Effective leaders focus their energy on creating, not problem solving. Leaders who focus on problem solving are less effective than those who focus on creating. Leaders focus on a future they want to create, not problem solving.
You may be asking yourself, what’s the difference between problem solving and creating? Why does it matter?
“The fundamental difference between creating and problem solving is simple. In problem solving we seek to make something we do not like go away. In creating, we seek to make what we truly care about exist.” – Peter M. Senge, Creating Desired Futures in a Global Economy, Reflections The SoL Journal, 2003
Creating is about bringing something into existence. Problem solving is about removing what we don’t want. As a leader you’re being constantly called upon to solve a barrage of problems. This is dangerous because before you know it you’re forgot what it is that you’re trying to achieve. You begin to miss the purpose of it all. You loose your connection with why you’re doing what we’re doing?
Have you become too problem focused? Are you more concerned about fixing problems – removing what you don’t want – than you are with creating what you do want? In the rush of daily life it’s easy to find you rarely take action based on a vision of what you do want to create. You’re in problem solving mode most of the time!
“What determines your orientation is where you spend most of your time. For many people, much of their life is organised around the circumstances in their lives. For others, much of their lives are organised around creating what they want to create… There is a dramatic difference between the two orientations. In the first, you are always subject to the whims of circumstances. In the other, you are the predominant creative force in your own life, and circumstances are one of the forces you use in the creative process.” – Robert Fritz, Path of Least Resistance
It may seem like a small, meaningless difference, but creating is very different from problem solving. When problem solving we’re seeking a solution that makes something go away. When you’re creating you’re attempting to bring something new into existence. Reflecting on these two ways of thinking, it’s seems to me, that we spend more time problem solving and reacting to circumstances, than we do creating what we desire. We become so caught up in the frenzy of solving problem, that we forget what we originally set out to create.
|Problem Solving Orientation||Creating Orientation|
|Problem solving is a reactive approach to situations||Creating is a sustained, pro-active approach to situations|
|Results in an either / or response to situations||Leverages the power of paradox, the genius of the AND|
|Creates and reactive pattern, resulting from knee-jerk reactions to situations||Creates a growth pattern as we focus on creating what we desire|
|An effective approach when there is only one correct answer (convergent thinking)||An effective approach when there is more than one correct answer (divergent thinking)|
|Orientates our thinking towards problems||Orientates our thinking towards our vision|
|Results in negative emotional energy and responses||Results in positive emotional energy and responses|
|Focused on relieving intensity of the situation||Focused on creating what we desire|
When leading from a problem orientation, what drives the action is the intensity of the problem, remove the intensity of the problem and the resulting action slows and quickly stops. We need to be leading from a strong vision of what we are striving to create, this inspires and motivates us to act continually, creating our vision.
“What are we trying to create? Without a compelling answer to this question, it is hard to know why all the problem solving actually matters. Problem solving becomes the busywork of organisations in which people have forgotten their purpose and vision. Reconnecting with that purpose always starts with asking questions like: Why are we here? What are we trying to create that will make the world a better place? And, who would miss us if we were gone?” – Peter M. Senge, Creating Desired Futures in a Global Economy, Reflections The SoL Journal , 2003
Ultimately leaders need to solve problems whilst they focus on creating their vision of the future. Leaders need to be doing both, however as Peter Senge points the primary focus must be on what we’re creating. Leaders can get trapped into a problem-solving focus, spending huge amounts of time and energy solving the day-to-day problems. However, it this becomes the focus we lose our sense of meaning and purpose.
Are you leading from a vision of what you want to create? When you find yourself solving problems, do you approach solving them within the context of the vision you’re striving to create?
The vital question for leaders is not “What problem are we trying to solve?” but “What do I want to create?”