Creative problem-solving techniques can be powerful ways of exploring any complex business issue. An example is given applying a process of mapping, perspective seeking, and idea activation, used within project scenario work
The Manchester Business School MBA includes project work on creative leadership. In assessed workshops, participants apply a creative problem-solving system as a means of generating a scenario for a real or simulated business client.
MBA teams are presented with a real and contemporary business issue. Leaders we deserve posts have been used for this purpose. The structure to support the team is known as the MPIA system, an acronym for its stages of mapping, perspective seeking, and Idea-activation.
MPIA is a version of the Parnes-Osborn creative problem-solving approach which has been developed at Manchester Business School where the principles behind the approach have been studied
In this application, the group has to apply the MPIA system to explore the project. The presentation is made to a client and a faculty member who grade the effort independently. Through this, the team experiences some of the ambiguities of a realistic project, one of the features of the s-called Manchester Method
Basic MPIA Structure
Here is the basic MPIA structure:
Start-up: Check team members understand the MPIA system, and the roles they are to play; set time-limits for the stages of work on the project; check that all group members understand and agree to the structures to be followed.
Mapping: Share information available using a structure such as a mind-map for sharing information.
Perspectives: Use ‘How to …statements’ suggested by the map produced in Stage 1. Avoid complex How Tos (split them into ones with a simple central objective). Include wishful ‘How Tos’ (‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful..).
Idea Exploring: Using the rules of brainstorming, generate as many ideas as possible postponing evaluation in any way. Include apparently impossible but desirable ideas as these may become a trigger to an original and feasible idea.
Activation of Ideas: Link short-listed ideas to practical action steps. Pay particular attention to the presumed needs of the client.
Team Dynamics and interventions
The difference between the most successful teams and others is often a result of better attention to team dynamics.
A creative climate is supported by ‘idea-leadership’ (ensuring ideas are individual contributions are respected and not ignored). The process leader is also servant to the psychological needs of the group.
When things go wrong, teams are advised to call for a brief ‘time-out’ after which the team will find it easier to make progress. Creative teams are characterised by various actions supportive of a positive psychological climate such as the Yes And reaction to an idea’s perceived weaknesses.
To go more deeply
The process illustrates distributed leadership, with different team members taking responsibilities for leading in process issues. You can find out more about the educational principles behind this as an example of The Manchester Method of experiential learning