The creative problem solving process – from dream to reality

Frankie Kemp

17 September 2022

If there’s one thing we know for sure, the ability to reinvent ourselves, our organisations or the way they operate is absolutely crucial.

We must adapt.

And that takes a number of qualities, the chief of which could be creativity.

In a problem solving workshop with Engineers, one participant contested creativity.

“I just need to get things done,” he remarked.

“Right. So I’m assuming, given the challenging situations in which you work, you need to be resourceful.” I suggested.

They all agreed. So whether you need to be more creative, innovative or resourceful, here’s a process for helping you to find solutions, such as the ones I’ve used with clients.

These include:

  • defining a marketing approach for a Tech company.
  • pinpointing a purposeful strategy for a Council.
  • helping leaders and managers define ways to motivate staff, even if in dispersed teams.


Methods of Creativity depend on context

Before I continue, be aware that every company and country has its own unique culture and dynamic.

In Finland, for example, long silences are common to reflect on questions before a response. In other contexts, a faster moving flow may be the norm.

As a result, the suggestions below may need to be replaced, or adapted. If I’m working with you, I’d do that for you.

Since it’s a blog, use the comments to let me know any specific challenges you may have.

I bet you’d even be able to add a suggestion or two of your own.


The big picture of creativity

The process of innovation can look pretty messy but standing back it comprises of three main areas:


















The Breakdown

1. Diverge: generate ideas

Ensure you: defer judgement, withold solutions

How: visualise – play music, go for a walk, break a pattern by doing something differently, mind map, have a range of different conversations.   Here’s a method, ‘Yes, if…’, you can even use with yourself.




2. Emerge: explore, tease out possibilities

Ensure you: look for patterns, sift and sort ideas, test but allow for the unexpected and surprising.

How: One approach I’ve used with a client was to make a Cover Story where we collated ideas to see how they’d work with different end users.  Here’s the template pulled from Gamestorming (a playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Suni Brown and James Macunufo) and an example of how it might look if completed)

A completed example

The blank template

3. Converge: assess opportunities make decisions, organise next steps

Ensure you: form the ideas into concrete outcomes meaning evaluation of ideas? What’s feasible?

How: Picture of dot voting and graphic game plan from Enfield Appreciative Enquiry Workshop, exploring how to increase their motivation and commitment to the organisation.



Here’s part of the final stage I ran of a day of strategic problem solving related to employee motivation within a council.  The small stars on the post-its are an example of dot voting.  Each person was given on star they could put on each idea. 


The ones that gained the most stars were the ideas the group explored in the next stage.  Here’s an example of how they then broke these ideas into a plan:

With another client, I simply used this template from Gamestorming, as it fitted their purpose better:


Your Action:

  1. Ensure you’re really emptying the bucket on your ideas in the emerge stage.  You don’t have to do this all in one sitting.  In fact, some of the best ideas might even happen while you’re doing the most mundane of tasks.  Get them here:
  2. Test out the idea or find ways of collating opinion.
  3. PLAN – without that, your idea is a dream.  If you don’t break it into steps, allocate people and timing it’s less likely to happen.  The important point is to keep it simple.


Did you know that I help individuals and groups break through barriers with creative problem solving techniques?  We work through the process from dream to initiation so that your wish becomes reality.  Go here to find out more.



Photo by Shukhrat Umarov:

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