Critical Thinking & Creative Problem Solving

In April, Talent Magazine published the article, “The Four C’s Critical for Today’s Workforce.” These four C’s include:

  1. Critical Thinking (& Problem Solving)
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity (& Innovation)

“In an effort to assess how top of the mind these skills and competencies are, the AMA- in conjunction with P21- surveyed 2,115 managers & other executives in AMA member & customer companies about the importance of the four C’s to their organizations today & in the future. … The majority agreed that their employees are measured in communication skills (80.4%), critical thinking (72.4%), collaboration (71.2%) and creativity (57.3%) during annual performance appraisals. … About 3 of 4 executives (75.7%) who responded to the survey said they believe these skills and competencies will become more important to their organizations in the next three to five years, particularly as the economy improved and organizations look to grow.”

Creativity is the one C that surprised me the most. If you read off all the job descriptions for your company, how many do you think include creativity? Our creative problem solving discussion at the Critical Thinking Boot Camp last month proved to me that this is merely an assumption I’ve made.

Without going into grave detail, the importance of creativity hit me after brainstorming how many different ways I could re-use a plastic water bottle. For the most part the ideas shared were fairly realistic—albeit creative. Some of these ideas included: sandbox shovels, flowerpots & even a trashcan for your car. The group that far outnumbered the other groups with ideas was given an extra set of directions. They were told to generate the most ideas and to defer judgment.

Boy did they defer judgment! Some of the ideas they shared included candleholders & wind chimes. I picked up on these unrealistic ideas immediately. How could a plastic water bottle be safely used as a candleholder?

This is where we were introduced to the “Idea Generation Guidelines.”

  1. Defer Judgment
  2. Welcome “wild & crazy” ideas
  3. Go for quantity
  4. Build off of other ideas (combination or improvement)
  5. Ideas are Group Ideas
  6. Go for speed (keep ideas coming!)

Be it brainstorming or problem solving deferring judgment is essential. Using plastic water bottles as candleholders may not be the safest idea but I bet it generated other ideas. Ideas are limitless: they generate other ideas and tangents, they can move a process forward and even make potential set backs or process improvements clear.

My job description may not blatantly say that I need to be creative but many of my daily tasks and job responsibilities would be greatly improved with creativity. This week I’ve tried to defer judgment.  It’s hard to do but I’m having fun with it and suspect it will get easier in time.

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Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens.  She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training.  She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting.  She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson.  Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.

One response to “Critical Thinking & Creative Problem Solving”

  1. Thinking Differently About Disabilities | Nowurthinking

    [...] but remove the problem of reduced productivity.  They exercised a brainstorming technique called “suspension of judgement” which meant that every idea was worth considering, no matter how silly it may sound.  The [...]

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