A lighthouse helps sailors find their way to shore. Last week at the Creative Problem Solving Institute Conference in Buffalo, I found my own lighthouse of sorts, the Osborn-Parnes (Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes (the guys who coined the word “brainstorming”) Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process.  It is a remarkable method to approach problems and challenges in an imaginative and innovative way that leads to effective action.   It can be used within organizations or by individuals seeking to figure out a life challenge.  Quite simply, it is game changing.

There were many  “Aha’s” during the week but one of the most compelling was the use of language throughout.  The process encourages the use of nonthreatening language to ask the questions that spark meaningful discussion. Instead of defining problems in terms of “we must” or “we should,” CPS encourages us to start with “I/we wish…” or “Wouldn’t it be great if…” As we move deeper into the process, instead of saying “we’re going to do x…”, we are encouraged to ask “How would I/we…?”  “In what ways might we/I…?”  Language like this moves dialogue forward rather than shutting it down.

Another “Aha” about the conference were the people who joined me in this remarkable journey.  People came from around the country and the globe and from a variety of disciplines.  Speakers included Gail Civille, a pioneer in advanced sensory evaluation for industry and academia, Tony Baxter from Disney Imagineering, who was responsible for Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Disneyland Paris; and  Bernice McCarthy, an educator who developed a means for understanding differing learning styles.  Each of these speakers talked about how they continue to innovate and inspire others to be creative.  My fellow attendees included brand managers from major corporations, a doctor, market researchers, focus group moderators and consultants.

One of Buffalo’s greatest creations – wings

No trip to Buffalo would be complete without a visit to Louis Sullivan’s terra cotta clad Guaranty Building, one of the earliest steel framed skyscrapers in the US,and to the Anchor Bar, where Buffalo Wings were born   Both the building and the wings are a testament to the creativity and imagination of the human mind. Long live creativity and a toast to Osborn and Parnes for helping to unleash it.