Mastering Ideas In The UAE - Gulf Business
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Mastering Ideas In The UAE

Mastering Ideas In The UAE

Dr Mark Batey, joint chair of the Psychometrics at Work Research Group at Manchester Business School, asks does the UAE have the right ingredients for creativity?

Creativity is the key skill for the 21st century. Against a backdrop of rapid technological change, economic turbulence and shifting consumer preferences – there has never been a time when it is more important to encourage creativity at work.

What’s more, the UAE has one of the most important factors for creativity – diversity.

Why is diversity key? The answer is that two fundamental processes for creativity – connections and chain reactions – are improved by diversity.

Connections – the creative thinking process, coming up with new ideas and solving problems in unusual ways is based upon connecting ideas. When we are faced with a problem, we trawl our knowledge and experiences to find fruitful combinations. In a diverse workplace, people have wildly different knowledge and experiences and therefore make richer connections when they are thinking.

Chain reactions – in a team setting, creative problem solving is characterised by chain reactions. Where one idea or suggestion made by a colleague creates a chain reaction of ideas in other people. In a diverse workplace, because people make different connections, they suggest different ideas that help other people think differently.

But there is a challenge. Diversity without the right environment is only the beginning. There are two environments that need to be managed to make the most of diversity.

The first is each marketeer’s internal environment. Creativity training can help marketeers understand their unique creative profile – their unique inner environment for problem solving. No two people are creative in the same way.

I work with organisations to help their people understand how they generate ideas, their personalities, motivation and confidence. When they understand their inner environment of how they think creatively they can identify and work with their strengths and develop or compensate for their weaknesses.

It is also vital to manage the external environment – the culture and climate at work, in the office and the team.

It is all very well to have the right mixture of diversity to drive creativity, to have individuals who know how best to use their internal creative environments, but without the right office environment, natural strengths become inhibited, quashed or killed.

Environments that encourage creativity reduce the impact of hierarchy. The big boss isn’t always right nor does the experienced marketeer know all the answers. To encourage creativity, flatten the hierarchy, encourage contributions from everyone and benefit from the richness of connections and chain reactions that occur when we work in diverse teams.

Leadership must vary from strong to weak. A strong vision and trajectory are vital. People need to know where they are going and why. However, leaders need to resist the temptation to micromanage, to solve the problems themselves or take too strong a role in the generation of solutions. Too strong a leader, leads to weak followers.

The tendency of some cultures to avoid embarrassment or to focus strongly on saving face also kills the creative work environment. How can people make unusual suggestions or think in paradigm-busting ways if they fear that they will be mocked, they worry too much about what people will think of them or if a new idea might threaten perceived wisdom or authority?

Creativity is not an easy thing to master at work. At least in the UAE the right diversity ingredients are already in place. The key now is to ensure the internal and external environments are in place to encourage creativity – the vital skill for the 21st Century.


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