Events guru Fahmi Al Ma’Awali discovers how a little creative thinking can enhance Oman’s commercial opportunities both regionally and on the international stage
Imagination is an essential part of business. It can help you fly or fail. It can differentiate you in a competitive market and inspire you to shatter boundaries. In short, it can earn you fame, fortune and a place in the history books.
So why is innovation so slow to come to the Sultanate?
This is not a simple issue with a black and white answer but a multifaceted one that involves the creator, the consumer, the culture and the bigger picture.
On the surface, it’s frustrating to see interesting things happening just across the border. But let’s not forget that we have moments of brilliance too. Just look at what’s going on at the Royal Opera House Muscat, the increasing rise of concept restaurants and the way that Shatti Al Qurum is giving Jumeirah Beach a run for its money.
Nevertheless, just like the Sheraton Hotel in Ruwi, things materialise slowly here – frustratingly so at times. To say otherwise would simply be perpetuating the problem.
So what’s the answer? Why can’t we let our creative juices flow freely, turning a big dream into an even bigger reality? Is it a fear of theft, timidity or just a lack of skill?
A lot of Omanis buzz with brilliant concepts but a thought means nothing unless you take the first step to make it happen. When it reaches the action phase, obstacles are often faced. Resilience and strength of spirit is needed to overcome procrastination and bureaucracy as well as the more personal factors such as finance, time and family.
Of course, a fear of failure is a global issue that dogs most people but here in Oman, we are luckier than most. There are several government and private sector initiatives to train the young and fire up their entrepreneurial spirit. Which takes us to the second part of the cube – the consumer.
We live in a time when most people want more for less money. Expectations are high and competition is fierce. These are not good conditions for survival. I know from personal experience that realising a dazzling vision is tough when price, quality and rival tenders need to be considered. Excellence rarely comes cheap – and when budgets are tight, risk aversion and ordinary ideas can be the result.
Which brings us to the issue of looking at the bigger picture. Where there are problems, there are always solutions. We just need to step up to the plate.
After all, we have a strong sense of self as a nation. We’ve been strong merchants since antiquity. Invention and trade is ingrained in us, as is our sense of culture. Our Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, has measured and showcased this ‘innovation’ and trickled it down to society, encouraging us to remember our roots. We haven’t yet gone wild like our neighbours in Dubai because we can display our strongest characteristics in simplicity and originality.
We’re equally fortunate and unfortunate to have a diversity of views.
Some people are satisfied with a simple corniche walk, while others want spectacular events that draw in the eyes of the world. Pace is a matter of perspective. One person’s deadline is another’s frustration.
The grass is always greener on the other side. But what we forget is that the grass is only greener when it’s watered. Master the hose and you master the garden. We need unity of purpose. Which brings me to the last face of the cube: Culture verses innovation.
I believe that creativity can sometimes be anti-cultural. You forget the past to forge ahead to the new. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be compromise – a place where progress is compatible with culture. So just as in times of old let us sail our ships, fearless of the storms. After all, ships were never meant to stay in port.
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS:
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. Be a lion not a lamb. If you’re scared of criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
Fahmi Al Ma’Awali. Eventus LLC
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