CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING/DECISION-MAKING CSUS
School of Engineering and Computer Science
Mechanical Engineering Department
STEPS IN CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING/DECISION-MAKING

l. Gather Information
This step is listed first because it usually occurs with each of the other steps in the decision making process. This information may be gathered from a variety of sources; your own background and experience, books, other printed materials, on-line data bases, media, other people, instructors, experts, public relations specialists, sales people, experimental work.

2. Recognize a Problem
Recognition of a human need is the stimulus to engineering design. A working engineer might be assigned a problem after the company conducts an extensive market survey; in response to an RFP; as a sub-component of a larger problem the company is working on; or see's a problem and convinces the company to pursue it. The ultimate goal, to satisfy this need, should be stated in one sentence without any implication of its means of achievement.

3. State the Basic Objective or Goal
The basic objective focuses your thoughts on the problem to be solved. It should be broad enough so no reasonable solution is eliminated.

4. State the Constraints, Assumptions and Facts
Constraints are factors which affect the outcome of the project and cannot be changed. Assumptions are applied to factors which can be changed to simplify the problem and make it solvable. Facts are statements of things that are known.

5. Generate Possible Solutions
This is the time for creative thinking. Don't prejudge ideas as they are generated; get all the different thoughts you can.

6. Evaluate and Make a Decision
Determine which possible solution is most likely to solve the problem.

A. The next step in the problem-solving process is to rank the possible solutions and choose the one or ones to pursue. To make these solutions you must first decide on a set of criteria. The criteria will change for each design project but may include:
  • People--does the solution satisfy needs of the people involved?
  • Economics--can you afford the solution?
  • Feasibility--can the solution be accomplished, does the technology exist?
  • Is the solution practical?
  • Does the solution satisfy social, ethical, moral, legal and ecological factors?
  • Is the effort (time, energy, money)invested in the project worth the value received?)
  • Are there any incidental benefits produced by the solution?
  • Any negative factors?

  • B. Identifying Design Criteria
    Positive
  • novelty
  • practicality
  • reliability
  • factor of safety
  • life expectancy
  • probability of meeting specifications
  • adaptability to company expertise
  • suitability to human use. . .

    Negative

  • number and severity of unresolved problems production cost
  • maintenance cost
  • time to perfect
  • environmental effects. . .
  • C. After you establish the criteria you must:
  • predict the outcome of each proposal and the consequences of alternative proposals.
  • evaluate the worth of feasible proposals by applying criteria already established and new criteria rising from differences between specific proposals.
  • rank the solutions using all the criteria established.
  • 7. Analysis
    Separate the chosen possible solution into meaningful elements. Determine and gather the information you need to develop each element.

    8. Synthesis
    Combine the elements to create a detailed solution.

    9. Evaluate the Solution
    Does it satisfy the basic objective; is it feasible, practical, economical, safe, legal and moral?

    10. Communicate the Design and Make Recommendations
    Submit a report and presentation to those in a position to decide whether or not to proceed with your project. Get feedback. Make changes if necessary. If no go, better luck next time. If go, proceed with design.