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SANTA MONICA, Calif.-Even though risk managers often ply their analytical abilities, creativity is also key to solving company problems, said Sandra M. Jenson, director of CNA Risk Management in Chicago.

During a luncheon at Business Insurance's Fifth Annual Workers Compensation Conference held last month in Santa Monica, Ms. Jenson cited the example of a grocery store distribution center that overcame union objections to a return-to-work program by sending its workers to perform tasks for non-profit organizations.

The grocery store chain received publicity for community good will. The labor unions were satisfied with the type of work in which the employees were engaged. In addition, the employees were pre-empted from receiving large settlements for not being able to work, which otherwise would encourage other employees to file claims.

But cost-cutting ideas like this don't "just appear at the doorstep," Ms. Jenson said. They emerge from applying analytical creativity, a process that requires identifying and clarifying the problem inside-out.

"We have to resist the temptation to assume we understand the problem," Ms. Jenson said.

"Instead, it's crucial to line up on a flip-chart, for instance, the who, what, when, how and why of the situation. This gives you a kind of analytical diagram," Ms. Jenson said.

Step two requires analyzing the situation or reviewing all documents, financial statistics and all other available information until a pattern is revealed, or an "a-ha" sensation occurs.

Then unleash the creative process before choosing and implementing a solution. The creative ideas can come from many sources, including yourself, or risk managers can assemble a group of people with the greatest knowledge about the actual problem on a day-in, day-out basis, Ms. Jenson advised.

"Look for a vertical slice of people from throughout your organization, taking into account that it's the workers at the bottom who have about 90% to 100% of the knowledge necessary to solve the problem."