purpose, and that is to solve certain kinds of prob- lems better. Creativity in Eastern cultures, on the other hand, is often defined differently. Creativity is focused less on creating solutions than on uncovering enlightenment, one’s true self, or the achievement of wholeness or self-actualization (Chu, 1970; Kuo, 1996). It is aimed at getting in touch with the uncon- scious (Maduro, 1976). In both the East and the West, however, creativity is viewed positively. Gods of creativity are worshipped in West African cultures (Olokun) and among Hindus (Vishvakarma), for example (Ben-Amos, 1986; Wonder & Blake, 1992), and creativity is often viewed in mystical or religious terms rather than managerial or practical terms.
In fostering creative problem solving in inter- national settings or with individuals from different countries, Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars’ (1996, 1998, 2000) model is useful for understanding the caveats that must be kept in mind. Countries differ, for example, in their orientation toward internal control (Canada, United States, United Kingdom) versus external control (Japan, China, Czech Republic). In internal cultures, the environment is assumed to be changeable, so creativity focuses on attacking prob- lems directly. In external cultures, because individuals assume less control of the environment, creativity focuses less on problem resolution and more on achieving insight or oneness with nature. Changing the environment is not the usual objective.
Similarly, cultures emphasizing a specific orienta- tion (Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, France) are more likely to challenge the status quo and seek new ways to address problems than cultures emphasizing a diffuse culture (China, Nigeria, India, Singapore) in which loyalty, wholeness, and long-term relationships are more likely to inhibit individual creative effort. This is similar to the differences that are likely in countries emphasizing universalism (Korea, Vene- zuela, China, India) as opposed to particularism (Switzerland, United States, Sweden, United King- dom, Germany). Cultures emphasizing universalism tend to focus on generalizable outcomes and consis- tent rules or procedures. Particularistic cultures are more inclined to search for unique aberrations from the norm, thus having more of a tendency toward cre- ative solution finding. Managers encouraging concep- tual blockbusting and creative problem solving, in other words, will find some individuals more inclined toward the rule-oriented procedures of analytical prob- lem solving and less inclined toward the playfulness and experimentation associated with creative problem solving than others.
Hints for Applying Problem-Solving Techniques
Not every problem is amenable to these techniques and tools for conceptual blockbusting, of course, nor is every individual equally inclined or skilled. Our intent in presenting these six suggestions is to help you expand the number of options available to you for defining problems and generating additional alterna- tives. They are most useful with problems that are not straightforward, are complex or ambiguous, or are imprecise in their definition. All of us have enormous creative potential, but the stresses and pressures of daily life, coupled with the inertia of conceptual habits, tend to submerge that potential. These hints are ways to help unlock it again.
Reading about techniques or having a desire to be creative is not, by itself, enough to make you a skillful creative problem solver, of course. Although research has confirmed the effectiveness of these techniques for improving creative problem solving, they depend on application and practice as well as an environment that is conducive to creativity. Here are six practical hints that will help facilitate your own ability to apply these techniques effectively and improve your creative prob- lem-solving ability.
❏ Give yourself some relaxation time. The more intense your work, the more your need for complete breaks. Break out of your routine sometimes. This frees up your mind and gives room for new thoughts.
❏ Find a place (physical space) where you can think. It should be a place where interruptions are eliminated, at least for a time. Reserve your best time for thinking.
❏ Talk to other people about ideas. Isolation pro- duces far fewer ideas than does conversation. Make a list of people who stimulate you to think. Spend some time with them.
❏ Ask other people for their suggestions about your problems. Find out what others think about them. Don’t be embarrassed to share your problems, but don’t become dependent on others to solve them for you.
❏ Read a lot. Read at least one thing regularly that is outside your field of expertise. Keep track of new thoughts from your reading.
❏ Protect yourself from idea killers. Don’t spend time with “black holes”—that is, peo-
SOLVING PROBLEMS ANALYTICALLY AND CREATIVELY