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Methods & Solutions

Structured methods, Web-based tools, and scalable curricula for systems thinking, problem structuring, and creative ideation, conceived and developed with novices and under-resourced teams in mind.


A method for structuring real-world problems

Ill-structured problems are real-world, complex, and initially vague, with multiple potential solutions. Trying to solve such problems without structuring/defining them may lead to suboptimal solutions and/or to spending valuable resources and time on the wrong problem.

The DIMES method can be applied to structure (define) any ill-structured problem, starting with a problem description of 50-100 words in simple language, without concern for the quality of the problem description. This makes starting the process of structuring the problem easy and accessible.

DIMES can be applied in six hours. It is both people-centered (using design thinking) and helps identify leverage points deep within the problem (using systems thinking). Its steps are as follows:


1) Describe the problem in a brief and unstructured way, using plain language (50-100 words).
2) Inquire into the problem as a researcher, based on the five Ws of who, what, where, when, and why (5+ page document, with references).
3) Model the problem as a conceptual hierarchy of functions and processes, based on the case description (3-4 sub-levels)
4) Extract the problem’s leverage points—sub-functions deep within the model with the highest impact-to-effort ratio (2-5 points).
5) State the problem concisely and in a solution-neutral way, based on the answers to the five Ws from the case description and on the list of leverage points (100-200 words).


My Medium article: A case study of implementing the DIMES-FIRST methodology for a real-world problem

Abstract accepted for presentation in ACSP 2024 Urban Planning conference.

 A structured method for creating meaningful analogies to address design problems

The use of analogies is central to creative ideation in every field. The TCSA (target, criteria, source, analogy) method enables the creation of meaningful analogies that support the generation of creative solutions to design problems.

I taught this method in a workshop for engineering faculty at the 129th American Society for Engineering Education conference in June 2022 in Minneapolis, MN, and at the 9th International Research Symposium on Problem-Based Learning in June 2023 in Boston, MA.

The TCSA method involves four steps:

  1.  Target - Formulate a concise problem statement using the 5W Technique, ensuring clarity and understanding.

  2.  Criteria - Identify key usefulness criteria (KUCs) to evaluate and compare ideas for solving the problem.

  3.  Source - Find a source problem (SP) that shares relevant KUCs with the target problem, utilizing online sources like YouTube or Wikipedia.

  4. Analogy - Create meaningful analogies between the target and source problems based on the identified KUCs.

Peer-reviewed publications involving TCSA (formerly named PC-SEA):

  • Lavi, R., Marti, D., & Crawley, E. (2023). Creating analogies for design problem-solving: Initial evaluation of an engineering faculty workshop. Proceedings of the VII IEEE World Engineering Education Conference (EDUNINE2023), Bogotá, Colombia. DOI: 10.1109/EDUNINE57531.2023.10102860.

My Medium article: Creating Meaningful Analogies for Real-World Problems with the TCSA Method + ChatGPT

A peadgogical framework for fostering creative and critical Thinking

Creative and critical thinking with case-based learning (CCT-CBL) is a case-based learning pedagogical framework which aims to foster undergraduate engineering students’ creative and critical thinking. The framework provides scaffolding of the learning process for students using a sequence of case-based learning implementations with varying levels of student autonomy. 


Peer-reviewed publications involving CCT-CBL:

SNAP Video Search
A Web-based tool for sourcing analogies in creative ideation

Creative ideas can be hard to come by, especially when you have been immersed in a problem for a long time. Looking at similar problems and solutions in other domains can give you a fresh perspective on your problem.

I developed a unique tool for facilitating the generation of creative ideas: SNAP Video Search. This tool leverages the creative power of billions of videos on the YouTube platform. Once the user inputs a short description of a problem, the software searches YouTube for short videos containing analogies to the problem and emails the user a pre-selected number of videos with creativity-inducing analogies. These videos can then be used for creative ideation.

SNAP Video search is under GNU Affero General Public License.

Demo video of SNAP Video Search

SNAP Remote Collab
A Web-based tool for creative ideation 

Web-based tools for remote (virtual) collaborative problem-solving are now more popular than ever. However, many of these tools require a high level of expertise to use properly. What's required is a streamlined tool that walks its users through a step-by-step process while at the same time facilitating their creative thinking about the problem at hand.


I developed SNAP Remote Collab, a Web-based software for streamlining the SNAP Method® process. In its present version, this tool can support the  facilitator of the SNAP Method process (me) with two to six additional users as participants.

Contact me at for a free trial of SNAP Remote Collab.

SNAP Method
A structured method for collaborative creative ideation

US Federal Trademark 8826657427

UK Trade Mark UK0000330627728


I developed SNAP Method® to optimize the process of problem-solving and to help every person maximize their ability to think creatively. Improved creativity leads to better solutions: products, services, marketing strategies, and business models.


Poorly defined problems can be unnecessarily difficult to solve, and unstructured methods for problem-solving that are not scientifically sound can be wasteful and ineffective. However, many organizations and teams lack the resources to invest in the lengthy training and costly consultants required for implementing such methods. This is where SNAP Method comes in.

Studies involving SNAP Method have been presented at two conferences:

  • Lavi, R. (2019). Solving novel authentic problems using the SNAP Method. Poster presented in the 7th Conference for Engineering Leadership, Karmiel, Israel, June 13, 2019. Poster

  • Maital, S. & Lavi, R. (2019). Can effective creative thinking be taught to and implemented by students? Poster presented in the 41st International School Psychology Association conference, Basel, Switzerland, July 9-12, 2019. Poster

A framework for teaching and assessing systems thinking in engineering

System Architecture-Function-Outcome (SAFO) is a domain-agnostic pedagogical framework for teaching and assessing systems thinking in engineering, for novice level and above.


The framework describes technological systems based on:

  • Architecture - structure and behavior.

  • Function - control, input, and output.

  • Outcome - stakeholders, problem (to be solved), benefits, and detriments.

I apply this framework in my undergraduate courses at MIT School of Engineering and in professional development workshops for engineering faculty.

SAFO framework with examples

Peer-reviewed papers involving SAFO:

  • Lavi, R., Breslow, L., Salek, M. M., & Crawley, E. F. (2023). Fostering and assessing the systems thinking of first-year undergraduate engineering students using the System Architecture-Function-Purpose framework. International Journal of Engineering Education, 39(1), 176-188.

An instrument for assessing model-based systems thinking

Systems Thinking Assessment Rubric (STAR) is an instrument for assessing systems thinking based on conceptual models of systems, including technological, natural, social, and sociotechnical systems. STAR can be applied to conceptual models constructed using a formal language of model-based systems engineering: Object-Process Methodology (OPM) ISO 19450.

Detailed instructions for applying STAR to system models in OPM

Peer-reviewed publications involving STAR:

  • Lavi, R., & Dori, Y. J. (2019). Systems thinking of pre-and in-service science and engineering teachers. International Journal of Science Education41(2), 248-279.

  • Lavi, R., Dori, Y. J., Wengrowicz, N., & Dori, D. (2019). Model-Based Systems Thinking: Assessing Engineering Student Teams. IEEE Transactions on Education, 63(1), 39-47.

  • York, S., Lavi, R., Dori, Y. J., & Orgill, M. (2019). Applications of systems thinking in STEM education. Journal of Chemical Education, 96(12), 2742-2751.

  • Lavi, R., Dori, Y. J., & Dori, D. (2021). Assessing Novelty and Systems Thinking in Conceptual Models of Technological Systems. IEEE Transactions on Education, 64(2), 155-162.

  • Lavi, R. (2023). A formalized conceptual model-based approach for fostering and assessing students’ systems thinking in undergraduate chemistry education. In Y. J. Dori, C. Ngai, and G. Szteinberg (Eds.), Digital Learning and Teaching in Chemistry. Cambridge, UK: The Royal Society of Chemistry.

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