Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is the grandaddy of problem solving methodologies.

Sometimes the best way to show something is to tell a story. So here is an oldie but goodie. It has been adapted countless times, but the essence remains the same:

A Russian businessman walks into a Swiss bank in Geneva and asks for a $100 loan. He offers his luxury Mercedes car as collateral. The collateral is too good, and the bank manager approves the loan. A year later, the Russian comes back. He repays the loan and the 10% interest and is ready to collect his car. Finally, the puzzled bank manager dares to ask him: “Excuse me, sir, could you tell me: did you really need that $100 so badly? In order to get the money, you left your luxury car with us for a whole year!” The Russian replied, “That’s simple – just think outside the box: where else in Geneva can I find such a great parking place for just $10 a year?”’

Let’s make this a case study. Through the lens of CPS, what did the businessman do to arrive at his course of action?

1) Objective finding: Identify a goal, wish or challenge.

The businessman was bothered by the high price of storing his car and wanted to do something about it.

2) Fact finding: Gather significant information to enable a clear understanding of the objective.

The businessman did some research about ways of safely storing his car.

3) Problem finding: Sharpen awareness of the problem and create a crisp complete problem statement or statements that invite solutions.

After his research, the businessman determined that traditional means like street parking or parking garages were either unsafe or very expensive.

4) Idea finding: Generate potential ideas to address the problem statement.

Next, the businessman generated a list of ideas without worrying about how good they were. He simply wanted the biggest number of ideas he could come up with, even if they sounded absurd at first. Once he had a big list, he determined which ideas had the potential to realistically work.

5) Solution finding: Select and strengthen solutions by identifying important criteria to evaluate potential solutions against for best fit.

The businessman had certain criteria. He likely wanted his car to be safe, the solution to be legal, and to pay as little as possible. Taking his refined list, he matched each idea to see how it met his criteria, resulting in his bank-loan parking solution.

6) Acceptance finding: Identify resources and actions to support implementation of the selected solutions.

In this instance, the the businessman had all the resources he needed to make the action of getting the bank loan. And what a good action it was. Where else in a big city could you safely park your car for $10 a year?

As this story illustrates, even though CPS is a standardised method of coming up with great solutions, it is also very intuitive and straight-forward to perform. And, perhaps that is the key to it’s success. Like any great invention, it is the effective simplicity that makes CPS the time-tested methodology we continue to use today.