Creative Problem-Solving (CPS)

How do I cite this text?

Aguilera-Luque, AM (2016). Creatividad Organizacional: un Estudio Cuantitativo de la Eficacia de los Programas de Entrenamiento en Creatividad. Tesis doctoral, Universidad de Valencia.

Translate Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is a cognitive model (Osborn, 1957; Osborn-Parnes, 1967) and also a creativity training program (Noller y Parnes, 1972).

Creative Problem Solving: theoretical basis

Studies about problem-solving start with Wallas’ work (1926) and his model of four phases of the creative process that is shown in the following image;

Wallas Model

On this theoretical basis, Osborn (1957) builds a model to explain the role that creativity plays when we are solving a problem. This process, Creative Problem Solving (CPS), consists of seven steps shown in the following image.

Adaptado de Osborn (1957)

This initial model of Osborn was later revised by Parnes, who proposed a simpler five-stage model. The model known as Osborn-Parnes (1967) has served as the theoretical basis for the following training program.

Five-phase CPS model
Adaptado de Osborn y Parnes (1967)

Creative Problem Solving Training Program

An important part of the research on creativity training has been analyzing teaching for problem-solving (PS).

The PS shares some aspects with creativity training, but they are not the same, as it does not deal with factors such as divergence. For this reason, training programs have been created that address both the convergence of the PS and divergent thinking. Such would be the case of the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) program by Noller and Parnes (1972).

CPS is the most applied program to promote creativity in all areas and levels of people’s development. It is also the one that has been studied and experimented the most, so it could say that the results of its application have significant scientific support.

CPS is based on the Osborn (1957) model, modified by Parnes (1967), who, together with Noller, later developed the CPS training program (Noller and Parnes, 1972).

Structure of the CPS

The fundamental elements of the 1972 version continue to be maintained in the current structure of the program. However, it has undergone several modifications due to the extensive research it has generated.

The CPS program begins by describing the key to the cognitive processes that underlie creative thinking and provides strategies for applying the program to those processes.

Various meta-analytical studies indicate that the average effect of this program is higher than others, as well as that many of the training proposals share a large part of its elements. Version 6.1 of the program is briefly developed below:


Research a general goal, opportunity, or change

Clarify, formulate or focus thought

Establish a direction for the development of efforts

Opportunities creation

Establish opportunities, goals, and objectives.

Explore the data

Examine data sources from different points of view

Focus on the most important elements of the task or situation.

Reframe the problem

Generate various and unusual ways of posing the problem

Facilitate open-mindedness for the generation of creative ideas


Find new possibilities. Generate many ideas (fluency), from different categories (flexibility), unusual and novel (originality)


Convert options into workable solutions and prepare for implementation

Develop solutions

Apply strategies and tools to analyze, develop and refine the proposals to transform them into potential solutions.

Build acceptance

Create supports for the acceptance of the proposal and reduce resistance to new solutions: plan strategies and evaluation of results.


Self-monitoring of own thinking to ensure it is focused in the right direction.

Tasks evaluation

Determine if CPS is a good choice for a specific task. Evaluate commitments, limitations, and program requirements to achieve effective results.

Process design

Based on the knowledge of the task, the CPS plan is developed; components, phases, tools that best fit the planned objectives.

Adapted from Isaksen and Treffinger (2004)

A CPS technique: brainstorming

In the framework of the theory of Creative Problem Solving, Osborn (1953) presented Brainstorming. It is a technique widely used in the company, although not always in an adequate way. Its fundamental theoretical basis is in attitudinal psychology and, specifically, in two attitudes related to the generation of ideas: active divergence and postponement of judgment.

Osborn’s CPS proposes to separate the idea generation phase from the evaluation phase, brainstorming being suitable for the first phase of the process.

The objective of brainstorming is to achieve as many ideas as possible. For that, four basic rules must be followed:

  1. criticism is not allowed,
  2. freedom of thought,
  3. the quantity is valued,
  4. combination and improvement are pursued.

Brainstorming is not, therefore, a training program as such. It is simply a technique that can be useful in specific program steps that considers fluency as a critical phase of the creative process.


Isaksen, S. G., & Treffinger, D. J. (2004). Celebrating 50 years of creative problem-solving. Journal of Creative Behavior, 38(2), 70–101.

Mumford, M. D., Baughman, W. A., Maher, M. A., Costanza, D. P., & Supinski, E. P. (1997). Process-based measures of creative problem-solving skills: IV. Category combination. Creativity Research Journal, 10(1), 59–71.

Noller, R., & Parnes, S. (1972). Applied Creativity. Journal of Creative Behavior, 6(4), 275–294.

Osborn, A. (1953). Applied Imagination: Principles and procedures of creative thinking. New York: Charles Scribner’s sons.

Osborn, A. (1957). Applied imagination. New York: Scribner.

Osborn, A. (1963). Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-Solving (3rd ed). New York: Scribner.

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