Four Obstacles to Creative Problem Solving

April 3, 2013

Radiology managers face a major issues requiring creative thinking. But these mental blocks can get in the way of problem solving.

How many issues in a week do you encounter that require creative problem solving? When you are in management you encounter a multitude of issues on a weekly basis, some which are very unique.  

When a problem arises there are four obstacles I am mindful of that can get in the way of my creative problem solving. The mental obstacles which are referred to as conceptual blocks can constrain the way I look at solving problems and limit the number of solutions I generate.  

The four types of conceptual blocks are:

1. Constancy. Constancy means we become committed to one way of looking at a problem and employing one approach to define and solving that problem. The issue with constancy is that since we are creatures of habit we are likely to consistently use the same methodology to our approach in creative problem solving. 

2. Commitment. Commitment is seen as a conceptual block because as individuals, once we become committed to an idea or solution we usually follow through with that idea or solution. We become so entrenched in our thinking that we do not consider other alternatives. Studies have shown that commitment has lead to some very silly decisions.

3. Compression. Compression is when we look at a problem in a narrow spectrum and we filter out too much of the relevant information. As problem solvers we must be able to determine what information is factual and important so we can define the problem and develop the best solution.   

4. Complacency. Complacency is typically the result of just pure laziness and in most cases can get us in lots of trouble. To solve problems we must ask questions to get the information we need to define the problem and generate the appropriate solution. However, asking individuals questions can raise defense mechanisms which lead to interpersonal conflict and resistance. In addition, asking lots of questions makes us feel as though we come across as not being intelligent. Being inquisitive is important to creative problem solving.

It is important to note that it takes practice to eliminate the tendencies of these four conceptual blocks.  I recommend you write them down on a small index card and place the card in your desk.

Here’s a quote from Frank Zappa that I find appropriate for problem solving; “Our mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it is not open.”