A statement I recently read suggested that problem solving itself was indeed creativity and was similar to producing a piece of art, this solicited a response stating that in todays environment, it was more like painting by numbers.
I think both have a place in the argument about creativity. A good leader will use vertical as well as lateral thinking in proposing solutions to problems (the true artisan), the problem as I see it, most who consider themselves as leaders are in fact managers who (using the analogy in the initial response) are managing by numbers. Yes there is a belief they use ingenuity and imagination to paint the sky light blue when the number says dark blue. But hey, that’s not being creative.
Conversely, rules, regulations and customer’s requirements are not barriers to creativity, if we stay with the analogy of the painter – Cubism has a style (rules) but within cubism there are different problems and solutions. More so if we take different art forms such as sculpture. So the same for business, there are different scopes for problems and solutions, depending on the business and a multitude of other factors.
So, just solving problems is not being creative, but creativity can be used to solve problems. And it is a rare Leader (business or otherwise) that has the self awareness and confidence to allow those in their team to be truly creative and not just filling in the spaces (problems) as expected.