Tag: Creativity


When you don’t know swiss german

I was in Davos last month for our Annual Meeting 2016. Once I reached my apartment, I was looking for a ‘Clothes Iron’ to press my clothes and get ready for my meeting which was scheduled to happen in an hour. After an extensive search, I realized that the apartment didn’t have one. I called the Apartment owner to locate it inside the apartment. Below is our conversation.

Me: Good Evening Madam! I am calling from Rex 53. I need a clothes iron. Could you please let me know where is it inside the apartment?

Owner: English…No

Me: Iron? Clothes Iron?

Owner: English…No..German?

Me: German…No

Owner: French?

Me: Only English..No French…No German

We both were giggling but couldn’t find a way to communicate to each other. I thanked her and dropped the line. After a few mins, I sent this message below via sms

Iron Box

Within 10 mins, she was at my place with an Iron and we both had a hearty laugh. What Swiss German could not solve, a smartphone solved.

Next time, when you are stuck with Swiss German, you know what to do…:)

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Lion Supermarket

When you see a Lion in the supermarket

The thing that I enjoy most is playing with (my) kids as my full self expression comes out during those times. A favorite activity among them is teaching them and working with them to complete their assignments. Last week, my son got this assignment from his language class and more than him, I was excited about this assignment. I thought this is a great opportunity to teach him about a crisis situation and how to respond during an emergency.

I asked my son what he thought happened next but he wasn’t excited at all even though animals are his favorite subject. I decided to do a role play and we enacted the whole scene where I was the lion and he was inside the supermarket dealing with the situation. You can find a video in the link below

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/3pYD5P5_CDo” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

My Son’s story — “The Lion entered the supermarket and everybody got scared. I asked all the people to move to safe places. I slowly opened the freezer to take the meat packets and threw them towards the lion. The lion ate the meat and then, we all escaped”. I loved his story and it was very creative.

I decided to take it to few of my friends who are of my age group in Facebook and asked them what would be the story after the lion entered the supermarket.

One friend said “I will open the chilli powder packets and throw at it. It cant take the smell and will run away”. Another friend said ‘I will switch off the power and throw all the oil on the floor so that the lion will slip and cannot move. I will then call the local Zoo officials to come and take the lion”. My best buddy Akilan said ‘I will show a picture of a Lioness and then, when this lion is drooling over it, I will escape”. Another creative version of the story!

It got me thinking and led me to reflect on what was leading to the creativity. Each answer had an assumption and it was the breaking of the assumption through a ‘new definition’ keeping the context alive that led to the creativity. Below are the assumptions

  1. My son — Lion was hungry and it is going to eat all of them (It is a normal Lion)
  2. Friend 1 — Lion is going to attack everyone (It is a normal Lion)
  3. Friend 2 — Lion is going to attack (It is a normal Lion)
  4. Akilan — This Lion is not a normal Lion.

The first three answers were very logical and creative but Akilan’s answer was super creative because it broke the standard assumptions about the Lion and instead, it ‘redefined’ lion in a new way. Also, he understood the context of this exercise which is about creating an imaginative story.

I remembered a quote that my Brain Sciences Professor at London Business School shared in the class — ‘Ask not what is inside the head but what the head is inside of’.

If I ‘redefine’ Lion using the following criteria, my story will also become very creative.

  1. It is the most friendly lion in the city
  2. It can speak French
  3. Selfies with this lion are the most viral in twitter

This ‘redefinition’ criteria needs to fit the context and objective of what we are trying to achieve as a whole. If we observe infants, they do two things 1. Be fully immersed in their activity which is full of new definitions — mobile phone will be used as car, paper will be used as house etc. 2. Check in with their parents once visually or through physical touch. What they are doing, in essence, that makes them so creative and wonderful are Redefining things and staying connected to their source.

My learning — To be creative in any situation, we need to do the following

1. Understand the assumptions

2. Redefine the status quo using criteria that fits the context plus purpose

3. Tell a compelling story

4. Last but not the least, Spend some time with kids regularly

In fact, there was an unfortunate incident in a Delhi Zoo last week when a young man fell inside the tiger enclosure. The man was killed by the tiger after the crowds started throwing stones at the tiger and in turn, the tiger became furious. The following question is not just relevant for creating an imaginative story but also to save a life.

What will you do when you see a lion in the supermarket?

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Taj Mahal Hotel

A picture with Clayton Christensen

It was 17 March 2011 and I got a call from my ex-Boss Hari Nair that he was going to meet HBS Professor and the World’s Top Management Thinker Clayton Christensen at theTaj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. This was the same hotel where there was a massive terrorist attack in 2008.


Prof.Christensen is the Co-founder of the consulting firm that I was part of in India and Hari was leading the India Operations of the firm. Hari knows how much I idolize Clay and he was kind enough to extend the invitation to me. Clay had come to attend the TCS board meeting and we had an one hour appointment with him.

On the way to meeting Clay, we realized that we didn’t have a camera and our cell phone cameras(Nokia and Blackberry) were not good enough to get a good picture with Clay. Hari decided to buy a good camera as he settles only for the best. We roamed around Taj Mahal hotel area and we couldn’t find a single shop that sold cameras. We had 40 minutes before our appointment with Clay.After searching for a while, we got tired and we were concerned about the meeting time. We were looking for an answer and suddenly remembered the ‘jobs to be done’ framework pioneered by Clay which we used to advocate for our clients.

The ‘jobs to be done’ framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives. Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the “average” customer in their category may do — but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. As legendary Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

We asked this question ‘What is the job that we are trying to get done?’. What do we need this camera for? To take pictures with Clay. What tools can help us take a picture with Clay? Photographers, Studios, Cameras, mobile phones etc. Mobile phone and cameras are not an option now. We started looking for studios and after a while, we asked ‘Won’t Taj have a photographer or will they not arrange for a photographer if we want one?’. We almost got the answer. We went to the concierge services at Taj and asked them to help us to get a few pictures. They said ‘With pleasure sir!’. After our meeting with Clay, a photographer came to take a few pictures with Clay and to this day,this picture is one of my prized possessions.

What we were expecting from the Taj was a receipt to collect the pictures at a later date and instead, they had printed the picture, framed it in a way that was way beyond our expectations. They also emailed the pictures to us. What more could we have asked for?

The pictures cost us Rs.350 as against the Rs.10,000 or more we would have spent for a digital camera. Had we got the camera, we would have asked ‘somebody’ who passed by to take a random picture but now, this picture was taken by a professional photographer of Taj Mahal Hotel. The ‘Jobs to be done’ framework taught by Clay saved the day for us and we both went back happily having achieved two things 1. Getting high quality framed pictures with Clay at a very affordable price 2. Practicing what we preached our clients.

Next time, When you are looking for a solution, try asking this question ‘what is the job that I am trying to get done?’ and then, suddenly the number of solutions will seem to be plenty.

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