x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Children taught to be curious will profit later in life

One of the things I appreciate my parents for doing is encouraging my siblings and myself to be inquisitive - to treat everything like a business case study.

Debating the merits of various fuels as a child led the author to develop a questioning mind when it came to business. Sarah Dea / The National
Debating the merits of various fuels as a child led the author to develop a questioning mind when it came to business. Sarah Dea / The National

One of the things I appreciate my parents for doing is encouraging my siblings and myself to be inquisitive - to treat everything like a business case study.

On our weekend Dubai trips as a child, my dad would point out an advertising banner on the highway, and ask my brothers and I why company X had used that slogan. At the service station, he would question us about the differences of fuels on offer.

Those debates would usually last a good half-hour, and would lead us from one topic to another, and they surely made our trips shorter and much more enjoyable.

Soon enough, my dad no longer needed to question us. We started asking on our own. When my Walkman headset that I bought from a supermarket broke a couple of days later, my parents and I both analysed it as a case of poor quality, and probably as a result of the manufacturers cutting costs. They then taught me how to invest in products of excellent quality to avoid similar mishaps.

As an adult, I still indulge in lengthy debates and case study analysis with my parents. It became an Al Hinai family tradition. And I am grateful for the skills that this tradition led me to acquire, from the thirst to learn more, to searching for innovative ways to go about problem-solving.

This case study analysis skill proved to be of great aid to me when it came to managing my small fashion line, as well as my career. Before embarking on my niche Khaleeji tradition fashion-inspired casual clothing line, I analysed the fashion scene thoroughly to identify what was missing, what would make my fashion line stand out, what boutiques would serve as a great platform to reach a wide audience, and so on.

I had a long list of questions for myself to answer, lots of boutiques to analyse before collaboration, but it paid off in the end, and the business is now able to sustain itself on its own.

At work, when a colleague was setting up a 50+ PowerPoint slide presentation for a potential client, the questions began to pour out.

Why do you need so many slides? Why can't you compress your slides and talk more personally to them? Why do you need to have a chunk of paragraphs squeezed on one slide instead of main headlines that you could then elaborate on?

And of course there are those questions that just hung there in my head unanswered: Why doesn't someone invent a silent vacuum cleaner? Why do car manufacturers build models that go as fast as 320kph, when there are global highway limits well below this?

Often these questions will lead to debates with my engineer brothers, who would explain the technicalities behind noisy vacuum cleaners.

The good thing is that these debates and different analyses of situations lead to creative problem-solving, which is needed when faced with dilemmas at work, and is often a skill shared by innovative entrepreneurs.

Just try doing this for a while, even involving your children, and soon enough you will enhance your questioning and analysis skills, and will you start to see things differently, especially when you are looking for a solution to a problem.

At a time when financial organisations are searching for ways to maintain low costs, this skill will do much to help in assisting companies to find innovative cost-free solutions.

After all, managers and chief executives are always on the lookout for individuals who are creative and look at things from a different perspective.

Would analysing things and approaching a matter with a case study analytical eye, help to save businesses out there that have failed? Would it have prevented the global financial meltdown five years ago?

Perhaps, but whether they would have done so or not, it is always fun to listen to children's approaches and solutions to a problem.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati fashion designer and writer based in Abu Dhabi