MBA employer-sought skill: creative problem solving

In a previous post we discussed the value of teamwork and collaboration, a skill sought by many MBA employers according to GMAC Corporate Recruiter Survey. One of the many advantages of teamwork and collaboration is the group’s ability to develop innovative ideas, which leads us to another in-demand skill: creative problem solving.

A Bloomberg Recruiter Report finds that creative problem solving is one of the rare skills that companies want the most among MBA hires.

But what exactly is creative problem solving?

One definition offered by Creative Education Foundation, defines creative problem solving as “a proven method for approaching a problem or a challenge in an imaginative and innovative way.”

Like most skills, creative problem solving can be developed or learned over time, yet it is often misperceived as an innate ability that one either has or has not. Similarly artistic ability such as painting or playing an instrument is not a sign of one’s ability to solve problems creatively.

Today, there are many paradigms, frameworks and models used to outline and define the process of creative problem solving. One of the earlier models comes from Alex Osborn, an advertising executive who coined the term brainstorming and later developed a Creative Problem Solving Process that is still taught in many schools today. Osborn’s process includes six steps:
• Objective finding
• Data finding
• Problem finding
• Idea finding
• Solution finding
• Acceptance finding

Each step requires both divergent thinking or brainstorming which generates multiple options; and convergent thinking — choosing or deciding on the best option considering the larger context.

Practical examples of creative problem solving are all around us. From technological gadgets that make our lives easier such as our smartphones to home appliances that allow us to save time. Take for example, a vacuum cleaner. For decades, all vacuum cleaners used air filters and dust bags that caused clogging, until James Dyson challenged the notion that a vacuum cleaner needed either. Leveraging cyclone technology, Dyson created a vacuum that used cones where air spirals generated strong centrifugal force, thus separating the dust and dirt into the surround bin.

At Limestone College, MBA program students develop creative thinking through multiple courses including BA670 Strategic Management. As the capstone course, this class is a convergence of previous learning in the program. Using various case studies, students will demonstrate a command of previous coursework by applying multifunctional approaches to the issues in the global economy.