Can Asians be Creative?

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In a new era where innovation and differentiation will make or break, Can Asians be Creative organizations and nations, the HEAD Foundation welcomed Prof Roy Chua from the Singapore Management University to speak on this highly debatable topic as to whether Asians are less creative than their Western counterparts.

Prof Chua started by citing some research data that highlighted the importance of innovation and creativity in the world we live in today. He then shared some cross-cultural research findings on Asian creativity. One example of hurdles to greater creativity would be the Confucian value that devaluated fun and focused on diligence. But, there is no conclusive evidence that Asians are less creative, especially from a historical perspective, e.g. gunpowder and paper originated from China.

He then moved on to discuss if culture played a role in fostering creativity and how different cultures managed rules, norms and deviations. Stronger sense of conformity would be described as culturally tight. Some research findings seemed to suggest that citizens from culturally tight countries are less likely to win in global creative challenges, although they would likely win in such local competitions.

Tight cultures tend to inculcate adaptor thinking, rather than innovative thinking style and has a lower appetite for change. Tight cultures innovate differently, for example, refining existing ideas to high levels of quality but is less likely to produce breakthrough innovations with global reach.

Prof Chua recommended that to increase creativity, we need to increase tolerance for deviations, harness multiculturalism, foster creative abrasion and promote transformational leadership.

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