There is a common misconception that leaders merely manage creative efforts; rather than become active participants in the process. Leaders, it seems, play a crucial role in the creative problem-solving process. The leadership skills they possess can significantly affect the quality of the innovative outcome. Consequently, as organizations increasingly depend on new products and processes to fuel their future, creative problem-solving stands as a critical leadership skill. For leaders, the creative thought process is sequentially different than for individual contributors. The second progressive task is identifying potential solutions to be analyzed and evaluated.
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Instead, their method is to get others excited about whatever problem they have identified as ripe for a novel solution. Having fallen in love with a problem, they step up to leadership — but only reluctantly and only as necessary to get it solved. Rather than being pure generalists, leaders pursue their own deep expertise, while gaining enough familiarity with other knowledge realms to make the necessary connections. They expect to be involved in a series of initiatives with contributors fluidly assembling and disassembling. In front of a packed room of MIT students and alumni, Vivienne Ming is holding forth in a style all her own.
With as many problems as we are all faced with in our work and life, it seems as if there is never enough time to solve each one without dealing with some adversity along the way. Problems keep mounting so fast that we find ourselves taking short-cuts to temporarily alleviate the tension points — so we can move onto the next problem. In the process, we fail to solve the core of each problem we are dealt; thus we continuously get caught in the trap of a never-ending cycle that makes it difficult to find any real resolutions. Sound familiar? Problem solving is the essence of what leaders exist to do.
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