Collaborative problem solving through creativity in problem definition: Expanding the pie

Basadur, M.S., Pringle, P.F., Speranzini, G. and Bacot, M. (2000) Collaborative problem solving through creativity in problem definition: Expanding the pie. Creativity and Innovation Management, Vol. 9 (1), pp 54-76.


The classic models of two party problem solving in situations of potential conflict are reviewed and the growing impetus for a process that would encourage collaborative win-win solutions is summarized. In is demonstrated that in-win collaboration requires innovative thinking, and that a four stage process of deliberate creativity with a track record of success is described. The process, called Simplex, emphasizes 'out of the box' thinking in problem defining (before solving) as the key to making a perceived 'fixed pie' larger, moving beyond the shackles of zero-sum, win-lose, compromise thinking. If a problem can be conceptualized from a new angle in such a way that each party believes its resolution would provide a high level of satisfaction, then the parties will be more likely to work together collaboratively. This process uses four specific creative thinking skills. A case study is described in which the Simplex process was used in union management bargaining. In the case study, when the creative process was deliberately applied, success was achieved in building trust and developing expanded pies and new solutions. However, when the process was abandoned, the trust was lost, no creative solutions were developed, and a sub-optimal lose-lose situation resulted. A two-dimensional diagnostic model which shows the relationship between skill level in the process and motivation to use it is provided. This model defines four modes of pure and mixed distributive and integrative bargaining.

< Return to List