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‘Dead Space’ ideas fall victim to pandemic

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori
Filed on January 18, 2021

Some experts fear that excessive tele-working could lead to limiting that creative interaction between employees.

According to a study by a team of researchers led by the American scientist Kevin Dunbar, more than a third of scientific innovations and discoveries happened by chance, or through unintended observations and conversations. Therefore, coincidence in the world of knowledge does not mean a blind stroke of luck. It is in fact, the result of unlimited curiosity in seeking to comprehend everything about anything. It is also a result of the attentive interaction with humans and things and the careful observation of changes and developments.

As such, some experts fear that excessive tele-working could lead to limiting that creative interaction between employees in the corridors of offices and workplaces. Yahoo and IBM have been years ahead of the novel coronavirus pandemic as they adopted remote working for a large number of their staff. Two years ago, however, the two companies decided to partially backtrack on that since professional distancing undermined the chances of spontaneous direct communication; something which officials at both companies say generates a lot of creative and innovative ideas.

Wall Street Journal indicated that an increasing number of companies expressed concern over how to compensate for the lack of spontaneous, open and direct interaction between employees coming from different disciplines and areas while working remotely and social distancing being encouraged in the work environment. A cause for concern is that communication via digital channels, despite its importance in many respects, does not lead to capturing valuable ideas and making innovative leaps.

The Journal quoted some major companies saying that a drawback of working remotely is the elimination of the “dead space” phenomenon at workplaces. The term “dead space” refers to incidental and inevitable gathering spots such as elevators, stairs, entrances, exits and corridors. Those are places where employees meet by chance, exchange greetings and have casual conversations. The importance of these spots lies in the fact that they bring together people from different areas of knowledge, and inspire many ideas that contribute to business development and innovation.

In today’s world, where working remotely has become a strong option on the table even after the pandemic has receded, experts are looking for ways to make up for the lack of experience from living in the real world. If strict distancing instructions at the workplace continue, organizations will need to look for ways to make up for such missed opportunities to capture and develop ideas.

Until that happens, the question remains as to how to achieve a balanced equation between social distancing and creative interaction. This is the point that every organisation has to work on. As for individuals, they have the opportunity to make up for that by using online interaction to be closer to constructive dialogues and cognitive curiosity driven by innovation.

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Head of Digital Government and Director General, TRA





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