Monthly Archives: August 2015

Are you creative enough to recognize creativity?

What kills creativity more than anything else is non-creative people being responsible for the development of a creative individual. Creativity more than anything else is in the mind. We need to ask ourselves: are we creative enough to recognize and reward creativity. A cute story…

imagesOnce a child was taking the Minnesota Test for Creative Thinking developed by Dr. E. Paul Torrance. The child was working on the Circles and Squares Task. She had 42 circles to fill in with sketches of things and was making slow progress. When the teacher announced that there was only one minute left the child quickly drew a man at the bottom of her page of circles and added lines from his hand to each of the circles to show a balloon man.

How would you evaluate this imaginative solution compared to the solutions of other kids who sketched 42 different things? What she may have lacked in fluency (numbers of ideas) she made up in originality (unusual and unexpected solutions). Creativity can manifest in more than one way.

Do you reward creativity?

Creativity by definition is unconventional. We need to accept that and we need to ask ourselves…often the creative solution that is presented to us does not come out the way we envisaged but do we have the courage to reward “creativity” in any case. Read on….

high-gt-create2This is a true story. Once a student took “Psychology of Personality” at Boston University. She had read all but two chapters among the required books. The final exam consisted of just one essay question: Apply the principles of analysis to a specified character in a chapter I had not read!

Realizing she might flunk this class, the student tried to salvage what she could. She wrote a note to Professor Smith (his real name) at the top of her answer sheet, admitting the truth and asking for some credit for whatever knowledge she could demonstrate. And expressed hope that he might enjoy her writings— regardless of my grade.

Since she knew the principles of analysis she applied them to someone familiar to all of us: Benjamin Franklin. With little to lose and an hour to kill, she wrote a humorous essay using Ben Franklin’s proverbs to prove her points. While her classmates struggled and sweated, she giggled her way through the final. “A penny saved is a penny earned” shows an anal retentive personality and “Fish and visitors stink after three days” describes an OCD personality with a possible fish phobia. She explained how it all works.

A few days later she was astounded to see an A+ on my exam, along with a note from the professor: “The highest goal of psychology studies is to help people cope with life. You deserve an A+.”

How do you define creativity?

It’s hard to accurately define creativity. It has so many shapes, sizes and forms. The story given below is a great example of quickness and agility of mind. This is a manifestation of creativity.

downloadThere is the story of William Pitt, 1759-1806, British statesman and Prime Minister from 1783-1801, who once sought to expedite a crucial agreement in Parliament for the movement of the British fleet to defend against the French. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Newcastle, had certain objections, but when Pitt called on the Chancellor endeavouring to resolve the differences, he found the Chancellor distinctly unhappy in bed suffering with gout.

The bedroom was freezing, and when Pitt remarked on this, Lord Newcastle replied that the cold weather would hinder the fleet movement, but more particularly that the combination of the cold conditions and the gout would prevent any further discussion of the issue at that time, which Pitt quickly judged to be at the root of the problem.

Begging the Chancellor’s pardon, Pitt calmly removed his boots, climbed into bed and drew up the covers (apparently there was another bed in the room), whereupon the two were able to discuss the matter and soon agreed a united way forward.

Is the road to creative success paved with criticism or encouragement?

For all those of us who manage teams: creative or otherwise, it’s extremely important to ALWAYS remember that criticism encourages the “creative” portion of the brain to shut down and go into a “defensive” mode. If you are criticizing anyone, beware of the consequences.

images (3)Years ago there was a group of brilliant young men at the University of Wisconsin, who seemed to have amazing creative literary talent. They were would-be poets, novelists, and essayists. They were extraordinary in their ability to put the English language to its best use. These promising young men met regularly to read and critique each other’s work. And critique it they did!

These men were merciless with one another. They dissected the most minute literary expression into a hundred pieces. They were heartless, tough, even mean in their criticism. The sessions became such arenas of literary criticism that the members of this exclusive club called themselves the “Stranglers.”

Not to be outdone, the women of literary talent in the university were determined to start a club of their own, one comparable to the Stranglers. They called themselves the “Wranglers.” They, too, read their works to one another. But there was one great difference. The criticism was much softer, more positive, more encouraging. Sometimes, there was almost no criticism at all. Every effort, even the most feeble one, was encouraged.

Twenty years later an alumnus of the university was doing an exhaustive study of his classmates’ careers when he noticed a vast difference in the literary accomplishments of the Stranglers as opposed to the Wranglers. Of all the bright young men in the Stranglers, not one had made a significant literary accomplishment of any kind. From the Wranglers had come six or more successful writers, some of national renown such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote The Yearling.

Talent between the two? Probably the same. Level of education? Not much difference. But the Stranglers strangled, while the Wranglers were determined to give each other a lift. The Stranglers promoted an atmosphere of contention and self doubt. The Wranglers highlighted the best, not the worst.

Do you look behind an invention to see what it takes to create?

If you look at the history of most brilliant inventions or inventors, there is a common thread…there is an obsession about the work that is being done. You can only create if you are “driven” by the desire to create and not by the kudos those inventions will bring.

imagesThe Brooklyn Bridge that spans the river tying Manhattan Island to Brooklyn is truly a miracle bridge. In 1863, a creative engineer named John Roebling was inspired by an idea for this spectacular bridge. However, bridge-building experts throughout the world told him to forget it; it could not be done.

Roebling convinced his son, Washington, who was a young upand coming engineer, that the bridge could be built. The two of them developed the concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With unharnessed excitement and inspiration, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.

The project was only a few months under construction when a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling and severely injured his son, Washington. Washington was left with permanent brain damage and was unable to talk or walk. Everyone felt that the project would have to be scrapped since the Roeblings were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built.

Even though Washington was unable to move or talk, his mind was as sharp as ever, and he still had a burning desire to complete the bridge. An idea hit him as he lay in his hospital bed, and he developed a code for communication. All he could move was one finger, so he touched the arm of his wife with that finger, tapping out the code to communicate to her what to tell the engineers who were building the bridge. For thirteen years, Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger until the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge was finally completed.

Do you respond creatively to situations that life throws up?

Often the people who do well in life are not those who graduated at the top of their class at school. It’s often those people that spot an opportunity in adversity and capitalize on it where other people only see the adversity.

imagesMy friend’s neighbor, Carla, found herself stranded one day without a car and without enough money for a taxi home. But she did have an idea, thanks to “flexible thinking.” Carla noticed a nearby pizza place, walked in, and ordered a pizza for delivery to her home. She waited for the delivery guy to get into his car with her pizza and hitched a ride. She was home in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed, while the pizza was still hot.

Creativity isn’t always about producing things. Sometimes people use their creativity to respond to unexpected challenges in everyday life.

What do you as a manager or the organization as a whole do to encourage creativity?

Everyone likes a creative team member, whether it is the research team or the operations team. The question we need to ask ourselves is what are we doing to encourage this creative streak in team members. Unstructured time to pursue an idea is a risk…but the surest way to encourage a creative mind set.

images (1)The 3M Company encourages creativity from its employees. The company allows its researchers to spend 15 percent of their time on any project that interests them. This attitude has brought fantastic benefits not only to the employees but to the 3M Company itself. Many a times, a spark of an idea turned into a successful product has boosted 3M’s profits tremendously.

Some years ago, a scientist in 3M’s commercial office took advantage of this 15 percent creative time. This scientist, Art Fry, came up with an idea for one of 3M’s best-selling products. It seems that Art Fry dealt with a small irritation every Sunday as he sang in the church choir. After marking his pages in the hymnal with small bits of paper, the small pieces would invariably fall out all over the floor.

Suddenly, an idea struck Fry. He remembered an adhesive developed by a colleague that everyone thought was a failure because it did not stick very well. “I coated the adhesive on a paper sample,” Fry recalls, “and I found that it was not only a good bookmark, but it was great for writing notes. It will stay in place as long as you want it to, and then you can remove it without damage.”

Yes, Art Fry hit the jackpot. The resulting product was called Post-it and has become one of 3M’s most successful office products.

What qualities are required for creativity?

To my mind the single most important quality that inspires creativity is an open mind. Serendipity comes everyone’s way, but how many of us are able to harness the good fortune that has come our way? Are we able to see the potential in the event or do we just look at it as another event and let it pass by?

imagesIn 1879, Procter and Gamble’s best seller was candles. But the company was in trouble. Thomas Edison had invented the light bulb, and it looked as if candles would become obsolete. Their fears became reality when the market for candles plummeted since they were now sold only for-special occasions.

The outlook appeared to be bleak for Procter and Gamble. However, at this time, it seemed that destiny played a dramatic part in pulling the struggling company from the clutches of bankruptcy. A forgetful employee at a small factory in Cincinnati forgot to turn off his machine when he went to lunch. The result? A frothing mass of lather filled with air bubbles. He almost threw the stuff away but instead decided to make it into soap. The soap floated. Thus, Ivory soap was born and became the mainstay of the Procter and Gamble Company.

Why was soap that floats such a hot item at that time? In Cincinnati, during that period, some people bathed in the Ohio River. Floating soap would never sink and consequently never got lost. So, Ivory soap became a best seller in Ohio and eventually across the country also.

Like Procter and Gamble, never give up when things go wrong or when seemingly insurmountable problems arise. Creativity put to work can change a problem and turn it into a gold mine.

How do you cultivate creativity at workplace?

Often we turn to the most brilliant minds and expensive tools to find solutions for problems at our workplace. Are we too focused in finding complex answers, when the solution might really be more commonplace? This story highlights how an ordinary worker found the simplest and the most inexpensive solution to a big problem being faced by his organization. Read on.

images (2)A Japanese soap factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the soap inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Customers who come all the way to the supermarket would end up buying someone else’s product.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the soap factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution — on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using some high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a soap box weighing less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints and they were gaining market share. “That’s some money well spent!” – he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report. It turns out the number of defects picked up by the new high precision scales was “zero” after three weeks of production use. It should’ve been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the high precision scales were installed. A few feet before it, there was a $ 20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.

“Oh, that — one of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang”, says one of the workers.

Moral of the Story: Everyone has a “solution” sometimes requiring an expenditure of “8 million bucks”. It requires an engineer with a high spirit of innovation and ingenuity to come up with a ”$20 – simple cost-effective solution”!