Strategies for Creative Problem Solving

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2007-08-29
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
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Designed to help problem solvers improve their "street smarts, " this hands-on guide examines the components of problem solving, and presents a series of graduated exercises -- drawn from a variety of industrial applications -- to familiarize, reinforce, challenge, and stretch readers creatively in the problem solving process. Leads readers step-by-step through a complete problem-solving process -- from encountering an ill-defined problem to identifying the real problem, effectively exploring constraints, planning a robust approach, carrying it through to a viable solution, and then evaluating what has been accomplished. MARKETS: For students, new professionals, and practitioners.

Author Biography

H. Scott Fogler is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Vennema Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan. His research interests include flow and reaction in porous media, fused chemical relations, gellation kinetics, and chemical reaction engineering problems in the petroleum industry. He has graduated 37 Ph.D. students and has more than 200 refereed publications in these areas. Fogler is the AIChE 2008 President-elect. He has chaired ASEE’s Chemical Engineering Division, served as director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, earned the Warren K. Lewis Award from AIChE for contributions to chemical engineering education, and received the Chemical Manufacturers Association’s National Catalyst Award. He is the author of the classic Elements of Chemical Reaction Engineering, Fourth Edition (Prentice Hall, 2006).


Steven E. LeBlanc is Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Toledo. He chaired the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department for ten years, chaired the ASEE Chemical Engineering Education Division, and co-chaired the 2007 ASEE Chemical Engineering Summer School for Faculty.

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Problem-Solving Strategies: Why Bother?p. 1
What's the Real Problem?p. 1
Correct Problem Definition/Wrong Solutionp. 6A
Heuristic for Successful Problem Solvingp. 9
Summaryp. 11
CD-ROM Materialp. 11
Referencesp. 13
Exercisesp. 14
Further Reading 14
The Characteristics, Attitudes, and Environment Necessary for Effective Problem Solvingp. 15
Getting in the Right Frame of Mindp. 15
Having a Visionp. 23
Working Together in Teamsp. 25
Conflict Resolutionp. 31
Team Decisionsp. 33
Summaryp. 34
CD-ROM Materialp. 35
Referencesp. 35
Exercisesp. 36
Further Readingp. 39
Gathering Information on the Problemp. 41
The First Four Stepsp. 41
Summaryp. 49
CD-ROM Materialp. 49
Referencesp. 49
Exercisesp. 49
Problem Definitionp. 51
Defining the Real Problem: Four Techniquesp. 51
Technique 1: Finding Out Where the Problem Came Fromp. 52
Technique 2: Using the Present State/Desired State and the Duncker Diagram to Define the Real Problemp. 58
Technique 3: Using the Statement Restatement Techniquep. 63
Technique 4: Kepner Tregoe Problem Analysisp. 68
Which Technique to Choose?p. 72
Determine Whether the Problem Should Be Solvedp. 74
Brainstorm Potential Causes and Solution Alternativesp. 75
Summaryp. 76
CD-ROM Materialp. 76
Referencesp. 78
Exercisesp. 78
Further Readingp. 88
Appendix: Questions for a Socratic Dialogp. 89
Breaking Down the Barriers to Generating Ideasp. 93
Recognizing Mental Blocksp. 94
Blockbustingp. 99
Improving Your Creative Abilitiesp. 100
Risk Takingp. 104
Summaryp. 110
CD-ROM Materialp. 110
Referencesp. 111
Exercisesp. 111
Further Readingp. 114
Generating Solutionsp. 115
Brainstormingp. 115
Free Associationp. 116
Vertical Thinkingp. 118
Lateral Thinkingp. 120
Futuringp. 122
Organizing Brainstorming Ideas: The Fishbone Diagramp. 124
Brainwritingp. 26
Analogy and Cross-Fertilizationp. 127
Incubating Ideasp. 130
TRIZp. 131
Summaryp. 138
CD-ROM Materialp. 138
Referencesp. 140
Exercisesp. 140
Further Readingp. 143
Deciding the Course of Actionp. 145
K.T. Situation Appraisalp. 146
K.T. Problem Analysisp. 151
K.T. Decision Analysisp. 151
Adverse Consequences of the Alternative Solutionsp. 155
K.T. Potential Problem Analysisp. 163
Summaryp. 168
CD-ROM Materialp. 169
Referencesp. 170
Exercisesp. 170
Further Readingp. 178
Implementing the Solutionp. 179
Approvalp. 179
Planningp. 180
Carry Throughp. 185
Follow Upp. 187
Experimental Projectsp. 187
Summaryp. 194
CD-ROM Materialp. 195
Referencesp. 195
Exercisesp. 196
Further Readingp. 198
Evaluationp. 199
General Guidelinesp. 199
Ethical Considerationsp. 203
Safety Considerationsp. 209
Summaryp. 210
CD-ROM Materialp. 210
Referencesp. 211
Exercisesp. 211
Further Readingp. 219
Troubleshootingp. 221
Some General Guidelinesp. 221
Early Morning Shivers: An Example of Troubleshootingp. 226
Technical Troubleshooting Exercisep. 230
Interactive Computing Module on Troubleshootingp. 237
Troubleshooting Laboratory Equipmentp. 239
Summaryp. 240
CD-ROM Materialp. 240
Referencesp. 240
Exercisesp. 241
Putting It All Togetherp. 245
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


The purpose of this book is to help problem solvers improve their "street smarts." We know that every individual possesses creative skills of one type or another, and that these skills can be sharpened if they are exercised regularly. This book provides a framework to hone and polish these creative problem-solving skills. Strategies for Creative Problem Solvingis intended for students, new engineers, practitioners, or anyone else who wants to increase his or her problem-solving skills. After studying this book, you will be able to encounter an ill-defined problem, identify the real problem, generate and implement solutions, and then evaluate what you have accomplished. You will develop the skills needed to achieve these goals by examining the components of a problem-solving algorithm and studying a series of graduated exercises intended to familiarize, reinforce, challenge, and stretch your creativity in the problem-solving process. To cut through the maze of obstacles blocking the pathway to the solution to the problem, we need skills analogous to a pair of scissors with two special blades. One of the shears is made of the knowledgenecessary to understand the problem and to develop technically feasible solutions. Of course, no cutting can be doneand no problems of invention can be solvedwith just one shear. The other shear contains creativity that can generate new and creativeideas. Likewise, creativity alone will not necessarily generate solutions that are technically feasibleand no cutting can be done with just this single shear, either. Instead, the combination of creativity with a strong technical foundation allows us to cut through the problem to obtain original solutions. With the aid of a major grant from the National Science Foundation, we researched the wide variety of problem-solving techniques used in industry. Teams of students and faculty visited a number of companies (see the list of acknowledgments later in this preface) to study their problem-solving strategies. We also carried out an extensive survey of new employees, experienced engineers, and managers in industry to collect information on the problem-solving process. As a result of our research, which we share in this text, we know you can become a better problem solver. A number of the engineers and managers provided examples of industrial problems that were incorrectly defined. These examples of ill-defined problems vividly illustrate the need to define the realproblem as opposed to the perceivedproblem. We believe that if a problem-solving heuristic had been applied to some of these problems in the first place, then the real problem would have been uncovered more rapidly. A problem-solving heuristic is a systematic approach to problem solving that helps guide us through the solution process and generate alternative solution pathways.The heuristic in this book is quite robust and is applicable to many types of problems. The problem-solving techniques presented in this book provide an organized, logical approach to generating more creative solutions. This book is designed to guide you step by step through the problem-solving process. Chapter 1 illustrates the need to apply an organized method of solving problems and gives an overview of the heuristic (i.e., a systematic approach) introduced in this text. Chapter 2 discusses the need to approach the problem with a positive attitude and emphasizes the importance of teamwork. Chapter 3 describes how to gather more information to learn more about the problem. The next chapters move step by step through the five building blocks of the problem-solving heuristic to increase your problem-solving "street smarts." We start by laying down the first building block, Define the Problem,and then lay one building block upon another as we move through the problem-solving process. The last block to be laid down is Evaluate the Solution,where we analyze all we have accomplished. Chapter 10 extends the material in Chapter 4 on defining the problem to discuss techniques for troubleshooting both everyday problems and highly technical problems. We close with Chapter 11, which includes two case studies that incorporate the principles of the first 10 chapters. The first case study focuses on a project carried out by Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and was provided by Dr. Marina Melitic. The second case study is from a term project in a senior-level problem-solving course at the University of Michigan, entitled "Problem Solving, Troubleshooting, and Making the Transition to the Workplace," in which a draft of the second edition of this book was used as the text. The syllabus for this course can be found on the CD-ROM that accompanies this book. Chapter Objectives The chapter-by-chapter objectives for this new edition of the text are shown below. They provide a logical pathway to help improve and exercise your problem-solving skills. Chapter 1: Problem-Solving Strategies: Why Bother?Chapter 1 documents several examples where people defined and proceeded to solve the perceived probleminstead of defining and solving the real problem.This chapter also introduces a problem-solving heuristic that can help define the real problem. Chapter 2: The Characteristics, Attitudes, and Environment Necessary for Effective Problem Solving.Chapter 2 takes an introspective look at the characteristics, habits, and actions that effective problem solvers use and helps readers develop the skills necessary to be an effective and productive members of a team that is working together to solve problems. Chapter 3: Gathering Information on the Problem.Chapter 3 describes different methods to gather information so as to define and solve the real problem. These techniques include collecting and analyzing information, talking with people who are familiar with the problem, viewing the problem firsthand, and confirming all findings. Chapter 4: Problem Definition.Chapter 4 provides four techniques you can use to help ensure that you have defined the real problem instead of the perceived problem: critical thinking, the Duncker diagram, the statementrestatement technique, and KepnerTregoe (K.T.) problem analysis. Chapter 5: Breaking Down the Barriers to Generating Ideas.Chapter 5 provides techniques that will help you break down barriers and preconceived notions that get in the way when you are trying to generate solutions to the problem. It also suggests ways to try to enhance your risk taking, because most truly innovative solutions require some risk. Chapter 6: Generating Solutions.Chapter 6 provides a number of techniques to help you generate solutions to the correctly defined problem, including brainstorming, vertical and lateral thinking, futuring, analogy, and TRIZ. Chapter 7: Deciding the Course of Action.Chapter 7 provides algorithms that will help you decide which problem you should work on first, which solution you should choose, how to identify potential problems, and how you can prevent problems from occurring in the future. Chapter 8: Implementing the Solution.Chapter 8 describes the steps necessary to implement the decisions you made using the techniques described in Chapter 7. Chapter 9: Evaluation.Chapter 9 shows you how to evaluate the solution you have implemented, making sure it completely solves the problem, is ethical, and is safe for both people and the environment. Chapter 10: Troubleshooting.Chapter 10 provides an algorithm and a worksheet that you can use for troubleshooting problems of malfunctioning industrial equipment and systems. This algorithm also finds application to nontechnical

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