A dangerous area ahead - just an idea I have been working on for a while. 

Stepping back re. problem solving/opportunity development processes - I believe they are the same - an opportunity is simply a positive problem! This is an abbreviated version only of something I call the Spectrum of Solution Seeking Processes - I have a PPT with a larger explanation if anyone is interested:

- focus on the characteristics of Solutions to help tease out where any process fits and the associated features 

- How many solutions are acceptable?   One solution to . . . Many solutions

- What determines whether they are deemed acceptable? Rules, Laws to . . . Perception

- What type of evaluation do we apply to the solution? Right/wrong Objective to . . . Feelings Subjective

 - Who accepts the solution? Everyone to . . . One person?

- Why do they accept the solution?  Proved correct and replicable to . . .  Feels OK


From this spectrum with the above "extremities" I feel we use two major "families" of processes revolving around Logic and Perception. Note that I believe ALL processes use the same techniques but a focus on the acceptable solution has characteristics that give the emphasis and order of those techniques. I think the method of achieving a solution should not be confused with the acceptability - creativity and logic appear in both.

In the Logic family we use a large amount of analysis - variables are reduced to find a solution; in the Perception family we use a large amount of creativity - variables are encouraged. The Logic family is commonly used by researchers, the Perception family by designers. The Logic family is to a large extent fed by curiosity and the Perception family is fed by creativity.

I created this model to establish where a design process "fits" in schools. At the moment Inquiry is "the" model that dominates education but clearly we have many problems where there are many acceptable solutions (according to some people, a majority - I heard De Bono state that over 90% of life's real problems could not be solved by logic alone since perception creeps in!) So where are approaches to those kinds of problems included in the curriculum?

People play lip service to them by often simply stating that Inquiry can do it all. I disagree - the nature of the acceptable solution suggests otherwise. I created a design thinking framework to develop lessons that ensured that the "other family" would be represented in lessons but that's another story. The Spectrum was my way of showing how it is different and needed.

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Treating problem-solving and opportunity development as the same process is an interesting approach. A single process to tackle both would be cool!

I have been thinking about what you said: “The Logic family is to a large extent fed by curiosity and the Perception family isfed by creativity.”

I’d like to suggest that perhaps Curiosity and Creativity are both equally applicable within both your Logic and Perception families. The extent to which is used more relative to the other depends on the person rather than the outcome at hand.

A researcher is driven by Curiosity to seek out relevant information, and may well use Creativity to develop interesting methods of getting this relevant information.

A designer can use Curiosity to delve deeper into the nature of the challenge and constraints at hand; and Creativity to well, create new solutions.

Both the Logic and Perception families aim to find a solution. In research, a large number of variables is not necessarily a bad thing as long as they are all encompassed in a single relevant context,and can be logically narrated and followed. In design, a large number ofvariables/possibilities is primarily encouraged during the ideation stage. Thereafter, rigorous analysis and evaluation is needed to winnow the resulting possibilities, often involving prototyping, down to a single final solution.

I am trying to explain my thoughts that have been sparked by your post. Please excuse me if this came across as critical – it is not meant to be so. You have piqued my curiosity with where you are going with this. Can you expand more on how this model relates to Inquiryin education? :)

Thanks for your thoughts Zern and I did not see it as critical at all - I need others to question it - since 1982 I have been challenged by people who have helped me a lot - I always finish my course by thanking my class for helping me learn more and some colleagues have been instrumental in changing parts of my ideas!


I certainly agree with you re. Curiosity and Creativity being used by ALL. I believe that with all our "thinking tools" it is when they are used and the emphasis placed on them wherein lies some differences, but the key piece for me is the acceptability of the solution they create. That was what caused me to develop the idea of a spectrum - to help me come to grips with how the phrase "problem solving" is used by everyone but in reality we are talking about quite different things.


I agree that recognizing the variables and indeed using them occurs in science but in the end they appear to muddy the solution and clarity is clearly desirable. In the other family of processes variables are often combined and we choose the combination that we find best fits the problem, but we accept that someone else's combination would "work". So again we use the same tools but is the solution universally accepted? It would be very nice to have one solution seeking process but I do not believe it is truly possible.


In education (at the Primary/Junior/Secondary levels) the Inquiry advocates try to "shoehorn" all problems into their process.  It is very much a comfort level for teachers because they then "know" the answer so students can be "right or wrong" - simple to "mark". As a former math teacher I can relate to that but if we look at the major issues of the world right now such approaches and solutions are simplistic. I won't delve into politics here!

I think we do a dis-service to students by not showing them that a majority of their life problems will end in the grey area and how they can recognize, address and accept them as such.  Do we "pass or fail" in life? We have degrees of success surely.

Design thinking fits the grey area well - it doesn't mean solutions are "less" than ideal; it simply means we can look back and see where compromises were made and preferences were chosen.  Inquiry was born out of a scientific approach and as such the desire to get it "right" is highly desired if not essential. The need to know and fully understand - born of Curiosity.

I am not sure if I have "muddied" the waters so here is a PPT file re. the Spectrum and a diagram of the process I developed to address the process - the other family - it can be used equally for problem solving and opportunity development.  You are missing the narration but I think you will see how my thoughts develop.

I hope this answers your questions Zern but happy to expand on any point.


"I think we do a dis-service to students by not showing them that a majority of their life problems will end in the grey area and how they can recognize, address and accept them as such." ABSOLUTELY!!!

In academia and discourse, it can often be easy to take a black or white position for the sake of simplicity. We do the same thing when we build models of complex systems, so as to focus on comprehension.

The mistake is assuming life is black and white when it seldom is! Globalisation, freedom of expression, and the exposure of minute subcultures demand we teach our children to appreciate the grayness that is life. The world is not necessarily black or white, or even male or female these days! And that's just what it is. (Indeed the people who can only operate in a black and white mode in life are often diagnosed with personality disorders.)

The scientific method is valuable for sorting out the facts from hypothesis. Right or wrong makes math easy to mark :) Perhaps ultimately in life for non-factual matters, there is no absolute right or wrong. We cant say ALL theft is wrong, or NO killing is right. It's all contextual.

Love the models and the questions in your powerpoint. Lots of meat for thinking here.

Perhaps we can have a universal model only at a high level. Something like SITUATION/PROBLEM -> IDEAS/POSSIBILITIES -> TESTS/PROTOTYPES ->EVALUATION/SELECTION -> PLAN/EXECUTION

All other models/processes are variations thereof or subsets expanded and tailored to suit particular outcomes.



I have thought a lot about a "universal model" Zern. One time when I presented my ideas I was told that the SPICE approach could be seen that way but I rejected the thought because it was being shoe-horned into the Logic family in an uncomfortable way AND it was never created to do "everything". It focused on that part of the spectrum where personal choices and perceptions take a more dominating role in solutions and I don't feel that is acceptable in the scientific community.


Ironically I have found that even the science-oriented teachers disagree about what the Inquiry approach actually contains. I definitely know the design community questions my ideas, however they are merely starting points for discussion as I see it and if people create their own version that is great. 


I still see the overriding pieces less of a universal flow model, and more of the commonality of the individual tools used within any of them.  When they are used, the emphasis placed on them and whether they even appear at all, is still decided by the acceptability of the solution, as I see it. Indeed having "one model" even with subsets suggest there is one ultimate "answer" to the problem we face in trying to understand how we solve problems and develop opportunities. That smacks of the Inquiry approach. It simply does not fit.  


In the Design approach technically we cannot really have one model - it flies in the face of the acceptability issue - however if we are to help people understand where the options occur and how they mold solutions, we need some pathway to be roughly following as a beginning. In the one I developed the Sidetrips and Backtracking add that dimension of options, some caused by desire and some caused by external factors. In addition we move around in "circles" hence the arrows around each area - in one of my PPT files I show that - there is no simple linear path.


I think a form of evaluation takes place at any time in the process and the "final one"  is simply recognizing how well we met all the chosen criteria. It adds some form of closure and acts as a springboard for other similar situations and solutions. It hopefully expands the versatility of our thinking tools.


One objective when I teach this is not to have everyone use SPICE but to recognize the multitude of problems where people think they have THE answer when they really just have AN answer. If I achieve that goal I am happy - if they create something different that addresses those types of solutions, I just may have turned on a little more creativity in their teaching. Helping their students see and interact with the world of "greys" is the ultimate goal. 


The reason I end it with some form of reflective section is because whatever we create as a solution is always judged in some way, even if it is very informal and that key question of re-design I believe happens in our heads. As a teacher it is also VERY useful since a student essentially has to seek things that could be improved - they "mark" their own work AND learn about evaluating. Accepting that other people have different acceptable solutions helps develop tolerance maybe.


In this approach testing may or may not happen so it gets a mention but only if appropriate. In an Inquiry approach it probably occurs often so that any following stages have a level of proof that can be accepted and leave no doors open for questions of validity. 


Looking at your list of "bigger" issues in our world certainly leads me to the Perception end of the spectrum. Politicians like to make things black and white but history and experience suggest otherwise. Expediency and other motives are often disguised as logic! This deliberate polarizing and simplification is leading us down some sad pathways as watching or reading the news so often shows. 


I agree that the outcome determines the choices of steps but to keep it simple the better "family" approach has to be recognized I think. 

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Zern. Apologies for being so long-winded . . again!


Never apologise for length when there is actually substance Geoff! :)

A few things jumped out.

A universal prescriptive model is not productive. But a universal framework to guide people new to process is critical. I still meet many designers who insist they dont follow any process and that they dont need one. I have found that the more successful ones of this set actually do have a process and are not aware of it. While the ones who dont have any process but instead genuinely seem to wait for divine inspiration tend to be very chaotic (where everything is last minute) and less successful as design practitioners.

Evaluation is an interesting topic. We are generally trained very well to evaluate/judge. The problem is using evaluation too early in the ideation part of the design process. The Black Hat. No ideas can bud if everything is immediately judged and deem too hard, too weird, too impossible. Every time I ran brainstorming sessions for business people this is the biggest obstacle. When overt/expressed evaluation is curbed, and ideas are allowed to flow, and people laugh and it is ok to be silly, we get loads of great ideas!

Anyway. Lots of think about. :)

I feel we are in tune in many areas Zern but our terminology/explanations may differ. I see the framework you describe as more like the tools we use, not necessarily a sequence of events. I had the same difficulty when I created SPICE. 

One of my mentors once said that there are probably as many ways of solving problems as there are problems!  In a way I agree with him at one level but if you are trying to teach people how to do something better, that is far too vague and could be interpreted as, "Do what you like" as I see it. It offers little guidance. So I created SPICE as a "loose framework", with sidetrips and backtracking, and based on the spectrum of solution seeking to try and offer something that is more tangible and a clearer starting point. 

I often wondered about turning it into a "toolbox" of techniques, but I keep coming back to the acceptable solution as the real goal and that means some tools get more use than others depending on that acceptability and they do tend to follow some meandering pathway. Besides we tend to organize toolboxes for ease of use - a "loose framework"?  

I started it all by reading a lot of Edward de Bono's work and I used a thing he invented out of his Cognitive Research Trust Program. I developed one tool based on his ideas to challenge old thinking and develop creativity. Used to make people aware then put to a side.

In many ways I see SPICE as having several functions:

- demonstrate one way of creating solutions for an open-ended problem or opportunity

- make people aware that there are often many solutions to life's real problems

- to accept that different people will see things differently and that is OK - tolerance

- encourage creative thinking and show it is used well beyond the Arts (and to turn it back on in so many people that were turned off by schools)

- to show that such a process is never truly "definitive" - it can be constantly refined by reflecting on how you would redesign the same things (perhaps not as easy in the commercial world?)

- act as a springboard to develop their own way of doing things and maybe discard SPICE (it will have served it's purpose)

I have been reading several books about how the brain works and it is clearly impossible to create a model that works for everyone in this kind of solution seeking. They all have different life experiences that determine how they see things, but I still think SPICE can help get things rolling.  

It was never really created to "teach" - it was just to ensure that the above happened. It is almost like a product that you buy that comes with a template for installing or a set of instructions for building - then you put it aside, but you can refer to it if you get stuck again. 

I too have found that designers do not want to see themselves following any "path" - I feel I understand that completely but if we want to show others that this kind of thinking is worthwhile or develop new ways of doing things ourselves, then we have to look inward and recognize how we do things at least as an example of a path.

My focus is on teaching it so I needed something concrete as a start, hence SPICE. I confess I cringe a little when I see it on a wall in a classroom but then that is the person's comfort level at that time so . . . . 

I initially "observed myself" solving open-ended problems then checked against others. From the collective observations I developed a loose framework. Ironically the spectrum came after as I tried to explain things. It has all changed over the years and I find I am constantly tweaking things.

Having people explain how they did things and why they chose them may be a useful way to make them aware that they do have a process, however vague it may seem. Over time they may see a loose framework.

If I could sum up SPICE in one sentence  I would say it is an awareness model more than anything else. 

I agree re. your evaluation comments. I can see why some people evaluate all the time and maybe that happens on some projects but it can reduce creativity. I often use a simple model called PMI (another de Bono tool) and the key for me is to look for the Plus things FIRST - we too easily point point out why things "won't work". Forcing ourselves to look for the good things first is essential. The CoRT materials are essentially awareness tools, like the Black Hat ans as such they are used when appropriate!

Thanks for making me explain things Zern - fun and I learn every time! 


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