A GPS for Organizational Change

In Business on July 25, 2011 at 10:09 am

By Barb Babji

What do you do when driving to a new destination? You don’t know how to get from where you are to where you’re going? If you’re like me, you use a GPS. A GPS shows your location, and provides a route to follow, often by the shortest distance (depending on your settings). It also shows your speed and tells you how long it will take to get there. And if by chance you should encounter something unexpected (a detour, traffic, washed-out bridge, for example), it charts a new course.

So, what do you do in your organization, if the same thing happens? You could turn to an organizational GPS. It’s called a CPS (Creative Problem Solving). This provides the same resources to organizations. You can use CPS to define your current location and your desired destination (sometimes called a vision). CPS can help you develop your strategic roadmap, and make a course correction should external (or internal) circumstances change. CPS also provides insights into the amount of time necessary to reach your destination.

You can also use CPS to identify resources that will help you achieve your goals, along with resources that might hinder you. You can be deliberate and plan around any obstacles.  In short, CPS is a process that helps identify novel and useful solutions to organizational challenges.

Let me give you an example. Every year for the past 17 years, the Roselawn Centre in Port Colborne, Ontariohosts the Canadian Authors’ Reading Series. The venue seats around 300 guests and is completely subscribed with a huge waiting list. William Thomas is the very clever and funny master of ceremonies. In order to continue to attract best-selling authors, the Series needs to broaden its audience base.

Here’s what would happen if the Series were to use CPS. The challenge would be stated as:  How might we broaden the audience base? And let’s say we want to end up with 3 ideas to implement. We would invite folks to join in a brainstorming session to generate ideas; we would select the best ones to implement. We would likely use Post-its® to capture our ideas, and dots to select the best ones. Result might look like this, with lots more post-its®.

5-7 Words per post-it; single idea


Hold a contest


Give out free tickets



Send invitations using SendOutCards


Hold Series in other venues


Use social media to generate excitement


Pay big bucks to authors to come


In this hypothetical example, we generated 11 ideas in about 5 minutes (6 are shown). A group of 5-7 can generate about 8-12 ideas per minute with a little practice.

7 CPS best practices to use with a group:

1.    Gather a group who is vested in the outcome; consider adding a “ringer”

2.       Send an invitation ahead of time to group participants stating the problem, place, and time for the session; ask them to come prepared to share ideas

3.       Feed participants

4.       Separate idea generation from selection; follow the guidelines for each

5.       Spend enough time generating to get a good number of ideas that are both novel and useful

6.       Plan to spend time selecting – or you may end up with ideas that resemble things you’ve already tried

7.       Select your tools to fit the task

The CPS toolbox includes a suite of 17 tools: 9 for generating, including Brainstorming with Post-its®; and 8 for selecting. In the beginning, the degree of novelty dictates which tools to use. In selection, the type of results should dictate which tools to use.

CPS is more than its tools. It is a descriptive roadmap for solving problems that encompass several components; the nature of the task determines the starting place.

Decide where you’re stuck, or where there is pain,

This is the challenge you’ll turn into gain.

Whether it’s strategy, or vision you seek,

Or process improvement that’s really sleek,

With CPS, you won’t drive in a circle,

Your course will be straight, and one that won’t “irkle”. 

CPS provides an original route,

To arrive at those places that really suit.

  1. I recently had an opportunity to participate in a CPS (Creative Problem Solving) workshop facilitated by Barb Babij and was impressed by the volume of ideas generated using CPS. And then by following CPS how the 100+ ideas were narrowed down to a key few to pursue further. All this in one afternoon. CPS is definitely a useful tool for finding solutions to challenges.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: