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Innovative Problem Solving in Groups: New Methods and Research Opportunities
By: Scott G. Isaksen, Director, Center for Studies in Creativity, President, The Creative Problem Solving Group - Buffalo

Prepared for a conference on "New Directions for Research in Creative and Innovative Management" held at Carnegie Mellon University on June 3, 1987.  To be published in:  R. L. Kuhn & Y. Ijiri (Eds.). (In preparation).  New directions for research in creative and innovative management.  Cambridge, MA:  Ballinger.

 

Introduction

Despite many difficult obstacles, creativity and innovation are becoming important concepts for individuals, groups and organizations (Charnes & Cooper, 1984; Isaksen, 1987; and Kuhn, 1985).  The actual study of creativity, from a psychological perspective, is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Many writers in the creativity field identify Guilford's (1950) presidential address to the American Psychological Association as a cornerstone contribution promoting research and psychological inquiry into this concept.  Since this beginning, a substantial and growing body of literature regarding creativity has been spreading through a variety of sources.  As Treffinger (1986) indicated:

Through more than thirty years of research and development, creativity has continued to be a topic of considerable interest to educators as well as social and behavioral scientists (p.19).

Although the field seems to be fairly young, creativity research has been reviewed and summarized by various writers (Raina, 1980; Stein, 1974 & 1975; and Taylor & Getzels, 1975).  There are also many edited collections of important contributions to the literature (Anderson, 1959; Gishelin, 1952;  Parnes & Harding, 1962; and  Rothenberg & Hausman, 1976).

          The purpose of this paper is to place research and inquiry into creative problem solving in groups within the larger context of creativity research.  This special type of problem solving will be described and key questions for further research will be outlined. 

Mythology, Definitions and Approaches to Creativity

          The definitions of creativity are numerous and some seem grounded in research or common sense.  Others seem to be based on beliefs and assumptions which need to be questioned or examined.  Anyone interested in the concept of creativity is going to face a series of mythologies which need to be dealt with in order to make productive and lasting connections.  It will be essential to deal with the problem of semantics and the ambiguity that a variety of definitions for the same word will cause.

          Creativity has been viewed as a mysterious or mystical phenomenon because no one seems able to offer a universal definition or explanation.  People who view creativity in this manner suggest that fruitful inquiry and discussion is not possible due to this ambiguity.  These critics scoff at the vagueness and looseness of the concept.  They recommend the abandonment of this work for more productive, concrete or tangible lines of thinking.  These critics overlook the fact that it is the very nature of creativity to appear to be ambiguous and challenging to study.  Those who choose to make progress into understanding the applications of creativity often make their own distinctions and assumptions.  For example,  Charnes and Cooper (1984), in setting forth the framework for the inquiry into creative and innovative management,  indicated:

For purposes of creative and innovative management, we need to begin to drop old distinctions, and the distinction between entrepreneur, manager, and administrator is surely a candidate for elimination.  Thus, by creative management, we refer to new conceptions and new ideas, new entities and new methods that can also be used to provide new directions or new modes of operation for already existing organizations and activities. By innovative management we refer to the ability to implement such new ideas and/or to move successfully in such new directions.  Making things work successfully is an old and abiding task of management.  It is the coupling of this task with new ideas, directions, and the like that makes it innovative and creative.  Finally, it is the ability to induce these kinds of activities in others in an organized way that makes it an act of management rather than only the act of an individual (p. xvii).

 

          There are many theories, definitions and means of assessing creativity.  Despite this profusion, there does appear to be some agreement on key attributes of definitions among investigators most closely associated with work in the field.  Welsch (1980) reviewed twenty-two sources which presented definitions of creativity.  She analyzed the relevant concepts included in these definitions and found considerable agreement on the key elements.  The definition which reflects this agreement was:

...creativity is the process of generating unique products by transformation of existing products.  These products, tangible and intangible, must be unique only to the creator, and must meet the criteria of purpose and value established by the creator (p. 107).

The analysis of twenty-two authorities' definitions supports this definition.  I am sure that another twenty-two authors could be found who would disagree with an element or two, but the definition above does seem to address most of the critical elements of creativity.  In a sense, creativity is a subject which is complex, multi-faceted, and dynamic.  If one can look beyond the vapor and clouds created by such complexity, there does appear to be some productive agreement upon which to build.
         
          Not only is there some basic agreement in terms of definition, when one examines the vast literature of creativity, basic categories of inquiry  do appear.  For example, many researchers who have analyzed the literature of creativity describe essentially four basic arenas within which inquiry has occurred.  The boundaries around these arenas seems permeable.  In fact, when considering the larger concept of creativity, the boundaries seem to disappear.  However, when examining experimentation and progress at a more exact or empirical level, the relationship to the arenas becomes more clear.  The four broad areas include:  the inquiry into describing the characteristics and attributes of the creative person ;  the criteria determining the creative product ;  the identification and description of the stages of the creative process ; and the nature of the creative environment .  Much of the creativity research available in the literature seems to fall within these four broad categories.  In short, it does appear that it is possible to make conceptual progress through the confusion and complexity.  Much more work is needed here, but there is something upon which to build.

          Another rather pervasive myth surrounding creativity is that it is something magical.  Only a few people in human history have ever been really creative.  These few lucky geniuses were given a special gift.  In earlier times, they were given a muse or were possessed.  This approach to creativity resists temptations to explain or explore, and promotes the notion that creativity should simply be appreciated or awed.  Further, if creativity is magic, then like most magic it is based on tricks or sleight of hand.  So even if you were able to explain it, you would merely expose the trickery.

          This area of mythology has a very early start.  It seems to promote the view that creativity is a rare attribute that only a few gifted individuals have been able to possess.  Of course, history seems to favor those who are very high on "the creativity scale."  We seem to focus on those who are of exceptional ability or talent and on those who break down paradigms and provide new ways of doing things.  We seem to reject another entire type of creativity:  that which is more widely distributed and focused on doing things better or making adaptive contributions.  What appears to be a major difference in "level" of creativity may be more a matter of "style" difference (see Kirton, 1987).

          An interesting line of work which calls this myth into question is the work of those who are attempting to have computers recreate scientific discovery.  Simon (1985) rejects the idea that sparks of genius need to be present in order for creativity to exist.  He reported:

As long as we refer to acts of creativity with awe and emphasize their unfathomability, we are unlikely to achieve an understanding of their processes.  And without such an understanding, we are unlikely to be able to provide usable advice as to how to encourage and enhance them...Today we have a substantial body of empirical evidence about the processes that people use to think and to solve problems, and evidence, as well, that these same processes can account for the thinking and problem solving that is adjudged creative (p. 4).

Creativity appears to be accessible by everyone with a modicum of ability.  There does appear to be an infrequency of extremely high level creatives; but if a person is able to think and solve problems, then there does appear to be room for creativity.

          A final myth surrounding creativity is that in order to be creative a person must be mad.  This myth asserts that creativity is based on the psychological processes of nuerosis or psychosis; that it is a function of a troubled mind.  According to this myth, creativity is something to be avoided like any other form of pathology or sickness.

         
          Although much popular literature seems to focus on creativity as madness, many believe that creativity is related to the natural development of human potential.  Releasing creativity is healthy.  Maslow(1959) described this aspect  of creativity being related to mental health when he stated:

Self-actualizing creativeness is hard to define because sometimes it seems to be synonymous with health itself.  And since self-actualization of health must ultimately be defined as the coming to pass of the fullest humanness, or as the "Being" of the person, it is as if self-actualizing creativity were almost synonymous with or a sine qua non  aspect of...essential humanness (p. 94).

          Once it is possible to go beyond the mythology surrounding creativity, various definitions and conceptions can be identified, and means of assessment can be developed.  In fact, there is a growing body of literature focused on these issues (See:  Gowan, 1972; Roweton, 1972; Taylor, 1976; Treffinger, 1986 & 1987; and Treffinger, Isaksen & Firestien, 1983) and supporting the notion that creativity can be reliably and validly assessed.

 

Can we teach creativity?

          If it is possible to identify and assess creativity, is it possible that something can be done to deliberately nurture it?  Once a decision is made that it is not necessary to wait for a precise, universal definition of creativity; the concept can be approached as a natural human characteristic upon which people differ.  As a natural human characteristic it can be deliberately nurtured and developed.  As Gowan (1977) put it:

Heretofore we have harvested creativity wild.  We have used as creative only those persons who stubbornly remained so despite all efforts of the family, religion, education, and politics to grind it out of them...as a result of these misguided efforts, our society produces only a small percentage of its potential of creative individuals (the ones with the most uncooperative dispositions).  If we learn to domesticate creativity--that is, to enhance rather than deny it in our culture--we can increase the number of creative persons in our midst by about fourfold (p. 89).

The need to do something deliberate to nuture creativity appears to be supported by many.  But what about the evidence?  Torrance (1981) reported:

A few years ago, it was commonly thought that creativity, scientific discovery, the production of new ideas, inventions, and the like had to be left to chance.  Indeed many people still think so.  With today's accumulated knowledge, however, I do not see how any reasonable, well-informed person can still hold this view.  The amazing record of inventions, scientific discoveries, and other creative achievements amassed through deliberate methods of creative problem solving should convince even the most stubborn skeptic (p. 99).

          The research on the deliberate nurturance of creativity begins with about six studies on the effects of training specific techniques (Taylor, 1959).  By the early seventies, a number of studies were conducted which took a more comprehensive research approach.  The largest single summary included 142 individual research studies on the deliberate training and their outcomes (Torrance, 1972).  These studies were published from 1960 to 1972 and encompassed a wide range of training approaches including facilitating testing conditions, motivation, the creative arts, and the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Approach.  All the approaches investigated had a better than 60 percent success rate with a range of 67 percent for motivation and 91 percent for the Osborn-Parnes program.  Follow-up on this line of investigation has included a meta-analysis of long-term training effects (Rose & Lin, 1984).  In addition, more comprehensive reviews of more studies done since the 1972 review are reported in Torrance (1986 &1987).

          One of the most comprehensive studies of the development of creative thinking abilities was the Creative Studies Project.  Parnes and Noller (1972)  designed a two-year  program to enhance the creativity of college students.  They hypothesized that those students completing a four-semester sequence of Creative Studies courses would perform significantly better than control-group students on:  measures of creative application of academic subject matter;  non-academic areas calling for creative performance;  personality factors associated with creativity;  and selected tests of mental ability and problem solving.  The most comprehensive reporting of the results of this line of research are reported in  Parnes (1987);  Reese, Parnes, Treffinger & Kaltsounis, (1976); and Torrance (1986 & 1987).  

          Some of the criticism surrounding this research (see Mansfield, Busse and Krepelka, 1978, for example) raises questions about research methodology, test validity and the general construct of creativity.  Rather impressive explanations have been provided by Torrance & Presbury (1984) and other researchers who indicate the criteria of success can go far beyond tests of ideational fluency. 

It seems that we can do something to deliberately improve the skills of creative problem solving.  Rose and Lin (1984), in concluding a report of their meta analysis of creativity training effects,  reported:

The overall results of this meta-analysis suggest that training does affect creativity.  While it seems obvious to state that training and practice develop skills the obvious often needs to be stated.  Creative thinking is at once a skill that can be developed through various teaching methodologies and an innate ability that some individuals have in greater abundance than others.  This dual nature of creativity is not a contradiction of human development but an affirmation of the flexibility and malability of individual potential.  Through education and training the innate creative thinking ability of individuals can be stimulated and nourished (p. 22).

          If creativity can be identified and assessed as well as nurtured, then it is important for managers, teachers, or anyone who is responsible for accomplishing tasks or managing resources to develop their own creative problem solving (CPS) skills and those with whom they work.  This assertion is supported by a study done by Johansson (1975) in which it was found that 70% of the corporations surveyed offered training courses in creativity, innovation, problem solving or related fields.  Additional support for expanding this type of activity is provided by Drucker (1985) and Basadur & Thompson (1986).

The Creative Process

          Research into the creative personality has provided information about the motivations, styles, abilities and other characteristics of highly creative individuals (Guilford, 1977; MacKinnon, 1978).  Creative products have been examined in an effort to determine the criteria differentiating the degree of creativity they manifest.  This approach has also provided some promising developments with regard to some basic definitional elements of creativity (Besemer & O'Quin, 1987; Besemer & Treffinger, 1981).  The environment conducive for creativity has also been the subject of much recent research and inquiry.  The focus has been on attempting to understand the attributes of the environment which release and support, as well as hinder or stifle, creative behavior of individuals and groups (Amabile & Sensabaugh, 1985; Ekvall & Arvonen, 1983).  The fourth major category of creativity research, the creative process, provides information into an aspect of creativity which seems to be most amenable to deliberate development.

          Early inquiry into the nature and nurture of the creative process began with examinations of the mental activities and processes of highly creative individuals.  These studies have yielded a variety of models of the creative process.  One model was originally outlined by Osborn (1953) and modified by Parnes, Noller & Biondi (1977).  The current version of the model of creative problem solving is described in Isaksen & Treffinger (1985).  The current view of the model is provided in Figure One.

         
INSERT FIGURE ONE ABOUT HERE

         
          The creative problem solving process is a model which organizes a variety of specific methods and techniques.  When this model is focused on providing acceptable solutions to specific opportunities or challenges it can also be called innovative problem solving.  The model, or general system, is based on a series of stages of mental activity consisting of alternating phases of divergent and convergent thinking.  Although the graphic depiction of the model may lead to an observation that the process is neat and inflexible, real creative problem solving is rather "messy" and flexible.  The user need not sit down and follow this process as though it were a recipe for successful or effective thinking.  The actual use and application of the process is quite dynamic, iterative and expandable.  Depending on the specific task and the orientation of the problem solver (among other variables), some aspects of the process will be more fully and appropriately utilized while others may not be used at all (or as much).

          In examining the graphic design of the process, it is easy to see that there appears to be an opening up to generate and develop alternatives followed by a selecting, choosing or narrowing down of the alternatives.  In each stage, two complementary types of thinking are necessary.  The current model is built on the belief that effective problem solving relies upon both creative and critical thinking.  Creative thinking is defined as making and communicating meaningful new connections to:  think of many possibilities; think and experience in various ways and use different points of view; think of new and unusual possibilities; and guide in generating and selecting alternatives.  The basic principle underlying this type of thinking is deferment of judgment.  The equally important and complementary type of mental activity is referred to as critical thinking.  Critical thinking is defined as analyzing and developing possibilities to:  compare and contrast many ideas; improve and refine promising alternatives; screen, select, and support ideas; make effective decisions and judgments; and provide a sound foundation for effective action.  The basic principle underlying this type of thinking is affirmative judgment.  These dynamics, guidelines, and the specific methods and techniques which provide the basic tools for the two different types of thinking are described more completely in Isaksen & Treffinger (1985).

          Creative problem solving (CPS) does not mean merely rattling off one novel idea after another without ever judging or evaluating the options.  The ability to make novel associations is important, but it is equally important to be able to make good decisions and choices about ideas.  Therefore, in learning CPS it is important to learn and use effective methods for generating and evaluating ideas.  This suggests a reasonable and delicate balance between creative and critical thinking.  This balance also implies the need to see creative and critical thinking as mutually important components of effective problem solving.  More detailed information regarding the general rationale for learning creative problem solving is provided in Appendix A.

          The use of CPS provides a systematic and deliberate application of thinking strategies to insure a productive balance between creative and critical thinking; mediates natural blocks or unproductive patterns of thinking; and provides a common language to help individuals and groups describe and plan their mental activities.  As such it can be learned and used in a variety of circumstances by individuals and groups.  Managers can use CPS skills and methods in a variety of situations with peers, subordinates and others.

          There are at least three different levels of application for CPS.  The first is learning the basic tools of divergent and convergent thinking.  These tools can be taught in a condition which is removed from the daily, real-life context of the learners.  After learning the basic principles and skills, the techniques can be woven together to form some meaningful problem solving event.  This can take the form of simulations, role playing and practicing the process on presented challenges and opportunities.  A third level of use is applying CPS on real challenges and opportunities.  The fact that these are real opportunities means that the application of the skills and techniques is embedded in the context of the problem owner.  This model of learning CPS is depicted in Figure Two.

 

INSERT FIGURE TWO ABOUT HERE

         
          The manager may be seen as a teacher or trainer when providing basic awareness and facility with the tools of divergent and convergent thinking.  Managers will need to provide a more situational type of leadership as individuals with whom they work begin to practice these skills as meaningful units.  The manager who is involved in real applications will find the role of facilitator to be productive.

          If a decision is made to involve a group in real applications of CPS, it is helpful if the style of leadership is consistent with the notion of group participation.  It would be counterproductive if the leader were to autocratically order all group members to participate and to insist that they enjoy it.  It is also important to understand the unique style and skills necessary for effective facilitation.  This special type of group-oriented leadership role focuses on the release and effective utilization of group resources.

          During a typical CPS session, a group is led by someone called the facilitator.  The facilitator is the person who takes primary responsibility for the process and procedures with which the group will be involved.  The facilitator structures and prepares the environment, acts as a catalyst for releasing and focusing the efforts of group members, uses appropriate methods and techniques, and is sensitive to the variety of group dynamics.  For more information regarding the role and responsibilities of the facilitator of a CPS session see Isaksen (1983) & (1986) and Parnes (1985).  Appendix B provides some helpful information for facilitators of small group CPS sessions.

          It is important for group members to know that their efforts have some meaning and relevance.  This can be achieved only if someone within the group has a sincere interest in implementing the solutions the group helps to create.  Thus, the facilitator interacts with a client.  This is the individual (or group in some cases) who has decision-making authority or ownership over a particular situation or challenge.  The role of the client in CPS groups supplies content-related expertise and provides convergence and decision making during the session.  The client helps to keep the group on track by clarifying the situation, choosing directions and approaches, and participating in the session.  In the final analysis, it's the client who needs to have a problem solved or an opportunity reached.  Therefore, the role of the client is an important one in determining the effectiveness and productivity of the group's efforts. 

          Clients need guidance from the facilitator for making choices and judging at appropriate times, and they need to have support for permitting,  encouraging and participating in the divergent activities of the group.  For clientship to be present, there must be room for a new approach or fresh ideas which the client is willing and able to implement.  This type of ownership builds commitment to the group process and helps in the development of effective groups.  The client's role helps to provide the group access to a clear definition of the task at hand.  During the session, for example, the client shares the most important data and provides other information the group needs to know before proceeding.    Elements of the client's task must be specified and have clear connection to his or her responsibilities.

          The other members of the CPS session are called participants and they function collectively as the resource group.  These group members suggest options and provide a wide range of alternatives during the session.  Effective resource group members show an interest in the client's content, but do not make decisions for the client.  They support the decisions the client makes and provide a divergent range of possibilities from which the client can choose.

          Resource group members provide energy, diversity of experience, and a variety of viewpoints.  The facilitator's challenge is to capitalize on the group's assets and limit their liabilities by providing the necessary balance of creative and critical thinking processes in meeting the needs or goals of the client.

         
          Another major challenge to the facilitator of CPS sessions is to effectively balance and reinforce the roles of facilitator, client, and resource group.  Part of this responsibility includes making these roles explicit for all group members so that everyone knows what is expected of them.  These three roles provide the basic interpersonal framework for CPS in groups.

          All group members need to have some basic information regarding what they are expected to do.  Agreement is necessary regarding the procedures and methods used for group activity.  It is also very helpful for group members to be aware of their strengths and limitations in using various process technologies, as well as the kinds of blocks to creative thinking which may surface during the session.  Some deliberate decisions need to be made regarding the number and type of human resources to be a part of the session.  Heterogeneity of perspectives and experiences as well as homogeneity of levels of power should be considered.  Depending on the purposes of the session, a certain number of participants should be specified for the working group (generally 5-7).  Larger groups should provide additional facilitators to allow an equivalent ratio.  The facilitator may also want to consider the levels of expertise necessary in dealing with the client's task.

          So far this paper has focused on the definitions and approaches to studying creativity.  In addition, some background and description of the CPS model, roles for group sessions, and a few of the dynamics of these sessions has been provided.  The following section will provide a few of the implications for future research using this type of problem solving with groups.

Some Research Implications

          The emphasis of current research and development surrounding CPS consists of better targeting the methods and techniques toward specific types of people under specific circumstances and for specific types of outcomes.  The research literature has already made significant progress in answering the more basic question regarding the teachability of creative thinking skills.  In short, we think we can do something to deliberately enhance the creative thinking ability of individuals.  The more targeted questions regarding which techniques work best for whom under what circumstances remain to be answered.

Process Strategies:  Development and Testing:  Most previous research and development has focused on divergent creative problem solving methodology.  There has been much interest, for example, in the brainstorming technique.  One frontier for those involved in researching the effectiveness of CPS is the development and testing of convergent creative problem solving methodology.  There are many reasons for becoming more concerned with the dynamic balance and complementariness of creative and critical types of thinking.  One major reason has been provided by the research surrounding the Creative Studies Project.

          Although the two-year program was very successful for the experimental subjects who stayed with the entire program, there were some subjects who chose to drop out of the program.  The experimental and control subjects who stayed with the program were comparable on nearly all the personality assessments conducted.  There were some interesting findings regarding those experimentals and controls who dropped out.  They seemed to possess characteristics like:  more directed toward deviancy or culturally disapproved behavior, in closer contact with their primary processes, freer, more impulsive, more likely to drop out of college, less responsible and more anxious, and other variables.  Drop-outs seemed to be more interested in artistic forms of creativity and dropped out because of their disappointment in the nature of the course.  The implications and more extensive description of the findings of the drop-outs are reported more extensively in Parnes & Noller (1973). 
         
          The authors described a possible explanation for the drop out phenomenon by describing two very different types of people.  They used the terms "lines" and "squiggles" in much the same way Juster (1963) did in his book The dot and the line.  The line was described as being straight; rigid; disciplined; responsible; seeking the ability to bend or twist, and to become more free and open.  The opposing type of person, the squiggle,  was described as:  undisciplined; unruly; wild; unconventional; original; and uninhibited.  In Juster's story, the squiggle loses out to the line who has learned to merge his innate freedom and spontaneity with his self-discipline and responsibility.  The drop-outs seemed to be more like the squiggles; the stay-ins seemed to be more like the lines.  The Creative Studies Program seemed  better suited to the needs of the lines.  The program's emphasis was on learning and applying many divergent techniques of creative problem solving.  Perhaps the squiggles had already mastered these skills and needed some assistance with the convergent techniques.  The lines were very likely to have been able to recognize the impact of the learning in broadening their repertoire of skills and abilities.

          The kinds of questions related to this aspect of the development and testing of process strategies include:

          •What kinds of convergent process strategies are appropriate for inclusion into the CPS model?

          •How might existing or new strategies be developed or modified for inclusion into the CPS model?

          •What kinds of convergent techniques are more appropriate for individual (or group) application?

          •What convergent tools are most appropriate for which stages of the CPS process?

          •Are there non-verbal or non-semantic convergent (or divergent) techniques that can be useful for CPS?

Cognitive styles:  A means to target technology:  Another implication from the drop-out phenomenon from the Creative Studies Project is that different types of people may have different preferences for learning and applying the various CPS process strategies.  Those students with certain kinds of cognitive orientation seemed to benefit from and enjoy learning and applying the divergent process strategies the early Creative Studies Program offered. 

          A line of research supportive of this connection is the work of Gryskiewicz (1982, 1984, & 1987).  Gryskiewicz used the Kirton Adaptive-Innovative Inventory to evaluate the outcomes of three different CPS technologies.  He found that Kirton's construct was replicated by his research and developed the Targeted Innovation Model which is considered to be a goal-referenced model for targeted CPS.  Certain CPS techniques were likely to produce certain types of outcomes.  These findings have important implications for practitioners and facilitators of CPS groups.

          If it is possible to examine an individual's preference for a particular type of process technology, it would be likely to do a much better job of diagnosing and selecting appropriate techniques for personal development and qualitatively acceptable results.  Facilitators could help individuals select techniques which broaden their repertiore of skills; or that focus more appropriately on the type of outcome desired.  Individuals can decide about the appropriateness of their match between their own style tendency and the situational determinants.  Planning the membership of a CPS group could be assisted by knowing the type of outcome needed and the kind of preferences most likely to produce those results.  In short, knowing more about a person's orientation to the CPS process and the specific types of techniques contained therein, can increase the ability to be more targeted or intelligent about the application of CPS technology.

          Some of the questions for research regarding the use of cognitive styles to target CPS technology include:

          •What constructs and instrumentation are most appropriate for use within the CPS process?  Which instruments have predictive value?

          •What types of people have what types of preferences in learning and applying various CPS methods and techniques? 

          •Do certain styles have strong preferences for certain stages or phases of the CPS process?

          •Do certain types mixes of styles have qualitatively or quantitatively different outcomes on CPS methods, techniques or stages?

          •Do cognitive styles make a difference in how certain individuals behave in the various roles (i.e. facilitator, client, or participant in a resource group) during a CPS session?

Climate variables:  Understanding the context:  A third major area for future inquiry around the subject of using CPS in groups includes concern for the situational contingencies that make a significant difference in selecting people, process technologies, and solutions for challenges and opportunities.

          Ekvall and Andersson (1986) identified the following situational factors which contribute to the generation of a particular working climate:  visions and goals; strategies; the style of leadership; the work setting and logistics; the characteristics of the individuals; the type of work; how people organize to get the work done; qualitative features of the context; and the values and norms of the people.  Within these broad factors, Ekvall has designed a questionnaire to study the working climate of organizations.  He defined working climate as the behaviors, attitudes and feelings typical of life within the workplace.  His instrument seems to be able to discriminate those working climates more favorable to creative and innovative outcomes and climate.

          To better understand the context within which CPS exists, it appears that certain climate variables must be identified and described.  In addition, the amounts of domain-relevant knowledge, the structure of the challenge or opportunity, and the qualitative aspects of the available resources would also be important to consider.  It seems reasonable that environmental contingencies like: time (how far along the task has come as well as deadlines etc.); budget; degree of crisis orientation; degrees of freedom within the job; the amount and type of experience individuals and teams have with the task and with each other; and what type of motivation is predominant within the workplace  are all important to know about when applying CPS in groups.

          Some questions within this line of inquiry would include:

          •What climate factors are the most significant in relation to the client's ownership of the task and what effects do these have on implementation?

          •Should certain factors within the context of CPS play a significant role in selecting and using specific process strategies?

          •Do certain diffusion strategies have a stronger liklihood of impact in certain situations?  What factors seem to make the most difference?

          •How might certain domain-relevant knowledge requirements be determined and assessed?

          •Which quality, time, cost, or acceptance factors have the most predictive value in determining the approach to CPS (group vs. individual; focus on learning the process vs. solving a problem; etc.) most appropriate for the situation?

 

Conclusions

          Some progress has been made in terms of creativity research in general.  Despite the increased efforts to study creativity, some very important challenges continue to exist.  As MacKinnon (1978) indicated:

As we have seen, empirical research has shed some light on each of the major facets of creativity--the creative product, the creative process, the creative person, and the creative situation.  But its illuminations have been spotty and far from complete.  There remain critical issues concerning each of these several aspects of creativity which can only be resolved through the findings of future research (p. 187).

 

One of the most important needs for the field is a better conceptual schema of key constructs (see Isaksen, Stein, Hills, & Gryskiewicz, 1984).  An improved conceptual schema could assist in organizing and evaluating gaps in the literature and could encourage networking among interested researchers.

           The focus of this paper has been primarily on the aspects of the creative process; specifically on innovative or creative problem solving in groups.  It would serve the emerging field of inquiry into creative and innovative management well to examine this aspect as well as the other aspects of person, product and situation in an effort to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the practical implications of creativity theory and research.

 

References

Amabile, T. M. & Sensabaugh, S. J. (1985).  Some factors affecting organizational creativity:  A brief report.  A paper presented at the Creativity Innovation & Entrepreneurship Symposium at the George Washington University, Washington, D. C.

Anderson, H.  (Ed.)  (1959).  Creativity and its cultivation.  New York:  Harper.

Basadur, M. S. & Thompson, R. (1986).  Usefulness of the ideation principle of extended effort in real world professional and managerial creative problem solving.  Journal of Creative Behavior, 20, 23-34.

Besemer, S. P. & O'Quin, K. (1987).  Creative product analysis:  Testing a model by developing a judging instrument.  In S. G. Isaksen (Ed.).  Frontiers of creativity research:  Beyond the basics (pp. 341-357).  Buffalo, New York:  Bearly Limited.

Besemer, S. & Treffinger, D. J. (1981).  Analysis of creative products:  Review and synthesis.  Journal of Creative Behavior, 15, 158-178.

Charnes, A. & Cooper, W. W. (1984).  Creative and innovative management:  Essays in honor of George Kozmetsky.  Cambridge, MA:  Ballinger Publishing Company.

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