The popular understanding is that MBAs are fine when it comes to financial analysis and other more scientific aspects of management, and less good when a little creativity is required.

But over the coming weeks, that notion - and a few students at one of Britain's leading business schools - will be put to the test.

The Creativity in Business challenge is being organised by Tudor Rickards, professor of creativity and organisational change at Manchester Business School, and sponsored by Manchester International Airport, Johnson and Higgins, insurance brokers, the accountancy firm Arthur Andersen and its associated law firm Garretts. The project will involve 24 of the school's masters of business administration candidates in coming up with solutions to four real-life business problems being encountered by organisations in the North-west.

Over the next two months they will be pondering what to do with 2 million tons of high-grade peat that is being excavated as part of the preparation for a road project; how a dairy firm can utilise excess flavoured milk production capacity; how a trader in animal hides and skins can develop its customer service; and what a furniture company can do to raise its profile. They will present their solutions to a panel of judges who will announce the winning team at an awards ceremony to be held at the business school next month.

Professor Rickards believes that pressure of work often leads business people to develop short cuts when attempting to deal with problems, and he will help the students to use techniques that unlock mental processes, in order to come up with creative solutions that will give the businesses a lead over the competition.

"Life - and business - is a series of challenges and problems," he says. "Unfortunately, we naturally develop habitual ways of finding answers which, under pressure of time, often end up being short cuts to unimaginative solutions. In the rush to solve a problem, we unwittingly shut off thinking about alternative, maybe better, ideas"

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