jump to navigation

Dubai: The Identity Crisis Next Door March 15, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Branding, Marketing.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

Burj Dubai (now Burj Khalifa), originally uploaded by mikecruz216.

I have been thinking more about Identity Crisis since reading Alexander McNabb’s interesting blog post ‘Couples Kiss. Naturally.’ While his post is about the latest Western Expat PDA-scandal to come out of Dubai, it’s also a brilliant account of how life in Dubai is changing with the times. And certainly not for the best.

Identity Crisis
A term coined by 20th century developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, an identity crisis occurs when an individual loses a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity. While Erikson used it mostly to apply to the period of transition from teenage to adulthood, it is now thought that an identity crisis may occur at any time of life, especially in periods of great transition.

Today, Dubai seems to be at the crossroads of an identity crisis.

Dubai was envisioned to be the El Dorado where the best of East and West met. A dream destination where the world came to have a good life and a great time. At least that is how it is still marketed as. After enjoying years of supersonic growth as the land of superlatives, a recession almost brought the wheels of progress to a grinding halt. Dubai suddenly became a hotbed of negative PR. When not covering the debt crisis, global media is gleeful than ever to toast scandals such as ‘sex on the beach’ and ‘kiss-gate’. The way Dubai responds to these issues is certainly not helping.

Dubai is changing and is not what it used to be or is meant to be. The universal values of tolerance, openness and multiculturalism are what made Dubai dazzle. They fitted well with Dubai’s vision to be the world’s city. Unfortunately, these are the very values Dubai is trying to control unsuccessfully in an attempt ‘shape’ or ‘preserve’ national identity.

Brands, companies and even individuals can fall prey to the identity crisis that’s hit Dubai. We may be on a journey of meteoric growth. Or we may have just hit a bedrock of stagnation. Somewhere along the line we give up on the compass that’s meant to guide us and lose control of the rudder that’s meant to steer us in the desired direction.

A mismatch between perception and reality is a sure-shot symptom of an identity crisis at work. The one affected will be the last person to see it though.

Going two steps forward and then three steps backward never gets one anywhere. Few questions to reflect on during an identity crisis.

  • In our personal and professional avatars, are we saying one thing and doing another?
  • Are we really who we think we are and who we want to be?
  • Where are we going and how are we getting there?
  • Do our actions lead to the result we want to achieve?
  • What about our values?
  • Are they the same as when we started off on our journey? Are we compromising them somewhere?

These questions make for interesting soul searching during an identity crisis. After all, the bigger we are, the more we risk to lose.