Tag Archives: Creativity

Medici, Goa and a bit of Chindogu!

Last weekend, I was at The Goa Project, an annual pilgrimage for some 240+ oddballs from all over India, and some even taking a long-haul flight to get to Goa. Yes…“oddballs”…that’s the best I can describe a bunch of super enthusiastic, high-energy, talented, multi-faceted, young at heart and spirit (both, literally and metaphorically!), and daring and raring to go folks who all descended at Bay15 – after all, you have to be an oddball to spend your time, effort and money to come all the way to Goa and not spend the time at the beach or going to Tito’s, but talking to people who are equally unique, and probably as crazy as you!

You can’t be at TGP with any expectations! You can’t possibly anticipate who you are gonna meet – someone blending poetry with analytics, or someone installing solar panels in high mountains up in the Himalayas, someone directing theatre, or someone talking about the BDSM scene in India (ok, now I really have your attention J), someone telling about learning from the Gita or someone telling about stained glass, and so on… You name it, and it’s all there. Even Milind Soman for a keynote! So, if you seek knowledge about diverse topics, and are comfortable being a crossover artist or geek or entrepreneur or just someone who likes to be a sponge soaking up in the spirit of meeting such amazing folks and learning from them, then you should definitely have TGP on your annual itinerary!

Yes, and don’t worry about not having an idea what are you gonna do over there. Most people don’t have a clue either 🙂

I Have No Idea!

The Goa Project, as TGP as it is fondly known as, is now in 4th year. I was there for the last year (and conducted a workshop on change and habits “Why we do what we do, and how to do what we really want to do!”), and while I was a bit unsure last time whether I liked it or not, and whether I would go again this year or not, I ended up putting in three proposals, and the awesome organizing team selected two of my proposals. So, there was no way I was getting out of it.

I liken TGP to India’s very own “Medici Effect”, or at least a 2-day mini-Medici, if you will. I don’t know of any other place or event in India where people form literally all walks of life come together and exchange thoughts with each other on different, complementary and often conflicting points of views. Given the increasingly complex interdisciplinary nature of problem-solving, I think there is a dire need for such conversations and help people build a better thinking and problem-solving framework. Of course, the ambience of Goa’s very own sun and sand makes it compelling enough. And the beer does help :)… 

One of my talks was on the book I wrote recently “Agile Product Development”. It was nice to share my journey how I was lucky to get a great break, and what did I go through as I wrote the book last year, and so on. The best think I liked about delivering a talk at TGP was that I could actually deliver a talk wearing sunglasses, shorts and slippers!


However, the more interesting session that I want to talk about in this blog post was a workshop on “Chindogu” – the Japanese art of creating “unuseless” inventions. Unuseless because while the problems a chindogu tries to solve are real, and to that end, the solution is “useful” but the way it it is designed makes it so clumsy or difficult, no one actually uses it. And hence the term “un-useless”. Created by the crazy Japanese inventor Kenji Kawakami, this is a great exercise in creativity. For example, do you know that the original selfie stick was originally “invented” in 80s? You can sample some of these at Ripley’s, Pinterest, and several other sites all over the net. OR, you can straight go for one of the books – “101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions”, “The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions” or “99 More Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu”. Now before you get carried away and discard it as a mindless activity, Chindogu comes with its own ten tenets. Not just about anything will qualify as a Chindogu!

Having read all this, I was naturally curious to experiment. I didn’t find any reference to any Chindogu happening in India, so I felt even more determined to do this crazy stuff. I boldly proposed the session “Let’s build something “unuseless”” to conduct a Chindogu workshop!

My session was on Day 1 evening, and there were some major sessions competing for the audience (guess what sessions I am talking about 😉 ). Still, I was thrilled when some ~10 participants showed up. They made some interesting that blew us away. Here’s a sampling of the pics and the video from the session:










and finally, this is the video of the participants proudly presenting their chindogus:


Aren’t they nice 🙂 

I would encourage you to conduct Chindogu workshops in whatever setting you are: a Montessori, a team building and even en executive retreat! There is a great subtlety that Chindogu session hides in a very innocuous manner – and that is the freedom to experiment and the liberty to fail. No amount of formal communication can convince people to get out of their comfort zone and experiment without worrying about the results better than a Chindogu session.

Of course, you can always call an expert to lead this session 😉

Why do you pay people? No, really?

(Originally published on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141204175129-3616140-why-do-you-pay-people-no-really)

Ask this question to cross-section of professionals across functions and experience levels, and you are bound to get millions of answers. Some of them might look like these:

  • For their knowledge, skills and abilities
  • To do the job!
  • For their efforts
  • For their time
  • Because the law says we must pay them!
  • Else they won’t work
  • So our competitors can’t poach them
  • So they stay committed
  • So they don’t make noise
  • Because I am worth it!
  • and so on…

Sadly, none of these are the right answers in my view (though some of them might be correct, technically speaking). They reflect the largely old mindset that people’s motivation and loyalty (rather, forget these fancy words – actually we are only interested in one thing, and that is productivity!) can be best bought for fair wages, which was perhaps ok when you gave them a one-size-fit-all standard process that they had to follow. A hundred years back, Henry Ford raised his workers daily wages from $2.50 to $5.00 just so they won’t leave his plant (full story herehttp://www.thehenryford.org/education/erb/HenryFordAndInnovation.pdf), where he had built a then ultra-modern system of manufacturing that needed them to simply follow the process blindly (and newcomers on the job could learn the ropes in five minutes flat). So much for paying people to get the job done!

However, what about today? Why do you pay people? No, really?

I think the only reason why we (must) pay people is so they bring ideas to the workplace. New, big, fresh, stolen, borrowed, bold, controversial, unscientific, unproven, risky, weak, potential gamechangers, disruptor of status quo, creative, ridiculous, audacious (big hairy audacious is even better), slayer of mindless bureaucracy, harbingers of change…just about anything will do as long as they bring something to the workplace, as opposed to just being a plug-and-play part in the giant corporate machinery whose daily activities are pretty much pre-decided as per the giant process manual. Much like washing the cars. As long as they don’t see the workplace as a watering hole (or, more contemporary parlance, see a place where they can charge their cellphones – both literally and metaphorically), but like a literal greenfield where they enjoy freedom of tilling fields and joy of sowing seeds and the grit and patience of seeing them grow and flower. Chances are if you are not hiring people for these traits, and not creating conducive environment (including paying them or rewarding them) for these behaviors, they are probably bottling up their real abilities – and you are shortchanging yourself! Given half a chance, they will surely walk out to a place that offers them such chances (and their tribe is surely swelling every passing day), but you perhaps stand to be the biggest loser by not benefiting from their creativity and new ideas. Who knows, they might go across the street, open their startup and buy you out in a few years from now 🙂

Do you pay people for blind obedience to a fixed process, or something else?

In today’s knowledge age, our employees perform best when they bring their ‘heart and mind’ to the workplace – they need to see an emotional connection to their workplace and they must be cognitively challenged by the work to be creative, happy and engaged. Anything short of that, and they are only likely to somehow get through the day! So, do you know why do you pay your employees?

As for me, if my employee doesn’t bring anything new to my workplace, they can as well take their old and stale ideas to my competitors. I would much rather they have it!

Creativity at Workplace ???

Most of us have been told in our appraisal discussions to be more creative, and many of us have, in turn, told our team members to be more creative. Sadly, most of us have no clue what is really means to be creative at the workplace. We normally associate creativity with creative or performing arts – things that we did long back as kids but feel we can’t apply those principles at workplace.

Is creativity limited to dressing informally, or calling people by nicknames, or is it installing the coolest screensaver, painting the walls blue, wearing pink socks or something else ? Definitely, some of them might be every creative efforts, but how do we channelize those creative energies and urges to solving little more meaningfull business problems ? As a manager, is ‘creativity’ available to me as a resource ? Would it conflict with ‘compliance’ in my job ?

Let us explore this subject in more details in the coming weeks.