Creative Problem Solving and Lean Thinking

There has long been a debate in the Lean community about creativity. Clearly, a Lean organization thrives on standard work, and it is easy to assume that following standard work means that creativity must be curtailed. In her new book, Creatively Lean: How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Drive Innovation throughout Your Organization, Bella Englebach argues that creative thinking is fundamental to Lean thinking, and that using tools and approaches from the adjacent field of Creative Problem Solving makes for better Lean thinking, and better Lean thinkers. Recently, I asked her: "What is Creative Problem Solving and how it can be applied to Lean thinking?" Here is what she explained:

Deeper Thinking
In my book, I tell a story that many of us in Lean have heard, or even experienced. A Lean learner proudly presents their countermeasure to their coach or sensei, only to be told, “Go back. Think deeper.” That can be very frustrating. What does it mean to think deeper?

Creativity Has a Natural Rhythm
I believe “thinking deeper” means to take advantage of the natural rhythm of creativity, which requires developing skills in both thinking broadly (divergent thinking) as well as thinking convergently, which is to select and strengthen ideas.

Creative Problem Solving
Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is a proven method for approaching a problem or challenge in an imaginative and innovative way, and it explicitly teaches convergent and divergent thinking. Like Lean, the CPS approach has distinct steps for solving a problem. Each CPS step deliberately uses divergent and convergent thinking. In my work I have found that paying attention to the divergent thinking/convergent thinking creative rhythm and using CPS tools with Lean approaches like the A3 and the improvement kata drives deeper thinking, and more innovative countermeasures.  And who doesn’t need more innovation?

What have been your experiences with creativity and Lean? When you need an innovative improvement, what approaches, and tools have you used?