Conflicts are generally disgraceful! However, conflicts that concern ideas should definitely be valued very highly. Ideas can only emerge, and eventually function, within a structure and an environment that allows their seeds to grow! This implies the existence of a dynamic network of well-educated and mature persons—‘professional society’ that is highly receptive and works on passing them on from one person to another until they are operating soundly.
By default, ideas follow a bottom-up course. Often initiated by the masses, they are then fine-tuned (supposedly) by experts before being picked up by the authority with the power to validate them and turn them into functional policies. Both corporations and governments are in dire need of ideas proposed by their respective employees and by citizens in general. Unfortunately, most ideas put forward by them never reach an executive in command who has the authority to evaluate and implement them. On the few occasions that they do, egoism usually takes over, and they are resisted.
Ideas are supposed to move along a two-way channel. However, the rigid structure and inflexible environment of most Arab organizations only favor the imposition of ideas initiated by top executives; ideas coming from the masses are blocked. Most Arab executives believe that seniority gives them the exclusive right to propose ideas. In other words, they believe that they should be the sole source of every new idea—which the subordinates must implement thoughtlessly.
Meanwhile, relatively open-minded senior executives who are more willing to listen to their subordinates are at times perceived as indecisive and irresolute personalities who are too soft to take action. With the exception of a few cases, we hardly ever hear of a political authority or an executive changing his mind after having been exposed to a counter perspective. Regrettably, Arab culture and the structure of many organizations in our part of the world tend to play a destructive role; they discourage people from expressing their opinions and, obviously, from submitting their original ideas for consideration.
Ideas usually conflict with one another. Therefore, executives in authority should never deal with them subjectively! Each idea deserves to be evaluated on its own merit, completely apart from its owner. Many companies often fall into the trap of valuing ideas that come from a senior executive over those emitted by ordinary employees, whereas governments are well known for their instinctive and blind bias towards favoring upper-echelon functionaries. This behavior is often justified by saying that ‘high-ranking’ owners of ideas are in a position to implement them faster.
Many excellent and beneficial ideas are therefore, lost in space. Consequently, it should be obligatory, in any organization, to appoint leaders who know how to listen actively to their subordinates’ ideas with the intent to actually implement those of them that have merit. Collective ideas are certainly more valuable than the thoughts of a single person, even if that person happens to be the most brilliant executive.
The Arab world needs to get rid of the stagnation of blocked internal channels in its organizations that are preventing countless ideas from coming to light. People should be encouraged to think aloud and to idea-it constantly—even if some of them turn out to be meaningless or useless. Marginalizing and penalizing people for their thoughts leads to the emergence of a neutered society that is ill-equipped to cope with innovation. In business, as well as in government, we need more executives who are open-minded and willing to work on prompting and encouraging the formulation of new ideas—and on making them happen.