Archive for August, 2011

WOW! What Do Designers/Problem Solvers Do?

August 31, 2011

What do Designers/Problem Solvers do?

Do they design ‘things’?

Do they solve problems?

Do they ‘right’ the mistakes, limitations, assumptions, imperfections in an existing situation?

Do they ‘change’ situations and thereby the circumstances that help people in some way?


IOU – “3S” — The Design Mantra

August 29, 2011

What is so special about Design?

Well it is not everything but it has an insidious way of seeping into anything around us as we are, so to say, completely dependent on the ‘designed’ world of ours. Even if we were to go back thousands of years to our simplistic way of living,which is a quite unlikely possibility, to save ourselves from premature extinction we would need to design that world too!

Whatever we might choose to do, designers who are basically problem solvers would need ‘software’ or a ‘mantra’ to inform, drive and remind them of the task ahead and how best it might be done.

To me the simplest possible ‘software’ or ‘mantra’ may be captured by three Indian words, as said in India, ‘Satyam, Shivam Sundaram’.

While ‘Satyam’ stands for truth, ‘Shivam’ symbolizes unification of the male and female energies to create something new and Sundaram represents anything that is both beautiful and useful.

That can be a fine ‘mantra’ for design and designers since it first asks us to ‘see’ the reality to find out what exactly is to made ‘right’ and then use our creative energies that lends expression to some form of artifact that would be both beautiful and useful to people.

Not only the mantra is simple to remember but also captures the essence and purpose of design to continually ‘right’ things.

CL – The role of Creativity & Design

August 26, 2011

Many people take creativity and design to mean making things from ‘spoons to cities’ as the famous adage goes.

Sure it is. But there is something vital, which we generally tend to overlook.

I quote from Ralph Caplan’s book, ‘By Design: Why There are no Locks in the Bathroom‘.

“…design at its best is the process of making things right. That is designers, at their best, create things and places that work. But things often do not work. And making things right is not just a generative but a corrective process – a way of righting things of straigtening them out and holding them together coherently.”

In other words, it is a continual effort to correct problems or ‘solve them’ as they crop up, which they, for some strange reasons, come up every minute.

That is what the term Design Thinking is all about. It can be applied to ‘right’ anything we do as human beings.

Though the creative ability to ‘right things’ lies in every one of us we often don’t get to see it being applied to make things ‘right’.

Why is that?



CL – acronym that stands for Creative Leadership

IUO – Creative Leaders Usually Suffer!

August 24, 2011

“When so many scholars in the world are calculating, is it not right that some, who can, dream?” – René Thom

Rene Thom was a creative leader because he was the first to bring out a mathematical treatment for ‘complexity’ a ‘wicked problem’ that evaded us for long.

Thom was the spiritual leader in the development of catastrophe theory, used to study and classify phenomena characterized by sudden shifts in behavior arising from small perturbations, that is, a mathematical treatment of continuous action producing a discontinuous result.

It was extremely useful and is now the basis of further development in this new and interesting study of the phenomenon of complexity.

Although Thom introduced the theory in the late 1960’s it didn’t appear in book form until 1972 with the publication of Christopher Zeeman, who named the theory, brought it to the attention of the general public and pioneered its application to the biological and behavioral sciences.

The motivation for its development was laudable since the need to develop appropriate mathematical tools for use in the biological, behavioral and social sciences is not disputed. 

Ian Stewart in Life’s Other Secret (1998) wrote: “…it completely revolutionized bifurcation theory. It was a bloodless revolution, accomplished under an assumed name (singularity theory), and it took place largely within mathematics, so hardly anybody noticed.” Catastrophe theory paved the way for the more influential chaos theory.

But some critics claimed catastrophe theory was little more than an intellectual fad. Thom reluctantly announced its demise in 1990: “Catastrophe theory is dead. For as soon as it became clear that the theory did not permit quantitative prediction, all good minds … decided in was of no value.”

Does that not remind us of Galileo Galilei who was forced to retract his support for the ‘heliocentric’ view under the pressure of the church and of Giordano Bruno, the fine mathematician and philosopher, who became a martyr at the stakes for propagating free thought and modern scientific ideas?

Creative leaders who lead the path less taken usually suffer when their ideas are far ahead of their times and the ignorant society rejects them. 

CL — The Sage Entrepreneurs – Part 2

August 22, 2011

CL: Laughing – How serious is that?

August 22, 2011

Just for a moment consider the possibility of an organization that punishes ‘laughing’ and ‘smiling’.

You might think, ‘This is ridiculous. Is that possible?’. 

But such was the ‘law’ in Ford Motor Company. At Ford’s River Rouge plant, laughter was a disciplinary offence. Anyone caught humming, whistling or smiling were punished by instant sacking. Such acts were considered to be acts of insubordination.

Not long ago, in 1940, John Gallo was sacked because he was ‘caught in the act of smiling’ after having committed an earlier breach of ‘laughing with the other fellows and slowing down the line by may be half a minute’.

This was the overall philosophy of the times which did not escape Henry Ford who said, ‘When we are at work we ought to be at work. When we are at play we ought to be at play. There is no use trying to mix the two.’

Though it seems a bit weird in today’s context I still find this attitude prevalent in the factories of today where the ingrained attitude rooted deep enough is ‘NO PLAY; IF IT IS PLAY YOU AREN’T SERIOUS’.

It is such a deeply held belief that not long ago British Airways initiated a change management program that implored their flight attendants to ‘simply smile’.

Having fun and joy in work is the new mantra of work today. May be modern organizations need more balance and integration of the Right and Left Brains for survival, growth and productivity enhancement! Having exhausted the old and tested methods of enhancing productivity we must realize the innate but hidden strengths that lie in the new ways to laugh at our own stupidity and our deeply held assumptions on everything only to find new ways of creating value for the society in the future. 


WOW! How funny!

August 19, 2011

During the 1920s, quantum physicists struggled to conceptually move from the paradigm of parts to the paradigm of the whole. However, it was hard to break down the Cartesian mechanistic mindset till it was spectacularly broken down in physics by Heisenberg who saw the shift from the ‘parts’ to the ‘whole’ as the central aspect of that conceptual revolution.

He was so impressed by it that he titled his scientific autobiography Der Teil und das Ganze (‘The Part and the Whole‘).

Unfortunately, Heisenberg’s British and American publishers did not realize the significance of this title and renamed the book as ‘Physics and Beyond’.

How funny!

CL — The Sage Entrepreneurs – Part 1

August 15, 2011

Wow! Ride on the Edge?

August 12, 2011

An intriguing Koan to crack:


IOU – The Mantra of Wealth!

August 10, 2011

One day a young disciple came to his Guru with a very worried look on his face.

The Guru asked, “What happened? Why do you look so gloomy?”

The disciple replied, ‘Oh, Guruji, there is one question that is weighing heavily on my mind.’

Curious, Guruji asked, ‘What is that?’

With lot of hesitation in his voice the pupil narrated his problem, ‘Well, I wanted to know the secret of earning wealth. My family is not very well off and I feel that time has come for me to help my family become wealthy enough and live life without much anxiety.”

The Guruji broke into peels of laughter. ‘Well then young man, now listen to this mantra that holds the secret of gaining wealth.’ With this the Guruji unveiled the sacred mantra for success.

” As you know Saraswati and Lakhmi are two sisters. And you also know that while Saraswati stands for knowledge and wisdom Lakhmi stands for wealth. However, of the two sisters, Lakhmi is very jealous of Saraswati though Saraswati is the kind, forgiving and the gentle one. So here is the mantra. If you choose to love Lakhmi more than Saraswati, Saraswati won’t mind that and let you be with Lakhmi. But then Lakhmi would soon desert you. But if you choose to love Saraswati much more than Lakhmi then Lakhmi would be very jealous and would constantly follow you and try to allure you all the while. Do keep taking her costly gift of wealth but don’t desert Saraswati because once you have done that Lakhmi would desert you soon.”

The disciple was more than happy to receive this sacred mantra before he left his Guruji’s place with Saraswati clearly placed in his heart.