Showing posts with label Idea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Idea. Show all posts

Saturday, May 20, 2023



Image credit: 愚木混株 Cdd20 Pixabay

Do you know which is the most viewed TED Talk? My guess is that many of you know this. For those who are unaware, it’s Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 talk, “Do School Kill Creativity?” with almost 75 million views and counting on YouTube. (source

This metric may be an indicator of the enormous interest people have in the topic of Creativity. But, Why are people so interested in Creativity? In my opinion, the reasons could be:

Intrigue - We are intrigued by the concept of creativity (many of us have a narrow understanding of it)

Regret - Sadly, most of us lost our creativity and imagination while growing up (schooling, eh!)

I Wish - We all wish we were more creative! (sounds familiar?)

Awe - We all admire and hold creative people in awe! (be it Messi’s pass to Julian Alvarez in the World Cup semifinal against Croatia, or AR Rahman’s music composition for the film Roja, or Jeethu Joseph’s screenplay and direction of Mohan Lal’s Drishyam, or even Yuval Noah Harari’s way of thinking and writing that is evident in Sapiens).

If we are asked the question What is Creativity?, we might have different versions of our understanding of it. Many may view Creativity as an artistic ability, while others may view it as a way of thinking. Some may view it as an attribute or manifestation of artists. So, let’s get into the definition of Creativity from two perspectives: one from the English Dictionary and the other from the APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology.

Creativity is the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative. – Cambridge Dictionary

Creativity is the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method, or device, or a new artistic object or form. – Britannica

Creativity is the ability to produce or develop original work, theories, techniques, or thoughts. A creative individual typically displays originality, imagination, and expensiveness. Creative thinking refers to the mental processes leading to a new invention or solution to a problem. Products of creative thinking include new machines, social ideas, scientific theories, artistic works and more. – APA Dictionary of Psychology.

The common keywords that appear in these definitions are – "Original", "Unusual", "New", "Imagination" and "Solutions to a problem".

Another important theme which arises from these definitions is: Creativity is Field Agnostic. As it is a way of thinking and coming up with original ideas, a creative person can belong to any field – be it Art, Business, Science or Sports.

Image credit: Manfred Steger Pixabay

Changing gears from definition, let’s turn our focus towards any child around you, or you can reflect back to the time when you were a child yourself. Do you see Imaginative Play? Do you see Abundant Possibilities? Do you hear “I want to become an Astronaut", "I want to be a bus-driver"? 😊 But what happened to us, now when we are adults? Long serious faces, too practical, realistic and conservative in the way we think. Somewhere during the journey of growing up, our Creativity got lost in the way.

As Sir Ken Robinson provocatively suggests in his TED Talk, did a standardized, formal schooling/training and expectations of a way of life from our significant adults made us trade iff Creativity with becoming straight-jacketed herds, robot-like individuals who are part of the crowd, a cog in the wheel without any stand-out attributes? Food for thought for all of us (rather a buffet of thoughts).

We changed gears above and rammed into gloominess. What do we do now? Put our cars in neutral gear, put the hands on the brake and stay put with not being creative for the rest of our adult life.

Or is there a creative solution to come out of this gloominess and step into a brighter weather? Hmm… maybe, How about (re)-learning Creativity?

Image credit: Lionness of Africa website

Contrary to the popular belief that 'creativity is innate and cannot be learned’, Dr Tina Seelig, Professor of Practice in the Department of Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) at Stanford University says, “Creativity can’t be learned is a myth”. She says the truth is that everyone has creativity, and enhancing it only takes a bit of time and practice.

Dr Tina Seelig has made understanding Creativity and teaching it her life’s mission. She started off her research as a Neurophysiologist, then moving to the world of business and to Stanford to teach Creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation.

In her book, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity (Harper Collins 2012), she points out that we look at creativity in a much too narrow way and must look at it in a new light.

She uses an “Innovation Engine” model to explain how she thinks creativity works.

Image credit: Dr Tina Seelig

The Innovation Engine has two parts:

The Inside is You (internal) - Knowledge, Imagination and Attitude.

The Outside is the External World – Resources, Culture and Habitat.

Let’s do a dip-stick in each of these six concepts:

  1. Imagination:

 Most people start thinking about Creativity with Imagination. However, one of the sad thing is we don’t really teach people how to increase imagination in school.

For example, in kindergarten, a Maths problem is framed as 5+5 = ?. The answer is 10 and it’s the only one correct answer. Can we ask the question differently to generate more than one answer and unleash imagination? What if we asked children what two numbers add up to 10. ? + ? = 10. All of a sudden now, there is now infinite possible correct answers.

Therefore, Rethinking or Reframing the Question, leads to interesting answers. As a matter of fact, the Copernican Revolution, that redefined the model of the Solar System with the Sun in the center instead of the Earth, began with reframing the questions - What if the Sun was in the center?

Indulging oneself in Humour are fun ways of learning how to frame questions differently. After all, humor works only when the semantics unexpectedly switch in the middle of the joke. So, indulge in humor everyday to increase your imagination.

The second method to develop one's imagination is by the practice of Connecting and Combining unrelated ideas. She gives an example of Chindogu (a Japanese Art), in which the inventors create un-useless inventions. "Un-useless items" are objects that are neither useful nor useless at the same time. Chindogu is a fun way to improve your imaginative skills

The third method for developing your imagination is by Challenging Assumptions, via getting breakthrough ideas. By staying in the current set of assumptions, one limits themselves and turn a blind eye to other existing possibilities/opportunities.


  1. Knowledge:

Knowledge is the toolbox for your imagination.

Think about it; in today’s world, revolutionary ideas and breakthroughs are happening by combining the knowledge of different domains, into one integrated interface. Examples include Biomedical Engineering, Behavioural Economics etc.

Apart from the formal way of gaining knowledge (schools and books), one should pay attention to the real-world events that occur in their day-to-day life.

By not paying enough attention and by going through each phase of life as it is, one misses out on various opportunities for solving a problem as well as the solutions that are lying in front of them, waiting to be discovered.

Dr Seelig advocates a method of revisiting the places which we frequent on a routine basis and consciously pay attention to the surroundings. Take in new perceptions, new perspectives, use the mind-mapping method (draw/make notes) of the observations you make in your surroundings.       

  1. Attitude:

Attitude is the motivation, mindset and drive for solving the problems. Unless one has the right attitude and spark alive, they will not be able to go after these problems and solve them.

Dr Seelig opines, most people unfortunately have the attitude of ‘Puzzle Solver’. The problem with this mindset is, if one or two pieces of the puzzle set is missing, they are literally stuck and this lose the motivation to complete the puzzle.

So she recommends developing the attitude of the ‘Quilt Maker’, because a quilt maker will make use of any available resources to complete their goal (quilt). The attitude of the Quilt Maker makes for a true innovator and entrepreneur.  

  1. Habitat:

Habitat is the environment around you, which influences one’s creativity. It includes the people we work with, the rules, rewards, constraints, as well as incentives, among others.

Dr Seelig makes special emphasis on the physical space and draws our attention to the idea of the kindergarten for children. She points out that the kindergarten’s physical space is vibrant, bright, colorful and hence stimulating to the child’s playful, creative nature. Fast-forward it to university classrooms and office cubicles, and the contrast becomes quite apparent. From the vibrant, colorful kindergarten habitat to the monochromatic, cramped-up classrooms and office spaces is so obvious. And ironically,, we wear t-shirts with doodles of the phrase "Think Out of the Box" while we work monotonously in the same cubicle).

One way of looking at the physical space is by perceiving it as a stage on which we have to enact the various phases of our life. A physical space which is playful fosters one’s imagination and creativity. No wonder why innovative companies like Google and Pixar have one thing in common – a playful physical space (i.e. the office environment).

  1. Resources:

Dr Seelig points out, most people restrain their thinking by equating resources with only money. The idea here is to broaden our aperture and look at resources which encompass not only money, but also people, skills, natural resources and culture.

At the end of the day, it always boils down to how we can make sense of the resources we currently have as opposed to the resources we don’t have.

  1. Culture:

“Culture is the background music of any community, of any organization, of every team and of every family.” – Dr Tina Seelig.

A culture that supports an imaginative, multidisciplinary approach, which allows mistakes to be made, which encourages experimentation, which encourages challenging the established norms, eventually ignites creativity. Creativity, therefore, can thrive only when the culture is conducive enough for an individual to question, react and respond to the different phenomena that exists around and within us.  

If we look at the Innovation Engine model closely, we would see that it is a Mobius Strip.

This depicts, none of these 6 factors can be looked at in isolation. The Inside (You) and the External (Outside World) is woven together.

Imagination and Habitat are parallel to each other. The Habitat we build is the manifestation of our imagination. After all, our Habitat is capable of creating an impact on our imagination.

Knowledge and Resources are parallel to each other. Knowledge unlocks the resources; the more we know, the more resources we can unlock. In turn, the more resources we unlock, the more knowledge we produce.

Culture and Attitude are parallel to each other. Culture is the collective attitude of the community. Also, the culture shapes our attitude.

The Mobius Strip model also enables us to start our creativity journey from anywhere in these 6 elements. As an individual, one can start with developing knowledge or one can start with building an attitude etc.

Most importantly, everyone has the key to their Innovation Engine. It is upon us to put the key in, start our Innovation Engine and rekindle our dormant Creativity!

You can watch Dr Tina Seelig’s TEDx Talk on Creativity @ YouTube: 

Link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on Does School Kill Creativity? on YouTube: 

For detailed reading you can look up for Dr Tina Seelig’s book inGenius – A Crash Course on Creativity.