Creativity tools are tried and tested ways of exploring different perspectives and coming up with new solutions for an issue or problem.

Our Creative Problem Solving Toolkit, which was refreshed in January 2023, is accompanied by a selection of eight tools with explanatory videos and guidance notes and reflects the three steps of the creative problem solving process. View the Creative Problem Solving Toolkit.

The video below from our Black Maternity Matters project introduces you to some ways to create ideas.


Six Thinking Hats

One approach that you may find helpful in generating ideas when using the Creative Problem Solving Toolkit is Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats®. It helps people step outside the confines of fixed positions and one way of thinking. Western thinking style is based on adversarial debate: people thinking and interacting from differing perspectives and positions. This tool enables us to look at things in a collaborative way, beyond our normal perspective to see new opportunities.

The hats have natural pairings: yellow is positive whilst black is more negative; red is emotion driven whilst white is data driven. In general, if you use one hat, you should also use its partner for balance.

Neutral, objective thinking, concerned with facts
Emotional, intuitive thinking
Gloomy, negative, critical thinking
Sunny, positive, optimistic thinking
Creative, innovative thinking
Cool, organised, summarised thinking

A useful sequence of hats for initial harvesting of ideas could be: green, yellow, black, white, leading to a final red hat assessment of whether the idea should go forward.

Ask leading questions to activate different hats:

  • Green: How else could we look at this?
  • Yellow: What are the benefits?
  • Black: What can go wrong?
  • Red: What do you feel about this? What is your gut feeling?
  • White: What are the facts?
  • Blue: How would we summarise our findings so far?

Selecting ideas

The video below from our Black Maternity Matters project gives some guidance on selecting ideas.

Join Chris Learoyd, as he talks through the importance of nurturing new ideas using the SUN and RAIN model. He highlights the importance of developing ideas to support the creative process at the start of a quality improvement project. The recording is taken from the West of England Academy AHSN Winter Series 2021, if you’re interested in attending similar training, please visit our events page.

Cause and Effect Diagram (Fishbone)

Cause and effect analysis helps you to think through the causes of a problem thoroughly, including its possible root causes. It is only by identifying the main causes that you can permanently remove the problem, or reduce the delay. A cause and effect diagram is a tool that helps you do this. The ‘effect’ is the problem you are working on, for example ‘waiting time’. The tool can help you identify major causes and indicate the most fruitful areas for further investigation. It will help you understand the problem more clearly.

The cause and effect diagram is sometimes called a fishbone diagram (because the diagram looks like the skeleton of a fish) or an Ishikawa diagram (after its inventor, Professor Kaoru Ishikawa of Tokyo University).

Firstly, identify the problem. Write it in a box and draw an arrow pointing towards it. Think about the exact problem in detail. Where appropriate, identify who is involved, what the problem is, and when and where it occurs.

Identify the major factors and draw four or more branches off the large arrow to represent main categories of potential causes. Categories could include: equipment, environment, procedures, and people. Make sure that the categories you use are relevant to your particular problem / delay. An alternative way of creating the branches of a cause and effect diagram is to carry out the Affinity Diagram technique and use the group headings produced there.

Generating ideas using TRIZ – Watch our short video on using the Liberating Structure tool: TRIZ. TRIZ can facilitate idea generation at the start of your improvement project; flatten hierarchies and give everyone in your team a platform for sharing ideas.