Every year from 3rd grade to 12th grade, I participated in a competition called Future Problem Solving (FPS). We worked on problems such as Global Warming as early as 1985. I hadn’t checked on the health of the competition (or the organization that runs it) in a long time, but it does still exist. This year’s topics are:
- Fundraising and Charity Giving
- Protection of National Treasures
- Cultural Prejudice
- Caring for our Elders
An FPS competition involves a team of four working for two hours to identify 20 problems, one main problem, 20 solutions to that main problem, and one “best solution.” The topic is known well in advance. When the team sits down for the competition, a “fuzzy situation” is revealed – a description of an imagined future and a particular situation relevant to the topic.
In a quick search, I couldn’t verify that the program is active in Washington state. But I did find this annoying referrendum or legislation dedicated to the team we lost to several times.
WHEREAS, The Colfax High School team, comprised of Susan Adams, Matt Carpenter, Heather Hochstatter, Joe Poshusta, and teacher/coach Tenny Brannan, placed first in the state-wide Future Problem Solving Program’s academic competition in 1990; and WHEREAS, In the June 1990 international competition held in St. Louis, Missouri, the Colfax High School team placed first among the three hundred teams representing fifty states and various foreign countries including teams from as far away as New Zealand.
What we learned through 9 years of future problem solving has served well in business, and especially in creativity. What I had forgotten – or not paid attention to when I was younger, is that FPS originated with the writing and philosophy of E. Paul Torrance. I am tremendously grateful to this program (and my own parents, coaches, and teachers) for my own creative development:
The 87-year-old UGA professor emeritus of educational psychology invented the benchmark method for quantifying creativity and arguably created the platform for all research on the subject since. The “Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking” helped shatter the theory that IQ tests alone were sufficient to gauge real intelligence.
In addition to developing the most widely used tests of creativity, Torrance also created the Future Problem Solving Program, and developed the Incubation Model of Teaching.