Comparing Creative Problem Solving Techniques for Best Results

Comparing problem-solving techniques for optimal results.


Problem-solving is a crucial skill in both personal and professional settings. Whether it’s addressing a complex issue at work or finding creative solutions to everyday challenges, effective problem-solving leads to better outcomes and increased productivity. However, not all problems can be approached in the same way. Different techniques are available to tackle various problems, and choosing the right approach is essential for optimal results.

In this article, we will explore and compare different creative problem-solving techniques to help you identify the best approach for your specific needs. By understanding the various techniques and their advantages and disadvantages, you can make an informed decision on which approach to implement and increase your chances of successful problem resolution.

Let’s begin by examining the technique of design thinking.

Technique 1: Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach that prioritizes empathy and user-centered design. It emphasizes understanding the needs and desires of the end-users and applying creative solutions to meet those needs effectively. This technique is widely used in various fields, including product design, business strategy, and social innovation.

Components of Design Thinking

Design thinking consists of several key components, each contributing to the overall problem-solving process. These components are:

  1. Empathy: Design thinking starts by empathizing with the users and gaining a deep understanding of their experiences, frustrations, and desires. This involves conducting user research, interviews, and observations to gather insights.

  2. Ideation: Once the user needs are understood, the ideation phase begins. This involves brainstorming and generating a wide range of ideas to address the identified problems. The goal is to encourage creativity and divergent thinking to explore multiple possibilities.

  3. Prototyping: After generating ideas, the next step is to create prototypes or mock-ups that represent potential solutions. Prototypes can be physical models, digital simulations, sketches, or storyboards. Prototyping allows for quick iteration and feedback before investing in the final solution.

  4. Testing: The prototypes are then tested with the end-users to gather feedback and insights. This feedback helps refine and improve the solutions. Testing can be done through user interviews, surveys, or usability testing. The iterative nature of design thinking allows for continuous improvement based on user feedback.

Examples of Successful Problem-Solving using Design Thinking

Design thinking has been successfully applied to various real-world problems. For example:

  • Airbnb: To address the challenge of trust between hosts and guests, Airbnb conducted extensive user research to understand user concerns. They then iteratively tested and improved their user interface and policies to build trust and confidence in the platform.

  • PepsiCo: PepsiCo used design thinking to develop a sustainable packaging solution for its Frito-Lay snacks division. By empathizing with users and understanding their environmental concerns, PepsiCo designed a compostable packaging material that reduced waste and aligned with consumer preferences.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Design Thinking

Design thinking offers several advantages in problem-solving:

  1. User-centered approach: By focusing on the needs and desires of users, design thinking ensures that the solutions are tailored to meet their specific requirements, resulting in higher user satisfaction.

  2. Encourages Creativity: Design thinking encourages divergent thinking, enabling teams to explore a wide range of ideas and solutions. This creative approach often leads to innovative problem-solving.

  3. Promotes Collaboration: Design thinking involves multidisciplinary teams working together, fostering collaboration and a diversity of perspectives. This collaborative approach encourages teamwork and facilitates holistic problem-solving.

However, there are also some challenges and limitations associated with design thinking:

  1. Time and Resource Intensive: Conducting comprehensive user research, ideation, prototyping, and testing can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Organizations with limited time or budget constraints may find it challenging to fully embrace design thinking.

  2. Subjectivity and Bias: Design thinking relies on empathy and user insights, which can be subjective and influenced by biased interpretations. It is crucial to mitigate biases through rigorous research and involve a diverse range of users to avoid overlooking important perspectives.

Despite these limitations, design thinking remains a powerful problem-solving technique that can drive innovation, improve user experiences, and lead to successful outcomes.

Technique 2: Six Thinking Hats

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique is a powerful tool for creative problem-solving. It provides a framework for exploring different perspectives and generating innovative solutions. The technique is based on the idea that our thinking can be categorized into six different modes, each represented by a different colored hat. By using these hats metaphorically, individuals or teams can deliberately switch between different modes of thinking and enhance their problem-solving abilities.

The Six Hats

  1. The White Hat: This hat represents neutral and objective thinking. When wearing the white hat, individuals focus on gathering and analyzing data and information. They strive to separate facts from opinions or biases. The white hat allows for an objective assessment of the current situation and helps identify any gaps in knowledge.

  2. The Red Hat: The red hat symbolizes emotions and intuition. When wearing the red hat, individuals are encouraged to express their feelings, intuitions, and gut reactions. This mode of thinking allows for an exploration of emotions and personal perspectives without the need for justification or evidence.

  3. The Black Hat: The black hat represents critical and cautious thinking. When wearing the black hat, individuals adopt a skeptical mindset and focus on identifying potential risks, weaknesses, and drawbacks. This mode of thinking helps in anticipating possible challenges and avoiding hasty decisions.

  4. The Yellow Hat: The yellow hat embodies optimistic and positive thinking. When wearing the yellow hat, individuals focus on identifying the benefits, possibilities, and advantages of various options. This mode of thinking encourages the exploration of opportunities and potential positive outcomes.

  5. The Green Hat: The green hat represents creative and innovative thinking. When wearing the green hat, individuals engage in brainstorming and generate new ideas, concepts, and alternatives. This mode of thinking encourages thinking outside the box, exploring multiple perspectives, and considering unconventional solutions.

  6. The Blue Hat: The blue hat symbolizes control and organization of the thinking process. When wearing the blue hat, individuals take on the role of a facilitator or a moderator. They guide the thinking process, manage time, and ensure that all the other hats are used effectively. The blue hat helps in setting the agenda, establishing goals, and directing the overall problem-solving process.

Real-life Examples

The Six Thinking Hats technique has been successfully applied in various fields and industries. One notable example is the healthcare sector. In a hospital setting, a team of doctors and nurses can use the six hats to analyze a complex patient case. The white hat helps them gather and review objective medical data. The red hat allows them to express their emotional concerns and personal views. The black hat aids in identifying potential risks and contraindications. The yellow hat enables them to consider positive treatment outcomes. The green hat facilitates the generation of novel treatment options. Lastly, the blue hat ensures that the team stays focused and follows a systematic problem-solving approach.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Six Thinking Hats technique offers several advantages. Firstly, it promotes effective teamwork by allowing individuals to switch between different thinking modes and consider multiple perspectives. This encourages a more comprehensive and well-rounded approach to problem-solving. Secondly, it enhances creativity by providing a structured framework for generating innovative ideas. The different hats create a balance between analytical and intuitive thinking. Additionally, the technique is easy to understand and apply, making it accessible to individuals with varying levels of expertise.

However, there are also some potential disadvantages of using the Six Thinking Hats technique. Firstly, it may not be suitable for all types of problems. Some complex issues may require in-depth analysis and expertise that cannot be fully addressed using the six hats alone. Secondly, the technique heavily relies on active participation and engagement from all team members. If not everyone actively contributes or if there is a dominant individual, the effectiveness of the technique may be compromised. Lastly, some individuals may find it challenging to switch between different modes of thinking, particularly if they are more inclined towards a specific thinking style.

In conclusion, the Six Thinking Hats technique is a valuable tool for enhancing creative problem-solving. By incorporating different modes of thinking, individuals or teams can approach problems from multiple perspectives and generate innovative solutions. While the technique has its advantages and disadvantages, it remains a popular and widely used approach in various industries and sectors.

Technique 3: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a popular and effective creative problem-solving technique that encourages the generation of a wide range of ideas. It involves a group of individuals working together to brainstorm, share ideas, and build upon each other’s suggestions. The goal of brainstorming is to promote free thinking and generate as many ideas as possible, without judgment or criticism.

Traditional Brainstorming

One commonly used method of brainstorming is traditional brainstorming. In this approach, a group of people comes together and freely shares their ideas on a specific problem or topic. These ideas are then written down on a board or a piece of paper for everyone to see.

Traditional brainstorming encourages active participation from all participants and fosters the exploration of various perspectives. It allows for the development of a diverse set of ideas, which can lead to innovative solutions. The lack of judgment or criticism during this process creates an open and non-threatening environment, which can boost creativity.

However, traditional brainstorming also has its disadvantages. The sheer number of ideas generated can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. Some ideas may be irrelevant, impractical, or repetitive. Additionally, certain individuals may dominate the conversation, hindering the input from quieter or introverted team members.

Brainwriting 6-3-5

To address some of the challenges of traditional brainstorming, a structured method called Brainwriting 6-3-5 can be used. This technique involves a group of six participants who write down three ideas each within five minutes, hence the name. After the initial round, the ideas are passed on to the next person, who builds upon them or generates new ideas based on the existing ones. This process continues until all participants have contributed to each idea.

Brainwriting 6-3-5 allows for a more systematic and organized approach to brainstorming. It ensures that everyone’s ideas are heard and considered, reducing the risk of dominant voices overpowering the discussion. The structured nature of this technique also helps manage the volume of ideas and prevents repetition.

However, Brainwriting 6-3-5 may not be as effective for fostering spontaneous creativity as traditional brainstorming. The time limit for generating ideas can restrict the flow of creative thinking, and some participants may feel pressured to come up with ideas quickly. It may also lack the energy and collaborative spirit that can be found in traditional brainstorming sessions.

Successful Problem-Solving Using Brainstorming

Brainstorming has been successfully used in various problem-solving scenarios. For example, in a marketing team, brainstorming sessions are often conducted to generate new and innovative ideas for product promotions. The diverse perspectives and shared creativity of team members can lead to breakthrough ideas that resonate with the target audience.

Additionally, brainstorming has been applied in the field of technology and innovation. Companies like Google and Apple have famously adopted brainstorming as part of their problem-solving processes. These sessions have led to the development of groundbreaking products and software.

Comparison of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Brainstorming

When comparing the advantages and disadvantages of brainstorming, it becomes clear that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Brainstorming promotes open communication, stimulates creative thinking, and generates a variety of ideas. It encourages collaboration and teamwork, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement among participants.

However, the disadvantages of brainstorming should not be overlooked. Traditional brainstorming can be chaotic and unstructured, resulting in a large number of ideas that may be difficult to manage. Dominant individuals may overshadow others, and some ideas may not be fully explored or developed.

Brainwriting 6-3-5, on the other hand, provides a more structured approach that encourages equal participation and manages the flow of ideas effectively. However, it may lack the spontaneity and energy that can be present in traditional brainstorming sessions.

In conclusion, brainstorming is a valuable technique in creative problem-solving. Whether using traditional brainstorming or a structured method like Brainwriting 6-3-5, it promotes the generation of diverse ideas and fosters collaboration. The choice between traditional brainstorming and structured methods depends on the specific problem, the dynamics of the group, and the desired outcomes.

Technique 4: TRIZ

TRIZ, short for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, is a highly structured approach to problem-solving that was developed in Russia by Genrich Altshuller in the 1940s. TRIZ is based on the idea that there are universal patterns in the development of inventive solutions, and that these patterns can be identified and used to overcome contradictions and find innovative solutions.

Overview of TRIZ

TRIZ is built on the principle that every problem has an underlying contradiction that prevents an ideal solution from being achieved. The goal of TRIZ is to identify and resolve these contradictions in order to find the most effective solution.

TRIZ provides a systematic framework that consists of several tools and techniques for problem analysis, idea generation, and evaluation. These tools include the “40 Inventive Principles,” the “Contradiction Matrix,” and the “Su-Field Analysis.”

Key Principles and Tools of TRIZ

  1. Contradiction Matrix: The Contradiction Matrix is one of the key tools in TRIZ. It consists of a table that matches specific types of contradictions with corresponding inventive principles. By identifying the specific contradictions at play in a problem, TRIZ practitioners can then apply the most relevant inventive principles to solve the problem.

  2. 40 Inventive Principles: The 40 Inventive Principles are a set of general principles that have been derived from the analysis of thousands of patents and successful inventions. These principles provide guidelines for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Examples of these principles include “segmentation,” “extraction,” and “transition to a new dimension.”

  3. Su-Field Analysis: Su-Field Analysis is a technique used in TRIZ to analyze the relationships between the system (Su), the object being acted upon (Field), and the action or effect produced (Result). By understanding these relationships, TRIZ practitioners can gain insights into the underlying contradictions and identify potential solutions.

Examples of Successful Problem-Solving using TRIZ

One example of successful problem-solving using TRIZ is the development of the non-stick frying pan. The contradiction in this case was the desire to have food easily released from the pan while also ensuring even heat distribution for optimal cooking. By analyzing the contradiction using the Contradiction Matrix and applying the “Segregation Principle” (one of the 40 Inventive Principles), the solution of using a Teflon coating on the pan’s surface was discovered. This solution addressed the contradiction by creating a non-stick surface that allowed for easy food release without compromising heat distribution.

Another example of TRIZ in action is the development of the barcode scanner. The contradiction in this case was the need to accurately read barcodes of varying sizes and orientations. By using Su-Field Analysis and applying the “Dynamics” principle (another inventive principle), the solution of creating a laser-based scanner that could dynamically adjust to different barcode types was developed.

Advantages and Disadvantages of TRIZ

Like any problem-solving technique, TRIZ has both advantages and disadvantages.

Some advantages of TRIZ include:

  • Provides a systematic and structured approach to problem-solving
  • Offers a wide range of tools and techniques for problem analysis and idea generation
  • Enables the identification of underlying contradictions and the generation of innovative solutions
  • Provides a knowledge base of principles and patterns derived from successful inventions

However, TRIZ also has some potential disadvantages:

  • Requires a deep understanding and knowledge of the TRIZ principles and tools, which can be time-consuming to acquire
  • May not be suitable for all types of problems, especially those that are more subjective or ambiguous
  • Can be rigid and may not allow for a high degree of creativity or intuition in the problem-solving process

In conclusion, TRIZ is a powerful problem-solving technique that offers a structured and systematic approach to overcoming contradictions and finding innovative solutions. While it may not be suitable for every problem, it can be an effective tool for generating breakthrough ideas and solving complex problems in various domains.

Technique 5: Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis is a problem-solving technique that aims to identify the underlying cause of a problem rather than just treating its symptoms. By understanding and addressing the root cause, organizations can prevent the recurrence of similar issues in the future.

Introduction to Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a systematic approach used to identify the primary cause of a problem or an event. It involves a thorough investigation and analysis of the problem, aiming to determine the underlying factors that contributed to its occurrence. Rather than focusing solely on the immediate and visible causes, RCA aims to dig deeper and uncover the fundamental reasons behind the problem.

Steps to Conducting Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis typically involves several sequential steps to ensure a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the problem:

  1. Identify the Problem: The first step is to clearly define and articulate the problem. This includes identifying the symptoms, impacts, and consequences of the problem.

  2. Gather Data: Collect relevant data and information related to the problem. This may include incident reports, historical records, process documentation, and input from individuals involved.

  3. Ask “Why?”: Start with the problem statement and ask “why” the problem occurred. Repeat this questioning process to drill down to the underlying reasons and identify contributing factors. This technique, known as the “5 Whys,” helps in identifying the root cause by repeatedly asking why until the fundamental issue is revealed.

  4. Analyze the Causes: Once the root cause has been identified, analyze the contributing causes that led to its occurrence. This may involve performing a cause-and-effect analysis, using tools like fishbone diagrams or fault tree analysis.

  5. Develop Solutions: Based on the identified root cause and contributing factors, brainstorm and develop potential solutions to address the problem. These solutions should target the root cause rather than merely addressing the symptoms.

  6. Implement and Monitor: Implement the selected solution and closely monitor its effectiveness. Track the progress and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the problem does not recur.

Real-Life Examples of Successful Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis has been successfully applied across various industries and sectors. Here are a few examples:

  1. Airline Industry: Following an aircraft accident, root cause analysis was used to identify systemic issues within an airline’s maintenance processes, leading to changes in training, procedures, and safety protocols.

  2. Healthcare Sector: Root cause analysis is commonly used to investigate medical errors, patient safety incidents, and adverse events. It helps identify failures in processes, communication, and healthcare systems that contributed to the incidents.

  3. Manufacturing Sector: When a product defect occurred in a manufacturing facility, root cause analysis helped identify a flaw in the production process. By addressing the underlying issue, the company was able to improve product quality and minimize defects.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis offers several advantages that make it a valuable problem-solving technique:

  • Prevention of Recurrence: By identifying and addressing the root cause, organizations can prevent the recurrence of similar problems or events.

  • Comprehensive Understanding: Root cause analysis provides a deeper understanding of the problem, helping organizations develop targeted and effective solutions.

  • Systemic Improvement: RCA often reveals underlying issues in processes, systems, or organizational culture, enabling organizations to implement broader improvements beyond the immediate problem.

However, root cause analysis also has some limitations:

  • Time and Resource Intensive: Conducting a thorough root cause analysis requires time, resources, and expertise. This may not always be feasible, particularly in urgent or time-sensitive situations.

  • Subjectivity and Bias: The process of identifying the root cause relies on human judgment, which can introduce subjectivity and biases. This emphasizes the importance of a multidisciplinary approach and diverse perspectives in RCA.

  • Complexity: Identifying the root cause can be challenging, especially in complex systems where multiple factors may contribute to a problem. It requires careful analysis and consideration of various interdependencies.

In conclusion, root cause analysis is a powerful problem-solving technique that aims to uncover the underlying causes of a problem. By understanding the root cause, organizations can implement targeted and effective solutions, preventing future occurrences. However, it is essential to consider the time, resources, and complexity involved in conducting a comprehensive root cause analysis.


In this article, we have discussed and compared various creative problem-solving techniques with the goal of determining the best approach for optimal results.

Design thinking, which emphasizes empathy, ideation, prototyping, and testing, offers a human-centric and collaborative approach to problem-solving. It encourages innovative thinking and has been successfully applied in various industries and fields. However, design thinking may require significant time and resources to implement and may not always be suitable for complex or technical problems.

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique provides a structured approach to problem-solving by encouraging different perspectives and viewpoints. Each hat represents a different mode of thinking, enabling the exploration of different angles and potential solutions to a problem. This technique is particularly effective in fostering creativity and collaboration but may lack a systematic approach for problem analysis and evaluation.

Brainstorming, whether in its traditional form or with variations like Brainwriting 6-3-5, fosters a free flow of ideas and encourages participants to think outside the box. It is a versatile technique that can be applied in different contexts and can lead to innovative solutions. However, brainstorming sessions can sometimes be dominated by a few individuals, and the sheer volume of ideas generated may require additional time and effort to evaluate and refine.

TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, introduces a systematic and analytical approach to problem-solving. It provides a comprehensive set of principles and tools for identifying and resolving contradictions in complex problems. TRIZ has been successful in various industries and has a strong focus on innovation. However, applying TRIZ may require advanced training and expertise, and it may not be suitable for simpler or more straightforward problems.

Root cause analysis offers a structured approach to problem-solving by identifying and addressing the underlying causes of a problem. It helps prevent recurring issues and drives continuous improvement. By understanding the root causes, organizations can implement effective solutions that tackle the problem at its source. However, root cause analysis requires time, resources, and a thorough understanding of the problem to achieve accurate results.

When choosing the best technique for problem-solving, it is essential to consider the specific problem and context. Each technique has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and what works well in one situation may not be the best fit for another. It is crucial to assess the problem’s complexity, the available resources, and the desired outcome before selecting the most appropriate technique.

In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for creative problem-solving. The best results are achieved when the right technique is chosen based on the problem’s nature and context. By understanding and comparing various creative problem-solving techniques like design thinking, Six Thinking Hats, brainstorming, TRIZ, and root cause analysis, individuals and organizations can make informed decisions and apply the most suitable approach to achieve optimal problem-solving results.