Team Management Systems

QO2™ Profile Helps Singapore Engineers Unlock Creativity and Innovative Thinking

By Rosie Fennell
Copyright © British Council. All rights reserved.

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The Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), a government organization dedicated to advancing materials understanding and technology in Singapore, already had a long list of successful inventions under their belt, including painless needle injections. When the IMRE wanted to supercharge creativity and innovation within their team of engineers, their Cluster Manager, Dr Emma Philpott (formerly of IMRE) called for assistance from the corporate training consultants at the British Council.

The Innovative Team

At the British Council we understood that for IMRE to achieve success, the strategy would involve encouraging the research engineers to innovate, communicate and understand each other. To respond to this need, we recommended the engineers participate in 'The Innovative Team'. The Innovative Team is a customized program that helps companies learn how to generate more innovative ideas, solve problems in new ways and overcome obstacles that impede innovation.

Central to The Innovative Team program is the use of the QO2™ Profile as a self-assessment that offers insight into people's approach to risk. The Opportunities-Obstacles Quotient (QO2™) is defined as the ratio of the energy invested in seeing opportunities relative to the energy spent on seeing obstacles at work. It's important to have 'balance' - people who focus on the opportunities without seeing potential obstacles can make hasty decisions, whereas those who focus too much on the obstacles may never give the go-ahead to new projects or ventures. When we have a good ratio between opportunities and obstacles, we can be highly effective at transforming our goals into reality.

The QO2

The Risk-Orientation Model is comprised of five subscales (Optimism, MTG Energy, Multi-Pathways, Fault-Finding and Time Focus) which together give an overall view of a person's approach to risk. We were able to relate these five subscales to the IMRE program in the following way:

  1. MTG Energy: The goal achievement dimension illustrates that innovation is not only about ideas, but about drive. Here we looked at how to set and achieve objectives and use motivation techniques to move past procrastination.

  2. Multi-Pathways: The ability to generate lots of possible pathways around obstacles was related to understanding the different types of creative thinking and being prepared to take calculated risks.

  3. Optimism: The psychological resource that gives people the generalized expectancy that they will succeed in their endeavors. This subscale helped the engineers to understand their approach to change and strategies for self-development.

  4. Fault-Finding: The effort put into examining 'what might go wrong'. The danger of too much or too little Fault-Finding in relation to innovation was explored.

  5. Time Focus: Here we examine where your attention is directed: future, present or past.

Overall, the engineers' QO2™ scores showed balanced perspectives across the main scale, although at the subscale level they were strong at Fault-Finding and low on Multi-Pathways. With this insight into the engineers approach to innovation, I was able to identify focus areas and deliver an intensive workshop that introduced the team to a variety of specific tools and techniques to help them to develop new ways of thinking.

The high score on Fault-Finding meant that when new ideas were presented, the engineers' first reaction was to look for all the potential faults, before considering how they might be made to work. Given their job role, being good at examining projects and new situations for possible problems is clearly a great strength. However, the flipside of this is that people with high Fault-Finding may judge ideas too quickly and this has a negative impact on successful idea generation over time. We made the engineers aware of the potential impact of criticizing ideas at the outset, while pointing out the benefits of their careful analysis.

For the engineers, a low to moderate score on the Multi-Pathways subscale means that they are more likely to concentrate on only a few ways of doing things, and will often persist with one line of action until they get what they want. Furthermore, they may like to work to rules and procedures and prefer working on projects similar to ones that they are currently involved in. This can mean that the engineers tend to prefer a traditional approach. So what we do in The Innovative Team Program is to look at alternative ways of carrying out projects and help them to develop a process so they become more comfortable with generating alternative ways to achieve results. It's also helpful here to use the group since this work requires multiple points of view. We suggest that teams form a broader group drawn from a variety of disciplines within the company to focus on new ideas.

Unlocking Creativity and Innovation - The results

According to Dr Philpott:

"The QO2™ Profile is particularly applicable to our team. It provided exceptional insight into how the engineers see and respond to change, solve problems and how they handle risk, all important factors to consider when ensuring a supportive environment that encourages a stream of good ideas in the workplace."

"The feedback contained in the QO2™ Profile helped our engineers to take a good look at themselves. It was an opportunity for us to question our belief system, and the impact of this on innovation and change."

It's this combination of the personal feedback in the QO2™ Profile which identifies 'where we are now', along with practical (and some unorthodox) approaches to problem-solving and creative thinking that is the foundation of the program. The program is about challenging your thinking style and devising structures and systems to identify, develop and incorporate good ideas throughout the organization.

Positive results followed quickly from the program. Dr Philpott reported:

"The QO2™ Profile has been used with great success at IMRE in terms of unleashing innovative thinking and teambuilding. Our engineers understand themselves and each other better; they are much more likely to look at the people around them at work, and to be receptive to the different thinking styles and mix of talents. We cannot afford to stifle innovation in an organization that drives science and technological advances in the Singapore economy and The Innovative Team program coupled with the QO2™ Profile has been instrumental in helping us move forward."

Copyright © British Council. All rights reserved.

Rosie is the ASEAN Business Leader for Mercer College, the learning and development (L&D) brand of Mercer. She has more than 13 years of consulting and facilitation experience in Asia and has project managed, designed and delivered a range of leadership development programs from junior through to senior-level executives. Prior to joining Mercer, Rosie was Director of the British Council Professional Development Centre, Singapore. In this role she led a large team in the design and delivery of management and communication skills workshops in Singapore and across the region. It was at this time that she worked with the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) on this particular project and this article was produced. As a facilitator, Rosie delivers highly practical, participant-focused workshops. She believes strongly in the effectiveness of group learning and encourages participants to bring their work experience into the training-room and to share them with others. Rosie is known for her engaging facilitation style, which blends interactivity with clear concepts and lots of practice for participants. Her international experience includes much of Asia, Australia and the UK. She has worked with a wide range of organizations from both the public and private sectors including; Barclays Capital, Singapore Airlines, Honda and Save the Children. Rosie holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Training and Performance Management from Leicester University and is also studying for an MSc in Training and Performance Management, again with Leicester University. She is a member of the Facilitators Network Singapore (FNS) and the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and is an accredited Team Management Profile, QO2™ and Linking Skills practitioner.

For more information contact Rosie by e-mail: or visit

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