Friday, February 02, 2007

What exactly is creativity ?

Are you creative? Would you like to be one who has these traits? Why is that few do something the creative way and few the regular way? Don't creative people just get into trouble or do they get appreciation? Is it something innate or something that can be learnt? Creativity is the reflection of originality, it's exciting but also demanding, consuming, frustrating, and addictive; it's inspiring but also fickle, erratic, tricky, and risky. Creativity can be found anywhere, at home or work as easily as in engineering or science or for that matter any walk of life. I feel all creations of art and literature are products of creativity. In product development, I have seen some fundu ideas that have solved problems, which had its roots in sheer creativity.

[Work by Arunkumar using Microsoft Paint]

This is a work by Arunkumar, an application programer and a person I know. I have often seen this fellow doing something crazy when he is drained of any solution, not getting exactly what he is seeking for, he takes a break and then does something and comes back rejuvenated. He was able to crack one cryptic problem, few days back and when I asked him how he did it. The answer was this pic, above. That’s his way, and I appreciate and like when one works in his/her own style and that’s it. Few even see to it as faltu time-pass but then that's one's way of thinking, if its Arunkumar's way of recharging his exhausted cells, fine it's his choice.

So the moot point is creativity can erupt suddenly or emerge slowly. Creativity means being both different and better. Being different without being better is often superfluous, to me or just odd. Being better without being different is just evolution, not revolution. It’s like just another one in the crowd. For an act to be deemed creative, there must be an accepted style or method against which it can be judged original. The accepted style or method is the benchmark/yardstick, and creativity often begins by rejecting or at least questioning it. There is a subtle difference between questioning it and challenging it and often people perceive the former as an act out of ego and to display over-smartness. An activity may seem creative up front, according to intent, but not creative in hindsight, according to results. The burden of proof is with the creators to demonstrate that their innovation is an improvement over what's gone before.

Lets not get into the biggies and stalwarts in business and you name it every firm starting from IBM to Wal-Mart, from Dell to Yahoo, from GE to Toyota, there are hordes of creative ideas that have shaped these establishments. I am sure you would have heard, read or seen about the practices of these conglomerates in some form or the other. Lets get into something which is very basic and simple and how simple creativity reached the common man today. Each one in India is aware about the Vicks Vaporub. The brainchild for this innovative product so that it reaches the common masses is none other than Gurucharan Das, who was deputed as the marketing manager for Vicks VapoRub in India. Initially he started out marketing it as a western product in a western manner, but soon decided to rely on traditional marketing networks and adopted its use to local custom needs. He traveled to the remote parts of western India and saw how life moves on in Mumbai with close precision. His sample space was the labor class, the working class that was plagued by cold after the rains in the June-Aug period in India. To get around regulations, his team researched and discovered that Vicks VapoRub qualified as an Ayurvedic product - all the ingredients qualify as Ayurvedic. So it can be sold at any shop [panwala, grocery shop] without any medical prescriptions and after a decade or so, most Indians believed it was an Indian product. To make it more user-friendly, he also made sure that the VapoRub was sold in small round coin shaped aluminum or metallic containers. There was a reason behind this also, most of the laborers and those working near the construction sites used to inhale the steam coming out from a hot water placed on a make shift chulha [oven]. Since the VapoRub was now available in aluminium or metallic containers, it withstood the high temperature conditions and to garnish this creative idea, the prices were reasonable for a common man to afford. Soon India became the largest consumer market for Vicks VapoRub and Das became the CEO of Proctor & Gamble India. I read this in his book India Unbound and this instance speaks in simple terms about creativity and its pragmatic application.

The creative mind always continues to push the boundary of new and better, and yet they also celebrate the growing prevalence of positive trends and design for something that is widely diffused throughout society.

Creativity comes in many flavors and there is no definite definition for it.

Like this one, which I read in Economic Times, just 2 days back, how the Dabbawallas are the next generation sales and marketing personnel for Airtel. Don’t you think this is a creative move to provide more visibility to Brand Airtel, which is having 17 lakh users in Mumbai as against 24 lakh users of its competitor, Hutch in the same metro? Also I liked the idea, as it’s more practical and much better than the regular calls that I get: [Sir/Madam, this is ABC from XYZ Mobile Services, Which service provider are you using now and do you mind trying services from XYZ. Sir/Madam, please try it once.]. They call it tele-marketing and I feel its bugging.

Well if you can define creativity, drop me an email [id is in my profile] and I am always eager to read your views and share mine.

Keep reading and remain connected.


At 5:00 AM, Blogger Kishore said...

Interesting. One more instance I can remember is Maggie Noodles. In the mid-80s when it was launched, it was considered a "western" food and people resisted buying it.. and they found it very hard to position as well - it's not exactly a breakfast, not as heavy as a lunch, not the most ideal dinner - so where could it fit?

And then they came up with the "2-minutes" idea.. the ad started showing 2 kids coming home tired from school and they get an evening snack in just 2 minutes!

The interesting thing about their USP - they don't even say it is tasty! "2-minutes" to prepare sells...

And well, about the creativity bit - here's a question. How "subjective" do you think the idea of creativity is? Say, a good writer can be a hotselling writer and yet be least creative. While, a creative writer might get nary a notice..

- Kishore


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