Using Creative Problem Solving To Craft Unique L&D Solutions

Are you tired of the same brainstorming routines that fail to resonate and develop real ideas? Discover the power of Creative Problem Solving (CPS) in Learning & Development, where innovation thrives, and unique solutions are crafted to fit the real needs of your organization.

As we all know, creating another training program often does not address the organizational challenges your business is trying to solve. Does your sales team really need to sit through another training program on how to “upsell” or do they need help or guidance? 

I don’t think it’s a forest through the trees idea to recognize that traditional frameworks that guide how L&D works with the business can inadvertently suppress creativity and participation. These conventional structures can be too restrictive, such as in the case of formal needs analysis presentations, status reports, and tightly managed discussions, or they can be too chaotic, like unstructured open discussions and brainstorms. 

Both extremes can hinder the space for innovative ideas to surface and grow. The result is a significant waste of time and resources spent working in an ineffective manner, followed by efforts to rectify any negative outcomes. It’s a vicious cycle! 

Enter Creative Problem Solving (CPS)! 

Utilizing creative problem-solving processes and techniques allows you to think beyond conventional boundaries and turn such challenges into opportunities to collaborate across the business. Envision creating solutions that are more than just “tick a box.” Solutions that are tailored to fit the unique needs and aspirations of the people in your organization. Why? Because the creative problem-solving process allows key people to have unique input. Allowing for the best ideas to bubble to the top. 

That’s what CPS can do for you!

What exactly is Creative Problem Solving? 

Imagine you’re an avid gardener. When planting, you follow traditional methods like planting rows of the same flowers, following a set pattern and routine. It’s orderly and predictable. However, because of these very processes, your garden may not always thrive in due to soil types or weather conditions.

Now, envision CPS as cultivating a vibrant, adaptive garden that changes with the seasons. Instead of sticking to one type of plant, you’re mixing perennials with annuals, adding splashes of color, experimenting with different textures, and even throwing in some wildflowers. You’re constantly observing, learning, and adapting to what the garden needs to flourish. It’s a more organic and responsive approach, allowing you to nurture growth in various directions, encouraging new blooms, and creating a garden that’s not only beautiful but also resilient and reflective of the unique ecosystem you’re tending to. 

In the realm of L&D, CPS is your gardening guide, equipping you with the tools and insights to cultivate learning experiences as dynamic and diverse as your home garden.

The disconnect between CPS techniques and traditional L&D problem-solving methods

The clash between traditional problem-solving techniques and CPS’s flexible methods presents a unique challenge to those who may have difficulty shifting problem-solving mindsets. While traditional methods have their merits, they often lack the adaptability and innovation that CPS brings to the table. 

Let’s uncover a few reasons for this disconnect and explore why bridging the gap between these two approaches might seem like a daunting task for many L&D professionals.

1. Resistance to Change.

In the L&D industry, resistance to change and the adoption of Creative Problem Solving (CPS) techniques can often be traced back to a reliance on tried-and-true methods. 

Many L&D professionals have been trained in traditional approaches that emphasize structured, linear processes. While familiar and predictable, these methods may not encourage the flexibility and innovation that CPS offers. 

The fear of venturing into the unknown, coupled with concerns about potential failure or the perception that using CPS techniques might be too abstract or complex, can create reluctance to change comfortable current practices. Couple this with organizational cultures that prioritize stability and adherence to established practices, and experimentation with new methodologies like CPS falls by the wayside. 

The result is a missed opportunity to leverage CPS’s dynamic and engaging potential, leading to a continued reliance on conventional structures that may not fully meet the evolving needs of learners and the business. 

2. Lack of Understanding of CPS

CPS might be seen as too abstract or complex, especially for those accustomed to straightforward traditional methods. While traditional needs assessment approaches often follow a linear, step-by-step process, CPS encourages thinking beyond conventional boundaries, exploring various angles, and embracing ambiguity. 

This multifaceted approach can seem overwhelming at first, particularly for those new to the concept, leading to a perception that CPS is more complicated than the familiar tried-and-true methods.

3. Misalignment with Business Goals

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. Traditional L&D approaches often focus on content delivery, emphasizing covering material rather than aligning learning with true business needs and challenges and missing key aspects such as improving specific skills or addressing organizational pain points. 

CPS, on the other hand, emphasizes this alignment by encouraging a more tailored and responsive approach. It requires a different mindset that values creativity, flexibility, and a deep understanding of both the learners and the business context. By focusing on real-world applications and solutions, using CPS techniques fosters a more meaningful connection between learning initiatives and the actual goals and challenges of the organization.

4. Fear of Failure

The fear of failure can be paralyzing, especially in a professional environment where tangible results and adherence to established practices often measure success. 

Trying new approaches like CPS involves stepping out of comfort zones, experimenting with unfamiliar techniques, and accepting that not every attempt will lead to immediate success. These risks and potential failures can be daunting, particularly for those who are new to the field or working in organizations with a strong emphasis on traditional methods. The uncertainty associated with embracing CPS may create apprehension and resistance, hindering the adoption of these innovative techniques. 

But as we have covered in past coffee chats, it’s important to recognize that failure is often a stepping stone to growth and innovation, and embracing CPS can lead to more dynamic and effective problem-solving in the long run.

How to begin incorporating Creative Problem Solving

How can we begin looking to integrate Creative Problem Solving techniques into practice? A great starting point is identifying specific challenges or areas where innovation is needed. Is something not working? Or not working the way it was planned? Now is the time to try a CPS technique. 

Whether it’s redesigning a stale training program, addressing a persistent skill gap, or creating a new solution tailored to a head-scratching organizational challenge, CPS can be applied. 

  • Explore foundational CPS techniques, such as those listed below. These methods can be used individually or in combination to generate fresh ideas and perspectives. 
  • Engage with colleagues in collaborative CPS sessions to foster a creative environment for collective problem-solving. 
  • Seek out resources, webinars or workshops that focus on CPS in a business context to provide valuable insights and hands-on practice. 

Creative Problem-Solving Methods for L&D

Let’s explore some of these methods and how they can be practically applied:

1. Ideation

  • What it is: A free-flowing idea-generation technique that encourages participants to come up with as many ideas as possible without judgment.
  • How to apply in L&D: Use ideation sessions to gather insights from potential end-users, stakeholders, or steering committee members to encourage creative thinking and develop new training strategies. This can foster collaboration and engagement in learning and cross-department teams.
  • Resource: Better Brainstorming by HBR

2. Mind Mapping

  • What it is: A visual tool that helps organize thoughts, connect ideas, and explore various solutions to a problem.
  • How to apply in L&D: Create mind maps to outline actionable outcomes, design course structures, or facilitate design thinking processes. It can help team members visualize complex concepts, connections and new ideas.
  • Resource: Taskade, Ultimate Mind Mapping Guide

3. The SCAMPER Method

  • What it is: An acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse. It prompts creative thinking by asking specific questions related to each action.
  • How to Apply in L&D: Utilize SCAMPER to redesign existing training modules, adapt content to different audiences, or innovate new learning experiences. It encourages a flexible and tailored approach.
  • Resource: Miro, How to use the SCAMPER model

4. Liberating Structures

  • What it is: A set of 33 alternative structures to guide group collaboration and creativity, empowering all participants to contribute.
  • How to apply in L&D: Implement liberating structures in workshops, team meetings, or training sessions to foster inclusive participation and generate diverse perspectives.
  • Resources: Liberating Structures

5. Crazy Eights

  • What it is: A rapid idea generation technique where team members sketch eight quick ideas to solve a problem in eight minutes.
  • How to apply in L&D: Use Crazy Eights in ideation sessions to encourage quick, intuitive thinking. It can spark creativity in designing learning materials or solving instructional challenges.
  • Resources: Rapid Brainstorming with Crazy Eights

Allow Creative Problem Solving to Foster a Culture of Innovation.

It’s important to note that CPS is more than just a set of techniques; it’s a mindset that can ignite a culture of innovation within the organization and your team. 

By embracing CPS, teams are encouraged to think beyond conventional boundaries, explore diverse perspectives, and challenge the status quo. It transforms the problem-solving process into a collaborative and dynamic journey, where failure is seen as a stepping stone to discovery, and creativity is celebrated. 

In an environment where CPS thrives, team members at all levels feel empowered to contribute their unique insights and ideas, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement. This creative culture nurtures innovation and builds resilience, adaptability, and a continuous drive for improvement. 

Whether it’s developing new learning solutions, enhancing programs, or finding novel ways to meet learning needs, CPS lays the foundation for an organizational culture where innovation is not just an occasional spark but a sustained and vibrant flame.

To Wrap this Up. 

Remember, the goal is not to overhaul everything at once but to infuse creativity where it’s most needed, gradually building confidence and expertise in these innovative techniques. By taking these initial steps, we can start to leverage the power of CPS to enhance our work, creating more engaging and effective learning experiences.

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Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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