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Rational Creativity


Creativity articles > Rational Creativity

Definition | Analysis | Solution | See also


It is often thought that creativity is at the other end of the scale to rationality. Rational thought is based on clear reason and logical progression. Creativity, on the other hand, seems to be about intuition, hunches and generally messing around until a magical idea pops out of the ether and into your head.

If you live on the rational side of the tracks I won't try to convert you to fuzzy thinking, because I don't need to. You can solve problems that many might think of as requiring creative thinking but doing so wearing only a rational hat. To do this, there are three key stages:

  • Definition of the problem that you are seeking to solve.
  • Analysis of information available and gathered.
  • Identifying and proving the solution that you will implement.

In practice, whilst these phases may be clearly separate, they may also be quite integrated with moving back and forth between them, for example re-defining the problem when analysis sheds new light on it. Analysis and solution identification may also happen together as a systematic analysis identifies a logical solution.

To further help you use logical methods, all the tools described on this site have a 'logical-psychological' classification. Look for the ones with an 'X' towards the left side of this table, such as:



  X        Psychological



The first step in the process is to clarify what exactly you are seeking to achieve. This may seem obvious but it is amazing the number of problem-solving activities that go on without really nailing down the exact problem. This is sometimes called 'scoping' as it identifies what is in and, importantly, what is out of scope.

There are a number of tools on this site to help you define the problem. Perhaps the most logical of these include the decomposition of breakdown and chunking, although it is good idea to start by asking 'What's it for?' to identify the fundamental purpose. Other basic questions can be used to help provide a robust challenge.

Finally do clarify what you are doing with words in a formal problem statement.


Next comes analysis, breaking down the situation further to find a focus for action. The breakdown methods used in defining the problem can be further used here. value analysis also provides a detailed method for more structured analysis. Other analysis tools can be taken from 'A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving', for example mapping the system with some form of flowchart and using FMEA to identify critical failure points.

Two key parts of analysis (also of definition and solution) is (a) gathering information to give facts and understand a given domain, and (b) focusing down into areas which need most attention and where most value can be gained. In summary, this means understanding and challenging, including challenging of your own understanding. What are assumed to be facts are often just educated opinions.


A good analysis will often make the solution easy as it is clear what is not working. Identifying the solution may hence be trivial. But this is not always so and further work may be needed.

Attribute listing is a great method for breaking down and challenging though considering attributes of the area in question. Still on the subject of attributes, morphological analysis is a structured method that came out of the Lear Jet Corporation. You can also force the situation with assumption busting, SCAMPER or forced conflict, where you challenge and push at the problem. Perhaps the ultimate engineering approach is TRIZ, a Russian system based on analysis of thousands of patents. This suits more physical problems and the overall method contains others principles, such as using 'resources' that are easily available.

When there are several possible solutions you may need to be careful about selecting ideas, for example by starting with negative selection or concept screening (if you have a large list). A structured method using weighted criteria is the priority matrix. A simpler method that employs paired comparison is the swap sort.

'The proof of the pudding is in the eating', is an old saying, and the proof of a solution is in the application. It is hence important to try out possible solutions as soon as you can. Whilst something should work logically, in messy reality it could be problematic, and such issues are best ironed out early on in the process.

See also

A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving


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