Irish love of ambiguity key to future innovation

17 Jun 2010

We may not be good at giving straight answers when asked a direction question, but the Irish love of ambiguity could be a key ingredient in leading us out of this recession according to recent research undertaken by the Irish Management Institute in partnership with IDA Ireland.

The research, which was undertaken by Andrew McLaughlin and Megan Burgdorf and based on a sample of 117 Irish executives and entrepreneurs, indicated a substantial trend towards what is considered right-brain dominated cognition when compared to international norms.

Right-brained thinking, towards which the sample showed a preference, includes attributes such as intuition, the ability to make seemingly unrelated connections and tolerance of ambiguity. Ambiguity and the ability to hold incongruent ideas without stress is regarded as inherent to entrepreneurial activity because start-up businesses are often original, innovative ideas that require people who can think laterally and see the bigger picture.

In the study, Irish entrepreneurs scored above average on this scale.

Characteristics to succeed in smart economy

Launching the report the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, said: “As Ireland enters economic recovery, we must now harness the core competencies among our people that can drive entrepreneurship and innovation. The findings in this report show that the Irish people have the kind of characteristics needed to build the smart economy, in partnership with Government, as we seek to create higher value jobs for tomorrow’s workers. As Minister, I want to focus, in particular, on innovation so that we maximise opportunities to turn our academic research into marketplace products and give Irish entrepreneurs a competitive edge over others.”

Dr Tom McCarthy, IMI CEO, said: “A consistent pattern of results emerges from this research. This pattern indicates a substantial trend towards what is considered right-brain dominated cognition. This is a key building block underpinning innovation.”

Research based on internationally recognised tests

The research is validated by OPP – an international business psychology consultancy – and was based on a battery of tests including the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the 16PF, the Decision Style Inventory, the Tolerance for Ambiguity Scale and the Auckland Individualism and Collectivism Scale. The entrepreneurs were chosen on the basis that they had started enterprises, in some cases multi-enterprises.