Creative Leadership and Creative Problem-Solving

September 28, 2008

Research into creative leadership and creative problem-solving seem to be converging. Gerard Puccio outlines work coming out of Buffalo’s International Center for Studies in Creativity

Two research groups which can claim to be among the longest-established internationally are those at The Manchester Business School England, and at the State University New York, (SUNY) Buffalo.

The groups have collaborated on the nature of creativity since the 1970s exchanging ideas and scholars. Buffalo has appointed two Alex Osborn visiting Professors from Manchester, and Manchester has been where members of the Buffalo group (including its current Director) have completed their doctorates in creativity. Further collaboration between the groups is planned after exchange of visits this year.

In his visit to Manchester, Professor Gerard Puccio, Director of Buffalo’s International Center for Studies in Creativity traced the origins of the Buffalo creative problem-solving model from the pioneering work of Parnes and Osborn (inventor of brainstorming) to its current form.

For many years the Parnes Osborn model of creative problem-solving was taught as a sequence of steps which were sometimes modified, but retaining the appearance of a mechanically-applied process.

The Manchester and Buffalo work arrived at similar conclusions through countless practical applications of the basic model. At Manchester, cohorts of MBA students tackling business projects with the MPIA model (Mapping, Perspectives, Ideas and Actions).

Its similarity to the Parnes Osborn classical model of Objectives, Facts, Problems, Ideas, Solutions, and Action steps (OFPISA) is clear.

Both groups have moved towards a process-oriented approach to creative leadership and creative problem-solving.

The approaches also subscribe to the importance of a team facilitator or leader whose job is primarily to encourage the other team members to be open in the generation of ideas.

The view from Harvard

The principles are accepted by other researchers into creativity. At the time of writing of this post, [September 2008] an article in Harvard Business Review by Professor Teresa Amabile and Mukti Khaire of Harvard Business School offer similar guidance for stimulating creativity. They advise leaders to map stages of any project so as to target creative opportunities, create mechanisms for enhancing diversity and its benefits; for better collaboration, and for leaders to achieve ‘an appreciative audience’ .