Creative Problem Solving – the Osborn-Parnes model

Aleksandra Kovachevic
Aleksandra Kovachevic

Aleksandra Kovachevic provides a description of the process for creative problem solving developed by Dr. Sidney J. Parnes and Alex Osborn.

Creative problem solving

When confronted with an obstacle in life, whether business or personal, people either bang their head against the wall if the solution isn’t blatantly obvious, or they think of something new and ‘revolutionary’ to solve it.

The latter – being revolutionary in approaching the problem – is what’s usually referred to as creative problem solving. Some people are simply a natural when it comes solving problems in a creative way. Others, on the other hand, have to learn how to do it. Either way is fine, as long as you’re aware that creativity combined with problem solving is the only successful way of tackling an apparently insurmountable obstacle.


So, as we said earlier, creative problem solving is looking at a problem from a different angle and solving it in a way that hasn’t been solved before. It basically means coming up with a new way of dealing with a particular issue. So, creative problem solving requires of you to be inventive and to think outside the box. The solution is creative because it’s not overt, and yet it’s effective. If you happen to know the solution right away without previously thinking about the problem, then it’s not creative problem solving – it’s simply remembering or reconstructing the solution.

Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving (CPS)

More specifically, the term creative problem solving may refer to the Osborn-Parnes process of CPS invented by Dr. Sidney J. Parnes and Alex Osborn back in the late 1950s. This models of CPS consists of three main stages, each of which contains several smaller but explicitly defined steps:

  1. Explore the challenge
  • Objective finding
  • Fact finding
  • Problem finding
  1. Generate the ideas
  • Idea finding
  1. Prepare for action
  • Solution finding
  • Acceptance finding

This model is particularly useful because it breaks everything down to tiniest details.

So, according to this model of CPS, first you need to explore the challenge in order to pinpoint the objective. See what makes it a challenge in the first place. Identify the problem at hand.

Questions to ask yourself: What do I want to solve? What is my ultimate goal?

The second step is data gathering. You need to gather and lay out the information needed to get to the root of the problem. Identify the context and the background, look at the problem from all sides and angles to gather as much data as possible.

Questions to ask yourself: What’s the background situation of my problem? Do I have all the relevant pieces of information?

Thirdly, using the data gathered you need to clarify the challenge you’re facing. Make it abundantly clear what you’re dealing with. Be specific.

Questions to ask yourself: What is my main concern? What should I be focusing on the most?

The fourth step involves coming up with all sorts of new ideas on how to approach this new problem. The point is to generate as much ideas as possible, because one of them may turn out to be the one.

Question to ask yourself: What are all the possible (novel) solutions I can think of?

Once you’re done with coming up with new ways to approach the problem, it’s time to compare and contrast them to see which one is the best fit. Asses the ideas by focusing on the outcome. If the new approach doesn’t align with you objective(s), then it’s probably not the one. Combine ideas if you have to. Get creative!

Questions to ask yourself: Is my solution good enough? How can I improve it? Is it in line with my objective(s)?

The last step is accepting the new approach to the problem, which means it’s time for action. Once you’ve made up your mind on which approach is the best one, your focus should be on strategic plan execution. It’s time to bring those ideas into life and actually solve the problem.

Question to ask yourself: What are all the steps I need to make in order to implement the chosen solution successfully?

Creativity as a tool

Most people can think of a few synonyms or definitions of creativity when asked. Creativity is often connected with something new, unusual, original, different, and artistic. But only a few can actually use their creativity as a tool to change the world and point themselves towards their greatest aspirations.

Life is a series of ups and downs, and how you overcome those downs is what defines your ups eventually. Whether you use the abovementioned model or your own, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you’re aware of the need for creative solution. Approaching a problem from a different perspective can seriously increase your chances for success in any and every aspect of your life.


  • Nathan S. Gibson

    Nathan S. Gibson is an independent worker compliance business partner who provides expertise and creative solutions to enhance workforce flexibility and maintain compliance. He helps mitigate the risks associated with the misclassification of self-employed consultants, freelancers and independent contractors.

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.