Leader cognition proves to be central to organizational functioning as leaders generate solutions and provide direction when organizations encounter problems. This study examined the effects of utilizing different general thinking strategies for thinking through organizational problems on the formation of problem solutions and statements articulating a future vision. Specifically the effects of focusing on the positive the negative or balancing positivity and negativity were examined regarding their influence on the quality originality and elegance of solutions and the viability of vision statements. Participants were asked to assume the role of a leader in an educational technology firm and provide a solution and vision statement to address the firm's challenges. The results revealed that a positivity strategy – thinking about positive outcomes and means for attaining success – resulted in lower quality solutions and less viable visions than a balanced positive–negative strategy—either thinking about negative outcomes and means for attaining success or positive outcomes and means for avoiding failure. Solution originality however was moderated by attribution of responsibility such that thinking about negative outcomes and avoiding failure resulted in more original solutions when responsibility for the conditions confronting the firm could be attributed externally rather than internally. The implications of these findings for understanding leader cognition and performance are discussed.
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