They are also essential for problem solving – which, after all, is a learning process. Often we jump too quickly to an answer to define the problem – e.g., “The seeds I bought are bad” – and end up investing in unnecessary and sometimes costly solutions – e.g., buying new seeds.
If you find yourself facing a tough problem, step back a bit and consider whether any preconceptions or stereotypes you hold may be interfering with your ability to find solutions. Difficulty in Isolating the Problem Sometimes we know there is a problem, but we’re not sure what it is. We’d be better served by pulling back, looking at the larger objective – which would seem to be successfully growing a plant – and then investigating and experimenting as needed to determine the real problem.
Problems arise, however, when (a) the foundations for our preconceptions are faulty, and/or (b) we operate on autopilot and don’t periodically test our preconceptions.
As I argue frequently on Mission to Learn, cultivating consciousness and a propensity to ask questions is essential for effective learning.
If you plant a seed in your garden, for example, the expected outcome is that a plant will grow. Are there tell-tale scratches and holes around where the seed was planted?
If it doesn’t, then you have a problem, but the nature of the problem may not be immediately clear. Have nearby seeds grown successfully, and what was different about how they were tended?
It is therefore well suited for topics on which there are (still) no users, or also for process optimizations that have as their goal, for example, cost reduction.
The first version of Creative Problem Solving was developed by Alex Osborn and Sidney J. Alex Osborne had previously described the basic rules of brainstorming and wanted to develop a model for the entire process of creative problem solving.
Simply put, when we have to step outside of our own viewpoint, we are bound to see the problem differently, possibly define it differently, and develop different options for solving it than we would when relying solely on our own preconceptions and biases.
Adams notes that “The architect must view the design of his buildings from the perspectives of his clients, his builders, suppliers, architectural critics, and others in his profession as well as his own.” I like the “architect” metaphor both for the reason Adams suggests and because it implies thoughtfully designing solutions to problems rather than defaulting to knee-jerk options.