Tag Archives: Creativity

A lesson on creativity

Every day morning, I drive my daughter to the bus stop where she boards her school bus. This short drive and the subsequent wait at the bus stop is something I love because mostly what gets done or discussed does not make any sense (as far as adults are concerned).It is alwys amusing how simple these little children’s life is, yet so fulfilling.
This morning, I noticed in the car that she was holding a tube of glue in her hand. I suggested that she put it inside her bag; for she might spill it on her dress. “No dad, I will hold it”, she refused.
A while later, as we stood waiting for the bus, I make another attempt to persuade her to put the tube inside her bag. She refused again and then I decided not to push it further. Probably she wanted to show it off to her friends, I thought (which, I realized immediately may not true, because it was after all a tube of glue).

Girl holding a glue stick in her hand

Girl holding a glue stick in her hand


The bus was late today and as we stood waiting for the bus, I noticed that my daughter was holding the glue tube in her right hand like a mike and was silently singing. She was so involved in the act that I am sure she was singing somewhere on a grand stage to a very large audience.
Perhaps she wanted to play with it, I thought.

A while later when I looked at her, she had stopped singing and was holding the tube horizontal right in front of her right eye, like a binocular and looking around through it.

Something went shattering in me. What was a simple tube of glue that did not matter, had to be kept inside the bag because it might spill, as far as I was concerned was NOT a tube of glue at all for her. It was a mike that took her to some imaginary stage somewhere, it was a binocular (probably she was imagining her to be in army or so). And I am sure by the time she reached her school today; the glue tube would have assumed many other forms.

Here was I, the intelligent and rational, who is familiar with several techniques for creativity and Innovation and who is proud that he has understood the fundamental mechanism behind creative thinking. And here was this little girl, with all innocence, had the least idea about any of these concepts was simply creative.

The difference was striking. For her the world was not what it was, it was what she wanted it to be.
And this small difference explains why all the techiques for creative thinking simply does not work.

Grass root Innovation

In India, kids enjoy a long summer vacation; typically for the whole of May and June. This is the time the kids and their mothers go to their native place leaving the husbands alone in Bangalore.
While some people find this forced solitary life unbearable, I find this very interesting. The most interesting part is that I get a glimpse of a life with ‘no strings attached’. Usually this is also the time I do lot of introspection and sometimes simply space out.
When I am alone, there are few daily chores that I need to attend to. This involves some amount of exploration around the house, especially in the kitchen. And it is when I come across some simple innovative ideas that amuse me. For e.g,
1)our washing machine is in the work area and that’s where naturally the washing powder is kept. But then you don’t always wash in the washing machine, sometimes you wash certain things (like socks) in the bath room. To your pleasant surprise, you find washing powder is also kept (though in smaller bottles) to cater to such needs. This eliminates the need to walk to the work area just to get the washing powder.
2)Things in the kitchen cabinet are arranged in such a way that all those things that are used frequently (sugar, salt, tea powder etc) are ketp in the cabinet that is closest to the stove.

Working in large corporations, we generally tend to look down upon our wives as the ones who mechanically do the same things over and over again. But I am afraid that’s far from truth. If you aren’t convince yet, here is a simple illustration.
I had put the cloths in the washing machine yesterday. Since in a tropical hot climate like in India, the collars and cuffs become dirty and they need to brushed once before washing in the washing machine. I looked around for the brush and found something interesting. My wife had affixed a small piece of soap on the other side of the brush.
Washing Brush
Now, imagine the situation. The cloths are in the washing machine, and one needs to pick some of them, apply soap to the collars and cuffs (and some other places where there is extra dirt) and then brush them. If you were to use a soap and brush separately, it will involve lot of work to pick the soap, apply it, keep it back, pick the brush and brush it. All this extra effort is eliminated by this simple solution. All you need to do is just reverse the brush to apply the soap and turn it around to brush..
Washing Brush
I do not know if such a brush is available in the market, if not it is a good idea..

I think to see real practical innovations, one need to go not to the corporates (with all complex techniques for Systematic problem solving), but in to homes (more in to the kitchens) and you will simply be amazed at how the housewives have optimized everything possible.

No wonder you get your bedcoffee, breakfast, ironed cloths etc on time everytime.. They have optimized better than any CMM 5 companies..

Even a police man will know this

The phrase ‘even a police man will know this’ is used often to ridicule someone’s ignorance on some trivial matters or if they are slow to grasp something. For some historic reasons that I am not aware of, policemen are considered somewhat slow in their head.

But I think it’s time to give this a second thought.. Here is a very creative poster on road safety from Bangalore.

Ganesha in Traffic poster Bangalore

Ganesha in Traffic poster Bnagalore

If you don’t quite get it, you may want to read the story on How did Lord Ganesha get elephant’s head? here.

Boredom and creatiivty

I decided to pick a coffee during a meeting today. Since the office boy wasn’t there, I had to pick the coffee my self from the vending machine.

When I went to the coffee vending machine, something on the wall caught my attention. There were these beautiful flower designs and on a closer look, I realised that they were made of paper cups.

These were quite attractive and as I later figured out they were the handwork of the ‘office boy’ who manages the vending machine. This guy’s only job is to serve coffee/snacks at regular intervals whenever there is a meeting (and they don’t happen everyday). So he has lots of free time at his disposal. But, at the same time he is expected to be around the vending machine always.

I think that’s where these creative designs come from.

So most likely, boredom alone doesn’t lead to creativity, but it should be a combination of boredom and inability to escape from it.

I didn’t meet the guy though, but this is a tribute to that unknown designer

A Nonsense story and Creativity in Children

 “Papa, I have something interesting for you”. My daughter said and I could see that mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

“I will ask you some questions first”, she said

Do I have a choice?.

“Who is your favorite actor?”

“Amir Khan”

“Who is your favorite actress?”

“Kareena Kapoor”

“Choose a number between 0 and 10”

“3”

“Which your favorite pet”

“Dog”

After a short pause, she tell me the following story. “One day, Amir Khan and Kareena Kapoor comes to your home. You ask them how many children they have. They say three. Then you ask them how do they look. And they tell you that they look like dogs”

The way she told me this, she was thoroughly enjoying and looked quite satisfied. Though it looked too silly (and nonsense), I had to pretend that I enjoyed it.

Later as I think of this, it conveys something profound. There has been several studies done on creativity in children. But what prevents us (grown-ups) from being creative like them? In this world we are taught to make sense in what we say and do. Things need to be logical and needs to convey something etc. We are concerned about what others think of what we do or say. And it is this ‘need to make sense’ that doesn’t allow us to be creative..

If we just stop making sense (at least for sometime), perhaps we can get a glimpse of what a creative state is. But that may not be easy. Just try cooking up a story that absolutely makes no sense and telling it to someone, you will be surprised to see how tough that is.

Creative thinking

Someone sent me this picture; it’s really amazing how creative children can get.

It reminded me of the barometer story of Niels Bohr. When he was a student, he asked to answer the question – how to measure the height of a building using barometer. He came with numerous answers (very interesting ones) except what was expected as the right answer. Finally when the teacher asked him whether he knew the conventional (right) answer for the problem, he replied ” Yes I do, but I do not like they teaching me how to think”

Read the complete story here: http://www.word-gems.com/knowledge.bohr.html

Purposelessness

There is a person I respect a lot; someone living in knowledge. We will call him V, to protect his identity. I first heard of him through a friend who narrated the following incident to me. Once V had been to the US Consulate in Chennai for a visa interview. The place was crowded as usual, and people were impatiently and nervously waiting for their turn. The US Consulate had the reputation of declining Visa without giving any reason. And it was an ordeal for most till they finished the ‘interview’.

There was a coffee shop around where people drank coffee and left the empty cups on the side walls and tables. Then V began to do something strange. He started picking up those cups and deposited them in to the dustbins. No word spoken. More people came and left more cups around. And V continued this till he was called in for the interview. He went inside with not a trace of nervousness.

 This story was the main motivation for me to meet V about 8 years back.

This incident came to mind recently when ‘purposelessness’ came in to a conversation. As the logical mind becomes stronger, it becomes extremely difficult to do something that does not make sense. ‘Let me understand’ is our common reaction especially to new things. And we discard many things in life because they make no sense.

But actually doing something that is ‘purposeless’ can be a profound experience. There is a joy concealed behind them. Ability to do something ‘purposeless’ is a sign of wisdom. This can help someone step out of the logical mind. But it is extremely difficult to do it as the mind will do everything to talk you out of this.

 Here is a simple exercise. When you meet someone either in the office corridor or on the street, just tell them a sentence (for e.g “it is better to be a vegetarian”). Nothing more, nothing less. No introduction, no waiting for a response. Just move on and may be tell the next person too…

Have fun!