Reader comment on Nina Wise's passage ...

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    On Apr 22, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

    Some great sharings last night. Neil opened with the story of IBM didn't really think people would buy computers (maybe 40?), and Microsoft came in with a perspective that changed that forever, making computers cheaper, easier to use and smaller (as opposed to large, clunky mainframes). Creativity is about seeing things in a different way.

    Nipun built on this and talked about creative constraints with the example of Dr. V, who although crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, became an eye surgeon, and at the age of 58, started an 11-bed hospital to do cataract surgery with the constraint that one paying patient's fees would cover the cost of two who couldn't pay. He surprisingly made it work, and turned Aravind into the largest eyecare system in the world.

    Nipun also made a deeper point. There is creativity and then there is creativity. We can mix paints from a different bucket and come up with a new color. That is one kind of creativity. Or, we can create a whole new color, that leads to a new genre of possibilities. That is a deeper creativity.

    I liked this distinction very much, and I will build on this in a moment. What struck me was that when we create, we are really giving our being to something and heroically breathing life into it. Once our creation is up-and-running, we give our being in shorter bursts to preserve it. And then comes a time, when we destroy our attachment to our creation and let it go, caring not what happens to it. All of our life's work is a variation in the degree to which we do these three acts, and the knob we are turning is the knob of time, to decide how long each of these phases are going to be.

    The phase that most of us struggle with is the one of destruction, for we are brought up to look at destruction as bad or unfair. When we adopt a more holistic view benefit not just spiritually and emotionally, but also materially, for the lesser ties we have to our past creations, more freedom we have to create anew. One company that Nipun talked about was Ideo, which has formalized the process of creativity and has been the subject of numerous studies on their remarkable repeatability of creative design. What these studies have revealed is that for any product, Ideo first starts with quantity, and tries to get around a thousand ideas on the table. Of the thousand, a hundred may be considered worthy of further exploration. Of the hundred, ten are chosen to be prototyped, and of the ten, one sees the light of day, and may or may not succeed. For the one hit product that we see, we do not see the 999 products that had to be destroyed by their creators. When I say destroyed, I mean it in the sense of attachment. Such a process has led to an iconic status for Ideo, and reveals much about creativity. (see case study)

    Going back to Nipun's distinction between the two kinds of creativity, it connected with a memory of  a conversation with Viral two years back. Viral was telling me how he was interested in observing his impulses and not reacting to them, and I was telling him how I couldn't stop honoring my creative impulses as they came up. Are the two ideas in contradiction, with one telling us to develop self-restraint, and the other telling us to let go? Two years hence, I don't see any contradiction. Observing impulses helps us separate the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the deeper impulses of creativity. A practical question arises, as usual. How do I know I'm not fooling myself into thinking the impulse comes from the depth of my being and is not noise? From observation, I've noticed that there are some qualities of these deep impulses - the primary one being that it sparks a sense of holiness. I immediately know that this is a good thing, with no confusion whatsoever in my mind, and the little self melts away somewhere. Then, the only thing left to do is to be led by this holiness with an openness, ready to delight in my discovery. In a sense, the path finds me. And there is no expectation whatsoever. That is the practical test. With the other kind of impulse, there is a want, and an expectation, usually followed by an imbalance and desperation.

    Thinking about this now as I'm writing, there's a world of difference between the two, but I wouldn't know it without slowing down and looking at each carefully. Hence the need for restraint, not of the creative impulse but of the voices that take away our freedom to choose by impelling us to react. Doing so can help pick the purest, best impulses for ourselves (we deserve the best - hard to argue against that!)

    Neil had also shared earlier how there is creativity in simplicity, and that was a kind of creativity that often gets missed. Others picked up on this. Ripa shared her beautiful experiences with children, and I hope she will regale us with the story of how she learned from her little yoga practitioners' creativity. Audrey shared a Math teaching experience with a second grader, and how she realized that concepts that have become second nature to us are alien to a child, forcing her to be creative in her teaching. Aumatma shared how native americans make a huge work of art to destroy it right after its made. Guri was reminded of the mandalas of the Tibetans which are also destroyed upon completion. Guri went on to share some beautiful stories from her travels. One was about how gorgeously the streets were decorated for easter with leaves and flowers and were all destroyed after a procession. That was the purpose of the decoration. She then talked about an experience where, because the elctricity went off, she was able to observe a spectacle of light caused by fireflies, which she'd have missed had the outage not happened.

    Last night was of course, extra special, with CF Mom's birthday.


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