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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Creative Approach


There are several ways that creativity can help us manage our stress. We will talk about two strategies here. The first is using creative problem solving strategies and the second is to have a creative outlet for self-expression and renewal.

Creative problem solving

One cause of stress is failure to find solutions to events that are causing you problems. Problem solving is an important life skill. Unfortunately most people are not taught how to use their creativity to generate ideas for making decisions, confronting issues, and solving problems. In fact, we are often discouraged from using our divergent thinking skills to generate a plethora of ideas from which the best solution to the problem appears. Instead we are required to use our convergent thinking to find the one correct solution sought after. Tests are often designed to assess the knowledge and skills learned in a particular discipline and frown upon creative solutions like invented spelling or five possible answers to the math multiplication problem "25 X 32 =?".

There are two kinds of thinking and contrary to what some people might think they are not right and wrong thinking. The two types of thinking are divergent and convergent thinking. The truth is that we need both kinds of thinking to solve problems, divergent thinking, which is for idea generation, and convergent thinking, which forces us to weigh possibilities and decide on the best, appropriate solution.

A well-researched and highly used problem solving strategy is called Creative Problem Solving (CPS) (Treffinger, 2002). This strategy first used by Alex Osborn (1963) and revised by Parnes et al. (1976) is used primarily in business but has been successfully applied to both counseling and educational situations. The strategy consists of six steps:

The Six Steps to Creative Problem Solving

1. Mess finding

2. Fact Finding

3. Problem Finding

4. Idea Finding

5. Solution Finding

6. Acceptance Finding.

Each step begins using divergent thinking to generate many ideas and using convergent techniques to hone in on the best or most acceptable solution(s).

The most common technique for generating ideas is brainstorming. Experience and research have show that brainstorming will happen best within small groups of 5 to 7 people. However brainstorming can be managed successfully with up to 20 participants. It follows the rules shown in the box that follows.

Five Rules for Brainstorming

1. Criticism is ruled out.  Accept everything.  Withhold criticism or evaluation of the ideas. (In other words defer judgment.)
2. Freewheeling is welcomed - the wilder the idea the better.  New ideas often come out of silly comments made in an accepting environment.
3. Quantity wanted.  The more ideas generated the higher the probability for original ideas.
4. Combination and improvements are sought.
5. Piggybacking on each other's ideas is desirable.

There are also problem focusing tools.  One popular strategy is the Evaluation Matrix shown below.  We will provide a section on how to use these tools in Chapter Seven.

Evaluation Matrix









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