As said before, problems might be divided into three groups: “no-analogy”, “no-direction” and “no-exit”. Those groups gravitate to the lower, medium and higher complexity tools respectivelly:

  1. “Spearfishing” – “low complexity” tools: intensified trial-and-error techniques (brainstorming, brainwriting, focal objects) as well as (unorganised) search for analogies; require almost no training
  2. “Fish net” – “medium complexity” tools: organised search in selected areas (size-time-cost; morphological analysis; attribute analysis); require some training
  3. “Fish hook” – “high complexity” tools: attention to “certain” spots (selected tools of TRIZ: ideal final result; system operator; contradiction matrix, PIONEER); might require intensive training

Apart from the three above-mentioned groups, there is one more group, which is the highest by complexity. Let’s name it “Dynamite” and discuss it later on a separate page.

If you are bored by the theory, feel free to jump to the best basic tools (representing the first, the second and the third group respectively) right away. Otherwise, let’s continue to discuss that the groups vary substantially by when/how they should be used and how easy they are to be mastered:

A short description of the groups is given below:


Main advantages and main drawbacks group-by-group are:


Why all the fishing? Because I needed an analogy and I found that creative problem solving is a bit like fishing – you do not know where is the fish, but you hope it is out there somewhere. It may be deep, it may be turbid, it may be shallow but extremely vast…

If problem solving is fishing than solutions/ideas are fish. But what is the lake?


The lake is experience, and experience is a part of personality; it may be referred to as a personal “world map”, a combination (multiplication) of information and emotions. Experience is a combination of information and emotions.

If you do not find this description appropriate, you may try “combination of knowledge and feelings” or “combination of wisdom and passion” – all of those are basically the same thing but on different levels. Experience is not regarded as something to be “directly improved to improve one’s creativity” – it is a part of problem (discomfort), a problem as it is seen from inside of a person. And it is a field where tools are expected to work in order to eliminate barriers and “unknown territories” between “where I am” and “where the solution might be” in the world map of the solver.

Big picture

Levels of difficulty of the problem (no-analogy, no-direction, no-exit) attract corresponding levels of initial focus and levels of complexity of the tools. However, there is no strong correlation, it is just a suggestion. And, finally, the summary of the Lean Problem Solving pages looks like this:

The only thing left unattended is the attitude, which is a combination of values and courage. Some other time, I promise…

Now let’s discuss further what we have in the “Spearfishing”, “Fish net” and “Fish hook” groups of tools.