How to solve problems in a ‘Creativity & Innovation Meeting’ at work

A Creativity & Innovation Meeting focuses on solving a serious, costly company problem creatively. Most creativity & innovation meetings I lead are four days long. This length helps the incubation processes to take place in the mind, so unexpected connections are made, and blockbuster ideas appear. Sometimes, I lead a three day Creativity & Innovation Meeting.

Still, I agreed to design and lead a two day problem-solving creativity & innovation meeting for a manufacturing plant of a Fortune-500 company on how to deal with manufacturing waste. The meeting contained 16 managers.

The goals were to generate novel ideas, and to select several solutions for further consideration. This was to be done in a way that improves the current methods to handle manufacturing waste and identifies unexpected, new approaches; introduces new ways to use creativity principles in management; shares knowledge and enhances synergies between different groups in the plant; builds team participation; and finally, each person learns some creativity tools to enhance everyday thinking skills.

I designed this two day meeting to deal with the absence of the incubation periods found in longer creativity meetings. In addition, there was a need to plan the front and back end of the meeting creatively. The front end focuses on creative thinking, and the back end focuses on logical, evaluative thinking about the ideas generated earlier in the meeting.

In a four day creativity meeting, I plan 2 1/2 days of creative thinking, followed by 1 1/2 days of logical thinking. In a three day creativity meeting, I plan two days of creative thinking, followed by one day of logical thinking. In this two day creativity meeting, I planned one day each of creative and logical thinking. Too little time for creative thinking, I thought. I had to maximize incubation thinking overnight.

The first session started creative thinking, (the front end of the problem-solving process), and included introductions; goals; agenda; forming creativity teams; team building; the creative atmosphere; and the use of trigger-ideas in nonlinear creativity. The District Manager introduced the manufacturing waste problem.

During the second session, the creativity teams defined the problem further, and generated ideas abundantly to solve it using advanced creativity triggers. Individuals then generated trigger-proposals to solve the problem. Trigger-proposals are not perfect and may not work, but can trigger proposals that do work. Overnight was devoted to incubation thinking, and to finishing the trigger-proposals.

The third session started logical thinking (the back end of the problem-solving process). The creativity teams identified the criteria to evaluate proposals. Individuals then shared trigger-proposals with their creativity team for upgrading. Each team then developed a blockbuster proposal that fit the criteria.

During the fourth session, each creativity team presented their dynamite proposals for comment and improvement from other teams.

The outcome of this two day creativity meeting was fascinating. Hundreds of ideas were generated. Each person handed in a proposal to the District Manager, so there were 16 proposals. Finally, each creativity team produced a blockbuster proposal, so there were three unique proposals available for the District Manager. One proposal completely shifted the current paradigm, another straddled the paradigm, and one proposal stayed creative within the paradigm. These three proposals could easily be combined and improved.

Still, given a choice, I prefer a four day creativity meeting to a two day event. The incubation time for new ideas is longer, the creativity level is higher, the ideas are more creative and unexpected, more paradigms are shifted, and the final solutions are higher quality.

And for other ways to utilize and encourage creativity, check out my book:


How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.” 



Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

His book: “R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work” is also available. CLICK here  OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.