CREATIVITY AS THE KEY TO ESCAPING THE TYRANNY OF SELF-REFERENTIAL PARADIGMS
Only a short post for now as work is surging today – and blogging is my way of procrastinating . Actually, this post topic relates directly to my actual job, so strictly speaking, this still counts as ” work” )
Several things have caught my eye that relate to one another, though not in an obvious way.
First, the esteemed Drs. Eide of The Neurolearning Blog drew my attention with this post to a set of online tests by Texas Tech University that are indicators for creativity. Take a few of them as they are short. I personally like giving people the nonverbal ones best because the results do not get hijacked by idiosyncratic linguistic habits intefering with comprehension
Secondly, Art Hutchinson the strategic thinking guru and founder of Cartegic Group has a post up on his Mapping Strategy blog on ‘The Young Arab Leaders Conference’ and Scenario Planning ( For more on the conference itself, go here. For the purpose and utility of scenario exercises, go here).
Art’s comment on the Conference ( which incidentally is a good idea in my view) was as follows:
“Given the complexity of what’s going on in the region right now (Iraq being only a part), it would be a shame if the scenarios they discuss are entirely focused on oil and gas. As a tool, scenarios are deeply embedded into the planning cultures of many oil and gas companies (Shell being the most well known.) Properly applied however, they’re at least as powerful for strategic planners in other industries (including government) to holistically think through the interlocking issues (e.g., social, political, military, demographic, religious, constitutional, etc.) that the entire region is facing over the next few years. Oil and gas will be just a part of that picture – albeit a fairly big part.”
I agree. Now I will add my two cents:
In getting the participants to engage in scenarios the facilitators are going to be bumping up against a political-cultural reinforcement of the powerful human tendency to become imprisoned in self-referential paradigms. All human cultural and organizational groups are affected by this tendency to varying degrees regardless of whether we are discussing Americans, corporate CEOs, Salafis, Lawyers, String theorists, members of organized crime, Episcopalian clergy – you name it, if a collective body is at all cohesive then over time ” groupthink” emerges.
In the Arab world, you have authoritarian governmental systems, secular and religious ideologies like pan-Arabism, Anti-colonialism or Islamism and in some places the legacy of tribal societal rule-sets all converging to stifle the critical dialogue required to actually solve problems. The closest American equivalent to this effect – and it isn’t a very good analogy except insofar as it too was reinforced by the possibility of private and state violence – was the issue of race and the color line in the Jim Crow South. Attempts at rational public discussion on a whole range of policy issues were either grotesqely distorted or stymied because they might call the precepts of segregation into question. As a consequence, the South remained the most economically undeveloped region of the United States until the 1970′s when de jure segregation was dismantled.
Because the hot button issues in the Arab World are so numerous right now – Women’s rights, Israel, free-market liberalization, democracy, Westernization – the scenario facilitators might gain the most productive results from devising depoliticized hypotheticals and concentrating on horizontal thinking solutions to systems-based problems that do not easily ” fit” the shopworn but emotionally negative frames that block so much potential progress in the Mideast. If the Conference yields answers that can be expressed in a script that does not alert vested interests to mobilize to defend their broken status quo, then the ideas generated will have some chance, however slim, of being realized on the ground.
More on horizontal thinking:
“Ed DeBono ” Lateral Thinking & Parallel Thinking”
” Think Horizontally and Vertically“
” Horizontal Learning“