Here’s a study that focused on art students, but says a lot about leadership.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jacob Getzels, social scientists at the University of Chicago, studied artists. At an art studio they asked them to select one or more objectives from the first of two tables and put them on the second and produce a drawing. Some examined a few objectives, outlined their idea swiftly and then moved into their still life drawing. These artists were solving the problem: How can I produce a good drawing. The other group handled more objects and spend more time rearranging them and needed much longer to complete the drawing, because they were trying to find a problem: what good drawing can I produce? At a mini-art show, a panel of experts, knowing nothing about the process involved in drawing, consistently rated the second group as being more creative. They then tracked the artists after several years and found that half of the former group dropped out as artists, while nearly all of the problem finders were still n the art world! As the researchers concluded “It is in fact the discovery and creation of problems rather than any superior knowledge, technical skill, or craftsmanship that often sets the creative person apart from others in his field.”
It reminds me of Peter Drucker’s differentiation of leaders – who focus on finding the right problem to solve – versus managers – who focus on solving the problem correctly. What’s your experience?