at continuous evaluation, as they implement things. Both these characteristics make them thoroughly practical people — they are master implementers of a given solution. Their eagerness to get things done maximises the creative output of an institution.
Every institution will have creative minds of the types mentioned above. It is the duty of the leader of the institution to identify and recognise these different creative types and suitably team them up for the creative accomplishments of the institution. Ideally, the institutional leadership could strike a balance among the creative types to ensure seamless evolution of institutional creativity.
THE SIMPLEXITY PROCESS
Dr. Basadur has also presented an eight-step path of creative problem solving in his book The Power of Innovation. The method consists of three distinct processes:
a. Problem Formulation (in 3 steps)
b. Solution Formulation (in 2 steps)
c. Solution Implementation (in 3 steps)
The simplexity process offers a complete project solution, starting from the identification of the problem and concluding with successful implementation of the solution. Each type of the creative mind has unique and different roles to play at each stage of the process.
A. Problem Formulation
Step 1. Problem Finding
Here, the creative minds are required to delve deep into the problem to identify its root causes. They are expected to drill in from the external symptoms of the problem to its very heart. Here it becomes mandatory to consider different aspects of the problem, including the evolution of the problem in time and space and the opportunities posited by the problem. A broad perspective on the problem, with all its contexts and ramifications, is developed in the first step.
Step 2. Fact Finding
This step involves gathering information related to the problem and suitable processing, analysing, differentiating, evaluating, and selecting from the obtained information. Fact-finding requires data mining to identify the root causes of the problem.
Step 3. Problem Definition
Problem formulation concludes with a suitable problem definition. Out of many challenges posed by the problem, the most convenient and most advantageous-to-solve element is identified. It is also ensured that only the right questions are asked. Care is also taken to ensure that the definition is not too broad, so that the available resources become inadequate to solve the problem. Equally, the definition of the problem is neither too narrowly defined, so that only the symptoms are treated.
B. Solution Formulation
Step 4. Idea Finding
It consists of divergent or creative explorations meant for generating a large number of potential solutions. Group brainstorming is the usual tool used for the purpose. A large number of ideas leading to a solution is thereby generated, without at once analysing or critiquing them.
Step 5. Evaluation and Selection
Here, the creative group uses the criteria of unbiased and accurate evaluation of the potential solutions in order to arrive at a single solution out of the multitude of solutions. Questions regarding the future, impact, cost, and viability of the solution thus chosen become critical in this process.
C. Solution Implementation
Without proper implementation, even the best-defined solution is futile. Hence, the skilfully developed solution needs systematic implementation too. However, any change the leadership seeks to usher in, needs to overcome the test of the stakeholders’ resistance. Implementing a solution is like plunging into unknown waters. One is supposed to tailor a solution to fit it to the given circumstances and follow up its implementation to ensure that the change thus sought is installed as desired.
Step 6. Action Planning
Developing an action plan calls for conceiving of specific steps towards implementation of the chosen solution. It calls for systematic project management.
Step 7. Selling the Idea
Proper communication of the creative solution to the stakeholder group is essential for the success of its implementation. The idea must be properly packaged and effectively sold. Good ideas cannot be allowed to fall apart during implementation. Therefore, stakeholder ownership of the solution is absolutely essential. People should know how the new idea will benefit them, so that any opposition against the idea can be effectively tackled.
Step 8. Action of Implementation
The last step is implementation. With careful planning and preparation, the implementation process ideally should be a quick affair and far less eventful than all the previous processes. Here action is of great importance and cannot be taken for granted. Therefore, the actual implementation of the solution alone will guarantee the conclusion of the problem-solving process.
Starting from the discovery of the crux of the problem and ending with the actual implementation of the solution, Dr. Basadur’s Simplexity Thinking System provides institutions with a powerful tool for a comprehensive creative problem solving method that can help boost the creative output of an institution.