Monday, June 21, 2010

Blog announcements

My blog has been quite stagnant for a while. Don't worry, it's not that I have stopped thinking, but I'm encountering some anamolies in thought for various issues, and am trying to iron things out.

Within the next few months, I will churn out thoughts on the following issues:

1) Hedonism and the hedonic treadmill
2) The diverse manifestations of psychology
3) What we can learn from Sherlock Holmes
4) Is our understanding of creativity completely wrong?
5) Malcolm Gladwell's articles
6) A spiritual approach to materialism
7) The value of questioning everything

The posts may not come out in chronological sequence, I will naturally write the ones which have more weight on my mind first. If you'd like to know, numbers 1,3 and 7 are constantly bugging me.

Some posts will be linked as well, but that's all i would say for now. Please stay tuned to my Renaissance Domain :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A spiritual approach to creativity

This is my first 'idea-in-progress' post, which from the name, is about an idea in progress. Actually, while all my ideas are ideas in progress, these posts are about ideas that are at a very primitive stage, meaning I could have just thought of the idea today, which for this one, I have. And to differentiate such posts from normal posts, there will be no picture to begin it.

So anyway, today I was viewing these youtube videos on this notion of a 'spectrum', of mental disorders. The spectrum was measured along the notion of love and fear, and on the fear end of the spectrum was schizophrenia. In the middle, of mixed experiences, is bipolar mania, and the love end, is a spiritual emergency.

So the video was going about how some 'bipolar' experiences are in fact, spiritual emergencies. And it prompted 2 questions in me. Is the link between bipolar disorder and creativity, pseudo? And, what if we approached creativity from a spiritual point of view?

The first question would lead somewhat to the 2nd question. Because I've noticed from the video, that the traits exhibited by people in spiritual emergencies, are similar to those of creative people. For instance, they become more intuitive, and the traditional barriers they once held on to begin to break down, and they see things more metaphorically. So creative people might not have bipolar disorder at all, but they are having a spiritual emergency. Just that if society does not let them develop their spiritual awakening, it becomes full-blown bipolar disorder. That is when the bad stuff really happens.

But this is just my deduction, remember it's an idea in progress.

Then comes the 2nd question, which is the main theme for this post. What if, we decided to break the traditionally held ideas of creativity and viewed it from a very spiritual viewpoint? Da Vinci did it, (or at least I think he did it). At the moment, many creative gurus are viewing creativity a bit like a machine, or process. To put it clearer, it's a bit like how many martial arts teachers teach martial arts nowadays. They teach the form, the technique, but not the philosophy, or the 'art' of the martial art. In my opinion, they might as well change the name to 'martial science'.

My point here is not to derail science, I am a science student after all, but what I'm trying to say is that we should not solely depend on science alone. True we need to know the form, but it is also important to know the art and the philosophy behind it. Because it is the art and the philosophy of a martial art, that we can use in our daily lives, outside our training, which enables us to understand what we practice better. It is through understanding this art that the science begins to change. For instance, if your martial art is based on compassion, then if you attack an opponent violently with a lot of anger, then you know that something is wrong with your training. If that's the case, then perhaps you should learn a more aggressive martial art, with which the philosophy is about securing victory at all costs. Either that or you can begin practicing compassion in your daily life.

This is like how martial arts meets spirituality.

Same with creativity, I personally feel we have been taught a lot of science about creativity, but we have yet to learn to appreciate it as an art, which is important. We know creative techniques, we know brainstorming, but other than the creative meetings we attend, how often do we use creativity anywhere else? If we only use creativity in that one or 2 hour session, then how are we supposed to develop creativity?

Da Vinci probably viewed creativity as a means of cultivating his soul. The thing about him is that he didn't use creativity to generate scalable business ideas, he used creativity simply because he enjoyed being creative. Just like great martial artists practice martial arts not to defeat everyone around them, but for health and leisure, and also a little bit of intellectual curiosity.

For me, I believe in being creative as a means of being happy, that's it. There's a certain thrill to taking risks and using your creativity to maneuver through the odds, just like how u maneuver a jet plane through a mass of falling rocks. Creativity to me isn't just about solving problems or generating new ideas, it's about enjoying life and being happy.

I think if a person wishes to be truly creative, he has to adopt this attitude. He should learn to enjoy writing stories, poems, and engage in art and music. A person who only knows creativity is important in his job but does not seek to live creatively, is like how many kids start to learn martial arts because they saw a cool move in a movie. The essence isn't there.

So this ends my first idea-in-progress post. Why I am still quite uncertain about it is because of the notion of spirituality. I've realised that spirituality is a bit hard to define. That's why I didn't use so much of the word here. Perhaps I will think along the lines of the 'mind, body, soul' concept I've thought of recently and do some adjustments from there.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Idea Book, talk about immense creativity

Well, it has been a long time since my last post and finally I'm putting one up because my exams are over! And what better way to celebrate than to go listen to a talk by Fredrik Haren, the author of 'The Idea Book' and probably the most creative person I have ever met.

Fredrik is one of the most talked about names in the field of business creativity, and this masterpiece of his, the Idea Book, has sold 200 000 + copies in 40 countries and has been translated into 9 languages. Amazing thing is, his company,, has only 6 employees.


2 in Singapore, 2 in Sri Lanka, 2 in Sweden.

And his book, is one of the top 100 management books of ALL TIME.

The only way he could possibly achieve this success is through a massive amount of creativity. And indeed, he is no doubt super creative, and it was very apparent during his talk.

So the talk was held in SMU, I travelled all the way there from NTU, joined a couple of friends and basically just sat in for the talk. (sorry, i forgot to take a picture) Perhaps what struck me first was his tone and pitch. He kind of reminded me of the eccentric Doctor Who when played by David Tennant, my favourite doctor ever. Not to mention his lean and lanky figure resembled that of Tennant as well. So he began with a humourous introduction to 'Swedish creativity' (o yes, I forgot to mention he was from Sweden but residing in Singapore), and then came the more serious stuff. Basically, it was how to be creative in business.

So the first rule was to essentially, take away the fundamentals. Write down what are the fundamentals of the product you have, and do away with them. Why? Because if everyone else does the norm, and you don't, you will stand out. You will grab the attention of others which is important, if you are to sell your product effectively. But of course, it is not taking away every fundamental, there will be some you need to keep. It all depends on your focus.

For The Idea Book, the author's name, publisher's name, the picture, descriptions, endorsements, were all done away from the cover, front and back. The front cover only has 3 words "The Idea Book". Now it was on the bestseller list in Kino, and among all those colourful books by Trump and Gladwell, suddenly you see this little black book which resembles the Bible. Now that will make people curious, and you want to flip it open. And you see blank pages... and a few other pages.,.. you find it cool, you buy it.


The next rule was to use external capital. With only 6 employees in 3 countries, essentially made use of competitions to get members of the public to take creative photos for their 'creative picture' of the book.

Ok, so this little book alone can teach us so many lessons on creativity. Indeed, all irony was negated when the whole idea of publishing and writing the book creatively, because it is a creativity book, was thought up. There are 2 other rules, unfortunately I cannot remember, because this paragraph was written a week after the paragraphs above (i got tired and was busy).

So just to end off, this little book is worth taking a look at. Inside are some pretty interesting stuff about creativity you can check out. It is a worthwhile investment, and you can use it as a notebook, a thoughts book or even a random doodle book. You can go find it in kino, it should be on the bestseller shelf.

Stay creative people :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Think and Drink

Last Wednesday, I paid this nice little room in Bugis, called Hackerspace, a visit. It was a not for profit place for aspiring technopreneurs to incubate their ideas. But I am no technowiz, I went there for this event co-organised by Syinc and TEDx Singapore known as Think and Drink.

3 Ashoka fellows were there to share their experiences. In the picture above, Padmanabha Rao, from India on the extreme right, Joyce Djaelani Gordon from Indonesia in the center, and Preeyanan Lorsermvattana from Thailand. The man standing to introduce them is Ashoka Staff Chris Cusano who's based in Thailand.

You can go find Preeyanan's Ashoka profile here:

This is Gordon's profile:

and Rao's profile:

All 3 speakers were riveting and kept everyone focused. I especially found Preeyanan's story of her 19 year struggle to find justice for her son's condition due to medical malpractice very moving. I realised that all 3 speakers actually spoke one common point, that if you want to change something in your community, you must involve a lot of people at all levels, and you must be prepared for resistance. That's what I like about the entrepreneurial spirit, the willingness to break rules and challenge authority. The spirit of social entrepreneurship is even nicer, doing it for the good of the community. I really admire such people.

After the speeches, there was a massive networking session with good food (and did I mention it was free?) I spoke with a lot of people, including the founders of Syinc, the founder and curator of TEDx Singapore, Chris Cusano, it was pretty intensive. I got a total of 5 name cards that night, including Preeyanan's.

The event started at 7.30pm, and was supposed to end at 9.30pm. I stayed until 10.45pm. It was near my exams but I felt it was time well-spent. Not only did I get to meet extraordinary people, I learnt of this extraordinary little space called Hackerspace! Something tells me I will be seeing it again...

Monday, April 5, 2010

My self-designed creativity session

This post marks the first post of the "inventions and designs" post, and I certainly hope there will be more to come in the near future.

This is a further elaboration of the creativity session that I designed for Symposium Neue Thinken last Saturday 3rd of April 2010. I'll describe it again.

In the room that you see in the photos, I have arranged 15 objects and 15 pictures around the room. The participants were split into 3 groups of 5 participants each. Each group was given a 'problem picture', depicting one social problem, so the objective was for the group to find solutions for the problem in the picture. The solutions I was looking for were supposed to be innovative and sustainable, and able to prevent the Sisyphus effect. For those who don't know, the Sisyphus effect basically describes the typical "endless list of to-do tasks" that we experience everyday, and in terms of social problems, it's about how when we solve one problem, another one comes rolling in. The groups were to use inspiration which may be triggered by the objects and pictures through associations, which is a key feature of creativity (making connections where none existed before)

I had deliberately placed the objects around the room, (or rather my kind and helpful facilitators did it for me), because I wanted the participants to stand up, walk around, and explore. I felt it was more meaningful than having them just sit while I flash the pictures and objects on slides. A really creative person would not just sit and wait for answers, he would go outside and start looking around for solutions, so that was what I wanted to simulate.

Also, the pictures and problems may or may not have anything to do with the problem at hand. The idea was to be able to form associations, no matter how disparate, between the objects and possible solutions to the problem. The more disparate the link, the more likely innovative solutions will be formed.

So the groups were given 35 minutes to explore and discuss solutions, then present it on mahjong paper. I saw some very good action, the participants really got up and explored, and good associations were formed. Common associations were with the spider-web picture, (networking) and the word 'internet' with an online portal specifically directed at solving the problems at hand.

At the end of the day, everyone had fun, many were inspired to practice creativity in their lives as well as in making a difference to society (i gathered this from the feedback forms I gave out). I felt it was a good first try (yes, it is the first time this session saw light), but I would certainly improve the session in future for Project Ahead meetings. So as you can see from the picture above, I made new friends, and I was happy.

This session is not just limited to social service, it just so happens that I was asked to give a session in Symposium Neue Thinken, which centers around social enterprises, so I geared it towards that. I believe a similar session can be given to corporate leaders, teachers, designers (O i would love to see this one), students, even scientists and engineers. For now, I mainly plan to use it for Project Ahead meetings, but I'm pretty excited as to how far I can take this brainchild of mine.

And lastly, I have to thank people. Thank you Josh and Alvis for helping me out in the session, putting the objects and pictures around and all that. Thank you Ying Shean for inviting me to take part in this eye-opening experience, and thank you Colin for uploading the pictures. And of course, a big warm thank you to all those who showed up and took part in my session. It could not have been possible without you guys.