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50 Activities for Creativity and Problem Solving

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Part of our best-selling 50 Activities series!  Comes complete with learning objectives, facilitator guidance, and reproducible materials.

Training Objectives:

Develop creative thinking

Offer new approaches to problem solving

Develop approaches to problems that will not respond to traditional problem-solving methods.  

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1 Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

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1Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

Description

This is a brief activity that can help to give new and often deeper insights into feelings and perceptions about a situation.SituationsThis activity is particularly suitable as an introductory session to a problem solving or team development event, as it will give some immediate direction and insight into the group’s perception of the problem or situation, and also some information about the scope of the problem. It can also be used as an icebreaker.

Objectives To stimulate individual perceptions about a problem or situationTo inject energy and fun into an eventTo investigate insights into the feelings of group members about a problem or situationTrainer GuidanceMaking associations between seemingly unrelated categories is a quick way to break the normal thinking patterns, and allow some creative, intuitive thought into a situation. In this activity, it is necessary to choose a broad theme for the group to consider, which is central to the problem or situation being presented. For example, for a teambuilding event, the central theme might be the company, the organization, the department, the division, the factory, the shift, etc.  

2 Attributes

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2 Attributes

Description: This activity uses a creative technique that examines each attribute or characteristic of an object, thus opening up the chance of developing further uses for it, and creating new possibilities by changing or improving the characteristic. SituationsAttributes works best when an object or product, rather than an intangible idea, is being considered for improvement or change. It will create new possibilities for products, and is therefore of particular use for product design and marketing teams.

Objectives: To create possible innovations and improvements in an object or product

To gain greater insight into the uses of an object or product
Trainer Guidance

Many people have a tendency to limit their thinking to the obvious and already known, thus limiting the capability for innovation in terms of use and development of a product. Listing the attributes of a product or object will help gain more insight into its potential uses, freeing the mind from its stereotyping.    

3 Be the Problem

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3 Be the Problem

DescriptionThis activity requires individuals to develop a personal identification with a problem and through that analogy investigate possible solutions.Situations: Be the Problem can be used to create a better understanding of the nature of a problem and point toward potential solutions. It can also help a group to visualize possibilities that would not otherwise be recognized in a situation. A third use is to work through possible solutions to a problem to compare their effectiveness.

Objectives: To visualize a problem to encourage greater understanding

To generate possible solutions to a problemTo compare possible solutions to a problem
Trainer Guidance: Be the Problem is an activity that uses visualization to help in the creative problem solving process by stimulating the right hemisphere of the brain. Participants are asked to become “the problem,” and have to stretch their imaginations and not only see the problem but also use their other senses. In short, they have to get right inside the issue, the situation, the mechanics at work and experience it fully.  

4 Blindfold Builders

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4

Blindfold Builders

Description

This activity demonstrates the effect of different leadership styles in problem solving groups. Two or more teams compete to construct a child’s doll house, blindfolded, with the leaders being directed to follow a participatory and supportive style or an authoritarian and controlling style.

Situations

This activity can be used to demonstrate the effect of different leadership styles in problem solving teams, and to highlight communication patterns and potential problems that occur in groups. The activity is useful in allowing participants to experience different styles of leadership and is therefore applicable in management and supervisory training programs as well as in problem solving.

Objectives

Y

Y

To demonstrate the effect of participatory and authoritarian leadership styles on a problem solving group

To investigate the communication patterns in a group

Trainer Guidance

This is an activity that has two distinct objectives, and you have a choice of emphasizing one or the other to meet a specific training need of the group.

 

5 Blocks to Creative Thinking

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6 Brainstorming

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6

Brainstorming

Description

Brainstorming is a method of collecting a large number of ideas from a group of people in a short period of time.

Situations

Brainstorming is one of the most frequently used techniques in creative problem solving and can be used on its own or as part of another process (for example, see

Activity 47—Six Serving Men, Activity 16—Fishbone Diagram). It is particularly useful to inject energy and fun into a group activity and to break down the traditional barriers to creativity.

Objectives

Y

Y

To generate a maximum number of ideas on a given topic

To inject energy and fun into a group’s efforts

Trainer Guidance

Brainstorming is one of the most used and misused creative-thinking techniques. It is designed to be enjoyable and free-wheeling, but it should use an established form to ensure that it is successful. There are a set of rules for the participants to follow, and a clearly designed procedure for the whole activity.

The rules are designed to aid the creative-thinking process, and overcome some of the blocks to developing new ideas that are inherent in everyone. By suspending judgment and criticism, these barriers can be overcome, and the creative potential of the group released. The rules are as follows:

 

7 Choices

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7

Choices

Description

This is a method for selecting one option from several.

Situations

When a group has several alternative options, either possible problems to work on or solutions to evaluate, choices have to be made. Many of the techniques for choosing an option use objective criteria (for example, Activity 36—Paired Ranking).

Alternatively, the choice may be left to the person who has the most authority or speaks the loudest. This technique allows the choice to be made in such a way that the strength of everyone’s personal preference is highlighted and that this information is used to make the decision.

Objectives

Y

Y

To choose one option from a list of several

To identify strength of personal preferences within a group

Trainer Guidance

This is a quick activity and the method is self-explanatory.

Time

20 minutes

Materials

Y

Y

Flipchart or black/white board

Markers

Method

1. Agree and write the list of alternative options on a flipchart.

2. Check that everyone understands the options, and answer any points of clarification.

 

8 Clusters

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8

Clusters

Description

This is an activity to develop a common group insight into the factors associated with a problem or situation.

Situations

Clusters can be used to analyze a problem or situation and investigate any individual differences of perception and understanding within a group.

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

To analyze the factors associated with a problem or situation and their relationships

To investigate and resolve any differences in perception between group members

To identify key factors for further analysis

Trainer Guidance

In analyzing a problem or situation, people will often have an individual perception of the causes and factors involved. If these perceptions are too far apart, then problems in developing a clear analysis of the problem will develop, and solutions may not be effective. Therefore, before attempting to solve a problem in these circumstances, a common understanding needs to be developed, with a collective insight and view as to the factors involved.

Clusters helps to develop this common understanding by its flexibility. Participants write down the factors as they see them on self-adhesive notes, which are then stuck to a wall or other suitable flat surface. These notes can then be moved and clustered along with others to form a map of how the problem is perceived. By discussion and the rearrangement of the notes into other clusters and patterns, a collective insight and understanding is developed.

 

9 Collage

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9

Collage

Description

Collage allows a group to express itself visually. By using the stimulus of images and words created by others, the activity avoids the need for the group or individuals to have any artistic ability.

Situations

Collage works particularly well where a group cannot express itself adequately in words, and therefore needs some stimulation. It is therefore particularly useful to allow a group to express feelings and views of the future and is often used in teambuilding situations.

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

To help a group express its feelings about an issue or situation

To visualize the future of a situation—how the group would like something to be

To visualize a problem or situation

Trainer Guidance

In many situations, there are some feelings or intangibles that the group is experiencing that are difficult to express verbally. Often this occurs when attempting to consider what the future will feel like when the situation or problem at hand has been resolved. In these circumstances, Collage will help a group to create a visual representation of its feelings, and through that medium, be able to better verbalize its thoughts.

 

10 Creative Pictures

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10

Creative Pictures

Description

This activity encourages a group or individuals to express feelings and ideas graphically. It allows people to express feelings and ideas that they cannot articulate.

Situations

Creative Pictures can be used in a number of different situations where individual or group ideas and feelings are important. Therefore it is effective as part of a teambuilding or mission development workshop, as part of a program to create greater openness in a group, as an icebreaker, or as part of an informationgathering activity about people’s perceptions of a problem or situation.

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

To allow free creative thought about a problem or situation

To express feelings and ideas through images and drawing

To generate greater openness between individuals and groups

To create a sense of group identity and mission

To identify new ideas and direction for a group

Trainer Guidance

This is an activity that directly uses the ability of the individual’s right hemisphere in the brain to express him- or herself in images and through drawing. Little direction and involvement is required apart from setting up the task and reviewing the output.

 

11 Desert Island

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50 Activities on Creativity and Problem Solving

11 Desert Island (continued)

Method

1. Ask participants to read the outline of the situation in Handout 11.1.

2. Explain to the participants that for the purposes of this activity, the resources available to the group are whatever it can see within the boundaries of their room.

This restriction allows you to keep control of the whereabouts of the group, and also fosters the maximum amount of mixing and interaction between group members.

3. Distribute Handout 11.2 and work through several examples on a flipchart or black/white board. In the examples, make sure that you demonstrate that one item may have many characteristics and one characteristic may have many uses. An example of the handout is shown below.

RESOURCE CHECKLIST

Item/Person

Table

Ian

Characteristic, Skill,

Knowledge, Information

Uses

Flammable

Cooking

Heating

Solid

Protection

Work surface

Airline Pilot

Recognizing clouds

Predicting rain

Trained in survival techniques

4. Ask participants to individually complete Handout 11.2. Initially, most participants will stay seated for this part of the activity. They may need some encouragement to get up and wander around the room to see objects from a different perspective. Allow about 15 to 20 minutes for people to work individually.

 

12 Egg Drop

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12

Egg Drop

Description

This activity is a practical and entertaining demonstration of creative problemsolving in a group. It provides an experience dealing with problem analysis and competition among teams within a larger group.

Situations

Egg Drop provides practice in identifying, defining, or scoping a problem or opportunity, coming up with options and alternatives, choosing the best, defining action steps, allocating sub-tasks, and developing a follow-up or control procedure to achieve all of the tasks in the time available.

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

To develop skills in problem analysis and problem solving

To investigate group dynamics when working on a problem

To demonstrate the effects of competition and time limits on the problemsolving process

Trainer Guidance

Project teams are given a raw egg and identical sets of material supplies to construct a protective container to allow the egg to be dropped from a height of 16 feet. Eggs may not be altered in any way, for example by boiling or draining content, and should arrive unbroken. Each team is also asked to deliver a brief presentation of its new packaging, emphasizing its distinctive features and benefits.

 

13 Fast Tracks

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13 Fast Tracks

Description: Fast Tracks is designed to help a group generate a number of ideas and possibilities from random associations. Situations:This activity will develop quick thinking within a group, and help participants to break away from narrow thinking processes. It is therefore an excellent icebreaker or warm-up activity for a creative problem-solving group. It can also be used to demonstrate the power of association, and therefore as an introduction to product design and development exercises.

Objectives: To break away from limited definition and thinkingTo increase individual and group speed in thinking processesTo increase the use of “triggers” to create new ideas and individual tolerance to themTrainer GuidanceThis is a short activity and should be conducted in a relaxed and open atmosphere.Participants should be encouraged to respond quickly to each random association and build on others’ ideas. Recording is less important than generating possibilities, except where there is a serious attempt in the group to use the activity to generate possibilities for new products or ideas. In this case, start with a warm-up using some lighthearted, random associations before focusing on new products/ideas. Participants might want to make their own notes, and should be encouraged to do so creatively—that is, using pictures, diagrams, and doodles, as well as words.  

14 Fear of Failure/Fear of Success

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14

Fear of Failure/Fear of Success

Description

This activity is useful when individuals are hindered by a “playing it safe” attitude toward problem solving. This could be due to a fear of failing or fear of success.

Situations

When a group has been working together to solve a problem and has rejected a number of possible solutions, this activity may help participants to overcome a possible block to progress.

There are two situations that are very closely related. One is the fear of failure and the other the fear of success. Dealing with fear of failure is more appropriate when people seem to be taking low-risk decisions in order to avoid slipping from their current position. Fear of success is more appropriate when people are making lowrisk decisions that are designed to prevent them from moving beyond their current position. Fear of failure is protecting them from getting any worse, whereas fear of success is protecting them from getting any better.

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

To identify a possible block to creative problem solving

 

15 Features

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50 Activities on Creativity and Problem Solving

15 Features (concluded)

Method

1. Explain to the group that it is to try to forget the details of the issue or problem that it is currently considering and to focus on what different questions could be applied to any issue to generate new ideas.

2. Introduce and conduct a five- to six-minute brainstorming session to create a checklist (see Activity 6—Brainstorming). The group should focus on general features that would apply to any problem, idea, situation, or product. Some ideas to inject to help the process would be: What else could it be used for?

How could it be modified—change the color, size, shape, use, smell? Make it bigger? Make it smaller? Combine with something else?

Do not evaluate the brainstormed list, even if there are a number of repeated suggestions in the list.

3. Apply the list of ideas generated in Step 2 to the question or issue on which the group is working. Apply the list in the order it was brainstormed, and use any duplicates to try to force new connections or insights.

 

16 Fishbone Diagram

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16

Fishbone Diagram

Description

The Fishbone Diagram is so called because when drawn, the diagram resembles the skeleton of a fish. It also known as an Ishikawa diagram after its inventor or as a cause/effect diagram, and is a means of separating the many causes from the effects when analyzing a situation.

Situations

This activity is suitable for problem solving where there are likely to be a large number of possible contributing causes. The Fishbone Diagram will ensure that the problem is properly analyzed from all perspectives and is viewed in its totality.

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

To view a problem in its totality

To identify the possible causes of a problem

To separate causes from effects

To provide ideas for data collection

To supply ideas for solutions

Trainer Guidance

There are five steps to drawing and using a Fishbone Diagram effectively. The first fishbone may only begin to analyze a particularly complex problem, and so further fishbones can be constructed based on the information on main causes identified in the first one.

 

17 Foblo

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17

Foblo

Description

This activity enables people to identify whether they have concerns about being left out of a decision-making process.

Situations

Often without saying so, people may be afraid of being left out of the process of making a crucial decision, or left out of the implementation of that decision. This activity enables people to raise those fears and discuss them before they cause withdrawal or stress. Foblo stands for “fear of being left out” (the word was created by our colleague Marianne Erdelyi).

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

To identify anyone who is facing or experiencing Foblo

To provide an opportunity to deal with Foblo in the group

To build commitment to a group solution

Trainer Guidance

This activity requires particular sensitivity on the part of the trainer. Anyone experiencing Foblo is likely to be either unaware of it or sensitive about dealing with it. Therefore, allow plenty of space and time for people to deal with this. As Foblo can uncover strong feelings, remember that it is more important to deal with the feelings than to complete the exercise.

 

18 Force Field Analysis

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18

Force Field Analysis

Description

Force Field Analysis is a change implementation technique widely used in group problem-solving situations. It can also be used on an individual basis to highlight the processes at work in attempting to make a personal change.

Situations

This activity is appropriate when introducing or managing change.

Objectives

Y

Y

Y

To identify the forces that are helping to introduce or support a proposed change

To identify the forces that are hindering the introduction or implementation of a proposed change

To identify those forces where some degree of control is possible and to begin a process of manipulating the forces to facilitate the introduction or implementation of a change

Trainer Guidance

When attempting to make a change, despite the fact that the change is designed to improve the current situation and has been well planned, we often find that it is not implemented as planned, or even that no progress at all is made. It seems that however hard we reason that the change is beneficial, an equal number of objections are raised that counteract our attempts to move forward.

 

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