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Diplomacy in Action

Using Creative Problem Solving to help with Transitions


In Chapter 2 we introduced Creative Problem Solving (CPS) as a strategy for dealing with stress. We feel it is particularly appropriate and helpful for use in managing the transition process. Change and transitions can be situations which may be fearful, require significant planning, and may be in need of new and original solutions. As you may recall, CPS offers a logical approach for transforming fuzzy ideas and uncomfortable situations into well-thought out solutions for the problem at hand. Tara's family used this approach at a family meeting to help Tara sort out her feelings and eventually help Tara feel good about the transition.

Before we describe Tara's use of the process, review the CPS steps below.

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

1. Mess Finding
"I'm in a mess. I think I have a problem. My parents want to take me out of school and move to Asmara, Eritrea, in Africa. I don't want to go." For those of you who are wondering, Asmara, Eritrea is located in the horn of Africa, on the east side of Africa near the Red Sea!

2. Fact Finding
A problem cannot be solved until you are sure of what the issue really is. So, the next step needed is getting all the facts. Appropriately, this step is called Fact Finding. It involves making a list of what you already know about the problem or situation and what information you still need to know. Asking the "5 Ws" will help you find more facts Parnes (1981) suggests asking the following questions.

Who is or should be involved?
What is or is not happening?
When will this occur?
Why does this need to happen?
How will it occur?
Tara generated this list to try to discover all the facts to think about what was happening: 
 • The whole family will be there
 • We will be leaving in the summer. 
 • We are going for a period of two years. 
 • I will be going to a school with other students who are living outside of their native or home country. 
 • The classes are small. 
 • My family would like us to have an adventure together. 
 • I will need to leave my friends behind. 
 • I will miss the many neat social activities at my high school. 
 • We need to give away our family dog. 
 • Africa is a neat place that I have always wondered about going to visit. 
 • We won't have some of the luxuries we have here at home in the U.S.

3. Problem Finding
Seeking out facts will enable you to tease out the real problem that is causing the stress or angst. Problem Finding. At this stage we should be looking for alternate problem statements that target the issue and provide multiple solutions. It is helpful to begin by generating these statements by using the phrase "in what ways might I (or we)  IWWMI....

Tara thought these best expressed her issues: 
 • IWWMI enjoy the adventure and stay in touch with my friends? 
 • IWWMI use the next two years to learn and grow? 
 • IWWMI convince my parents to let me stay home?

Which of these statements really reflects the issue best? Can we combine them? Tara decided it was the first question and decided to work with that possible problem. IWWMI enjoy the adventure and stay in touch with my friends?

4. Idea Finding
Once the problem is clearly stated as a question, we enter the stage called Idea Finding. In this stage we brainstorm to come up with as many ideas as possible. The use of familiar tools like visualization, SCAMPER and other brainstorming tools may be helpful here. (see Chapter 4)

Sara thought about these ideas. Evan and her parents added some ideas as well.

IWWMI enjoy the adventure and stay in touch with my friends?

 • Get a guide for Eastern Africa to locate the adventure possibilities. 
 • Make sure there is e-mail access to get in touch with friends. 
 Find out who else will be at the school and start corresponding now. 
Select a friend from home and start double entry journals to vicariously experience the adventure of each other. 
 • Get a digital camera to share adventures by email. 
 • Plan a vacation at home in the summer with a special friend from both Africa and from my home settings. 
 • Send a message to your friends when they are having a special event to be read to let them know you are there in spirit. 
 • Try to focus on the new adventure for the first three months and not make a judgment about how I am feeling.

5. Solution Finding
At this stage we choose four or five of the suggestions that appeal to us. Sometimes you might want to combine some. Use the matrix that follows to list these ideas. Then generate the criteria by which you will evaluate the ideas.

Some criteria that you might include:
Is this idea possible?
Is it reasonable in terms of cost?
Will it solve the problem?
Will it take too much time?

You can evaluate each idea on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is negative and 5 positive. Or rate each idea according to Good, Fair, or Poor on each of the selected criteria. Once you have assigned the ratings decide on an action plan. Which ideas you will put into action now, discard, or hold until later?

6. Acceptance Finding
Once we have decided on which idea we are going to implement, we are ready for the final phase called Acceptance Finding. This phase is really an action plan. It states the goal, breaks down the plan into steps, identifies resources you might need, and sets a deadline. Once this timeline is established you are on your way to implementing your creative solutions to alleviate what was causing you stress.

Tara rated her ideas and decided to arrange to ask her friend at home to keep the double entry journal and to also find a pen pal in her new school in Africa so she could learn about the school and also have a new friend before she actually arrived!

Finally, Tara created an action plan like the one shown below to help her accomplish her creative plan.

Action Plan: - Deadline May 4
"Make new friends but keep the old ones too!"

Task                                                   Date                      People Involved

I will ask Debby to be my        April 21                    Me
journal partner tomorrow to
do a double entry journal to
keep me and my other friends
up to date.

We will set up a file on the         April 22                   Debby, Dad, me
internet for the double entry

I will chck e-mail accessibility   April 23                   Dad, Director of 
in my new school.                       
                                 the new school

I will write to director of  the         May 1                     Me
new school to get a pen pal.

I will begin correspondence.      May 4                     Me

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