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This site is for practitioners, new and experienced, of the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process and tools.


CPS is a form of deliberate creativity: a structured process for solving problems or finding opportunities, used when you want to go beyond conventional thinking and arrive at creative (novel and useful) solutions.


In the 1950s, advertising executive Alex Osborn studied creative people to see how they came up with ideas and creative solutions. He called the process he observed “creative problem solving,” and documented it in his seminal book, Applied Imagination.

Osborn’s work soon caught the attention of a college professor who wanted to study and extend the work. Sidney Parnes, Ruth Noller, and their colleagues provided the academic scrutiny that confirmed that CPS works, that it can be taught, and that people can learn to improve the way they think and solve problems.

There are many processes that use the term "creative problem solving" that are not based on the work of Osborn and Parnes. Generally, when the name is written with capital letters ("Creative Problem Solving") or abbreviated "CPS," the work is based on the Osborn-Parnes model.


Unlike proprietary methodologies, no one owns CPS. Osborn put CPS into the public domain so that people could use it. He did not feel as if he owned it; everyone owned it, and anyone should be able to use it.

More than 60 years later, CPS is known and used worldwide, by hundreds of companies and professional practitioners, and thousands of individuals. Expansion and research continues. CPS is the cornerstone of the Osborn-founded Creative Education Foundation (CEF), and CEF’s annual conference, the Creative Problem Solving Institute; and CPS is at the core of the M.S. in Creativity from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College.

Because no one owns CPS – it is a kind of open-source project – it has been researched and refined, extended and enhanced, for more than 60 years. The beneficiaries? Any of us who choose to use CPS today.


A side effect of the continuing study and development of CPS is that the terminology - what the stages are called, primarily - can change from one model to another. These changes tend to be author/practitioner preference, and are not material changes. This site uses the terminology developed by Paul Reali of OmniSkills, with stages that are consistent with the latest thinking on CPS. (For more information, see the column to the right.)


The word "process" implies, perhaps, that CPS is performed step by step. In actual practice, it's more organic. Yes, there are times when one might step through a fuzzy situation all the way (using the OmniSkills terminology) from "Imagine the Future" to "Plan for Action." More likely, though, you will "enter the process" wherever you need to be based on where you are in your problem-solving situation.

For example, if you have a clearly-articulated vision, you might begin with Finding the Question. Or, if you already have the quesiton (that is, a clearly defined problem), you might begin with Generating Ideas. Generally, there are conditions that should be satisfied before you attempt any stage (for example, it's not all that sensible to generate ideas for a problem you can't clarify), but you are never required to do anything except whatever you need.

READER PLEASE NOTE: this is a work in progress...

We're continuously adding to this site, so please come on back, and let us know if there's anything you need or would like to see here.

CPS Process Stages: Multiple Approcahes, One Process

The Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving process, once it reached maturity, looked like this:

Objective Finding
Fact Finding
Data Finding
Problem Finding
Solution Finding
Acceptance Finding

Simplex (Basadur, 1994) identifies eight steps, numbered here because one is required to do all the steps, in order, every time (a point of disagreement with many other CPS practitioners and models):

1. Problem finding
2. Fact finding
3. Problem definition
4. Idea finding
5. Evaluating and selecting
6. Action planning
7. Gaining acceptance
8. Taking action

A plain-language version (Miller, Vehar, & Firestein, 2001) expressed the stages like this:

Identify the Goal, Wish
    or Challenge
Gather Data
Clarify the Problem
Generate Ideas
Select & Strengthen Solutions
Plan for Action

CPS: the Thinking Skills Model (Puccio, Murdock, & Mance, 2005) is a multi-faceted rework of the model. It adds a meta-step (the first on the list) which includes management of the process, and incorporates data gathering. It identifies these process steps:

Assessing the Situation
Exploring the Vision
Formulating Challenges
Exploring Ideas
Formulating Solutions
Exploring Acceptance
Formulating a Plan

The Productive Thinking Model (Hurson, 2008), notably, adds setting criteria as an explicit step:

What’s going on?
What’s success?
What’s the question?
Generate answers
Forge the solution
Align resources

CPS: Competencies Model (Reali, 2009; the model described on this site) is based most closely on CPS: Thinking Skills Model. It looks like this:

Imagine the Future
Find the Questions
Generate Ideas
Craft Solutions
Explore Acceptance
Plan for Action