Innovation and Creativity – A Journey of Discovery
Let me introduce you to a very flat round plateau surrounded by steep mountains where the Pipeds live. Pipeds get their name from the shape of their heads. Their heads are uniformly flat on the top, with a very small bump in the middle. All adult Pipeds look this way. As children, the bump is much bigger and as they grow older, the bump decreases to its customary adult pip size.
Pipeds are not only famous for their odd shaped heads, but also for their tiforp trees which they grow in extremely straight lines. Pipeds eat tiforp fruits and nothing else. Despite tasting bitter to others, Pipeds find tiforp fruit delicious to eat and there is no doubting they find them very nutritious. Visitors to the plateau, especially in the summer, would see the dark green tiforp trees, each tree cut uniformly to a square shape and planted in the straightest of lines. On the trees, you would see the large yellow flowers of the tiforp trees. After every sixth tree you would see a small windmill, set with six white cloth sails, each using the breezes from the surrounding mountains to bring fresh water to the tiforps’ thirsty roots. The plateau has looked this way for many, many years and the Pipeds believed it would always do so. Being able to plant the tiforp trees in straight lines and shape them to perfect squares was a much-prized skill.
Lately a dark cloud had descended over the world of the Pipeds. For the tiforp fruit to grow, they need the tekram, large bee shaped insects, to pollinate them. The tekram are particularly fond of the sweet nectar in the tiforp flowers. Lately, the tekram are visiting the plateau in deceasing numbers. The result is a shortage of triforp fruit. Some Pipeds had even talked about leaving the plateau. This year’s crop is the worst of all, with fewer tekram then ever coming to the plateau. With their existence under threat, the Pipeds convened their Council. In times of trouble the Pipeds fall back on what they consider is their strongest asset- their ability to plant tiforps in straight lines. They believed the tekram were attracted to the symmetry of the planted trees, so they tried to ensure the tiforp trees are as straight and square as any tiforp trees seen in Piped history.
Day and night, they have toiled, moving and measuring to exact limits, but to no avail. A resigned feeling now pervades the plateau and new ideas are in as short supply as the tekram.
THREE UNLIKELY HEROES
Not all is lost, for let me introduce you to three Pipeds who have not given up so easily. My heroes of innovation are very unlikely characters indeed. When young, all Pipeds are called Pip, until they grow up and then they assume a name which fits them best. This can happen very suddenly. Their grown-up name tells you a lot. For you see, on the plateau, apart from the shape of your head, you are not born into any particular shape. Over the years, experiences shape you into what you are.
Our first Piped went to bed one night and when he woke up in the morning and looked in the mirror a voice in his head said very firmly “you have a shell”. That was it; he was called Pipshell from then on. Pipshell is very loathe to take any risks and always chooses the safe option. A shell is a very safe and comfortable place, so the name Pipshell seems a very appropriate name indeed. Pipshell was a nice sort though; you could always depend on him. Ask anyone in the plateau.
Pipspike was a friend of Pipshells. Now you know how Pipeds get their names, so you can probably guess what sort of character Pipspike is. Prickly was is his nature and so it will not surprise you to learn that he resembles a hedgehog in many ways. You would never suggest any new ideas to Pipspike for he would challenge and criticize every thought, always in a sharp and angry sort of way. This was not a problem for Pipshell, for he rarely took the risk of coming up with something new anyway.
Pipbold is our third and last Piped. Pipbold cut a fine imposing lion like figure, with his sleek muscled body and golden mane. Pipbold could do everything. He radiated confidence. The other two friends basked in his shadow and both secretly wished they could be like him. Pipbold saw himself differently however and secretly he thought of himself as an imposter, someone big and bold on the outside, but inside, full of doubt. Pipbold covered this up by striving to be the best at everything. The less secure he felt, the harder he tried to look bold. Pipbold could never relax and have real fun. No one in the plateau had ever seen Pipbold let out a roar of real, abandoned laughter.
THE DECISION IS MADE
Pipshell was the one who started things off in a different direction. As he sat and watched the senior Pipeds argue about how to get straighter and straighter lines, he scratched the little bump on his head with unease; thinking there was something wrong about their approach. All day he sat pondering, until this phrase popped into his head: you cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem. It now became obvious to Pipshell that they need to look at things differently. Pipshell spoke to Pipbold and Pipspike about his thoughts. They all agreed, but quite how to do things differently was difficult for them. They were not used to thinking from that little area of their heads where the bumps were. They got headaches thinking that way. The flat part of their heads always seemed to jump in and before they knew where they were, they were all thinking again about ways to make the lines straighter and trees squarer.
In frustration, they turned their backs on each other and held their sore heads in a stony silence. Pipshell moved at last scratching the little bump on his head said with gusto, “That’s it; we do need to do something we never do, to help us see and think differently, like climb the mountains above the plateau”. Doing something completely different did not come easily to Pipeds. Pipsike quickly pointed out a number of objections, saying that Pipeds never leave the plateau and it would be foolish and dangerous to do so. Pipshell shared some of these concerns, but despite this, he appealed to them to consider going into the mountains, if only for a night. Pipshell felt rather proud of himself, as he was rarely so outspoken and never made suggestions to others. Fed up with sitting, Pipbold supported the idea and with the help of Pipshell they addressed Pipspike’s objections. They reached agreement. Next day they would hike to the mountains and spend a night there.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
All three met as arranged the next morning. “Fine morning”, can’t wait to get going,” said Pipbold. Pipspike and Pipshell felt apprehensive, but mixed with this was a sense of excitement. Pipshell stumbled a few times as he looked back, in an attempt to gain reassurance from a last few glimpses of the fading plateau. “Pay attention” roared Pipbold, “We don’t want any accidents do we- up and on, up and on” On they walked into the day. The path early on was narrow, so they walked in a line, Pipbold striding at the front, the muscles on his back rippling with intent. Pipshell was in the middle and Pipspike at the tail. As they walked on, Pipbold urged them on, “up and on, up and on. Having Pipbold in direct view mile after mile, Pipshell began to observe him closely. Pipshell noticed Pipbold never looked around him, never admired the view or expressed pleasure about the surroundings. Pipbold cut a formidable figure thought Pipshell, but there was always a tension in his muscular frame. For the first time, Pipshell became aware that Pipbold was all about control and achievement leaving very little room in his big frame for fun and enjoyment.
As they climbed higher, the rocks and plants soon changed from the familiar landscape of the plateau. Pipshell thought about the lush soft plants of the plateau- “comfort plants” he whispered to himself. The mountain plants were tough, wiry and grew in unaccustomed shapes. This newness unnerved Pipshell.
After a few hours, they stopped for a rest. They all sat and chewed their triforp fruit pieces in silence, as they gazed at the plateau way below them. As if orchestrated by a conductor, they all broke the silence together and all with the same thought from their ponderings- “How boring the plateau looks”. They all laughed at this. Pipspike mused, “Seeing the plateau from this view, you can’t blame the tekram for not visiting us, everything looks so flat and ordered.” “Yes” added Pipshell, “I always thought it was the very best place in the world and quite perfect, but up here with a tekram view, I agree with you Pipspike”. Pipbold recounted one of the traditions of mountain travel was to write down on flat pebbles any pieces of wisdom that came to you as you climbed the mountains. Then explained Pipbold, you roll them down the steep slopes so travellers following you can read them and be inspired to continue their journeys. Pipshell remembered his uncle talked about this. “Aren’t they known as encouragement stones?” asked Pipspikie. “I do believe they are,” said Pipbold.
“Let’s follow the tradition,” urged Pipshell. Pipshell fumbled around in his rucksack and produced three crayons. “I brought these to draw landscapes, but encouragement stones are a much better use I think”. He gave one crayon to each of his companions. They were soon all searching for a smooth oval pebble. Pipshell talked about how he would like to make up a phrase about solving a problem by looking at it from another’s or from a different perspective. Pipbold spoke about trying to come up with something about, how you cannot use the same thinking that created the problem to solve the problem. Pipspike on listening to both comments, joined in by saying, “I think from what you both are saying, you should write: look askew to think anew”. “That’s great,” said Pipshell. Pipspike wrote on the pebble and threw it down the mountain side. As the pebble crashed against the rocks below and rolled out of sight, all three felt a quiet satisfaction that they were doing something rather different and un-Piped like.
Before too long they came across a deep river blocking their advance. The river ran deep and cold and there was no way to go around it. Pipshell looked dejected, saying, “this is beyond what I can do.” Pipbold looked serious, but asserted that he could jump across it in one mighty leap. Pipshell was unusually vocal and assertive and said that if they all were to make it across, then they needed to think differently. Pipbold, seeing Pipshell’s different behaviour agreed and said he would relax a little and play with ideas. This inspired Pipspike to add that he would be less critical and go more with the flow of ideas. Pipshell thought what he could use to cross the river. “My shell, my shell” he shouted. “Of course, I could turn over on my back and float across.” Pipsike followed this train of thought, saying, “My spines are hollow, Pipbold could roll me across like a ball”. Pipspike and Pipshell crossed first. They reached the other side without mishap. They jumped up and down and hugged each other furiously, boosted by the energy arising from success. Pipbold turn was next. He took a number of steps backwards stopped and looked intently at the river.
To his friends on the other side of the river he looked majestic, the sun behind him shining through his mane and giving the impression he was surrounded by a halo of invincibility. They had no doubt he would clear the river. Pipbold stood still for while and then ran as fast he could towards the riverbank. Up he soared and over the river, landing with on the pile leaves placed on the opposite bank. He pulled himself out of the water to rapturous cheering from his two friends. They sat for a while looking at the river. Pipshell picked up a pebble and wrote on it: you have all you need to succeed. He showed it to the others. Understanding what it meant, they nodded in agreement. Pipshell threw the pebble across to the far bank. He hoped the encouragement stone would help others to trust themselves more.
For a few hours more, they climbed higher. As the light started to fade, they decided to set camp for the night. They found a secure ledge, ate their supper and settled down for the night.
As they lay there in the darkness, the sky above them looked very different. Pipshell was surprised how calm he was perched on this little ledge on a side of a mountain. To him, the clear stars above felt like a gossamer blanket, softly floating over him, calming all his usual fears. He had never seen the stars like this, and he was even surer now that seeing things in a different way was worth the effort.
A NEW DAY
They all arose at dawn and after a short walk, they were soon at the summit. Here they found a mound of encouragement stones left by previous travellers. As they sat and admired they view, they read the stones and shared their thoughts. They all agreed there would be no specific answers to their tekram problem on the stones, but they felt the ideas of others could inspire and help them. They wanted to place an encouragement stone on the mound themselves. With Pipbold being more relaxed, Pipspike doing less blaming and Pipshell not adding an apology for every suggestion he gave, they agreed quickly that the encouragement stone should read: negative behaviours eclipse the light of creative insight.
A BIG CHALLENGE
Their next big decision was which way to go home to the plateau. Pipshell was surprised to find he was suggesting they take the more difficult path back home. The others readily agreed. You might think they would regret their decision, as the river across their new route was wider and faster than before. Strangely enough, they were pleased with the challenge, for it provided them the opportunity to have fun, work with each other and try to see things differently. Pipbold even made them all laugh when he stood on his head before the river to look at the problem differently. Pipspike responded to this frivolity by picking up a stick, drawing a circle and declaring to everyone that there was a ban to logical, tight flat head thinking inside the circle. “Use loose thinking “shouted Pipspike, no evaluation or judgments allowed inside the circle”.
They all sat within the circle and started to scratch their head bumps. All sorts of ideas flowed out and Pipshell scored them out into the earth. Some were serious and others because of the fun atmosphere, seemed trivial.. Pipspike then drew a large square inside the circle and said more logical, tight thinking was OK to use now, but still use loose thinking as well. One serious idea was; modify the ideas used at the last crossing and one trivial one was; all link hands when crossing. Pipshell joined in and suggested that they all link hands, with Pipspike and himself acting as floats and Pipbold providing the power through his powerful leg kicks. Using this technique they crossed the river with ease and on the opposite bank sat in saturated satisfaction. “I thought us Pipheads could only do tight thinking,” said Pipbold. “It was your idea Pipspike about the circle that kept us away from tight thinking,” said Pipshell. “It’s amazing what you can come up with when allow yourself to use this,” added Pipspike, pointing to the lump on his head. “Yes”, said Pipbold, “the more you use loose thinking the more ideas you get and the more ideas, the more you can join them together, as we did”. “Your’e right”, exclaimed Pipshell, “you mentioned using hollow sticks as snorkels Pipspike and you Pipbold said walk across on the river bottom, so we could have joined them together and walked across on the bottom using sticks as snorkels.
“And “, said Pipbold “as we walked we could have held hands to make the crossing even safer and easier”. They all laughed in harmony, reflecting physically the team they had become emotionally. “Us Pipeds are too serious at times,” said Pipbold, “It is the crazy ideas that often lead to new ideas”. Pipshell thought about the list of ideas he had scratched in the dirt. “You know” he said, “the more different the suggestions are, the more options you give yourself, and the very best ideas come from using bits from totally different options.” “Does this mean that the more different we are, the more different our suggestions will be and the better will be the final decision?” asked Pipspike. “Probably”, answered Pipshell. They wanted to leave an encouragement stone to help others cross. On one stone, they wrote: elegant solutions are styled from the threads of differing options, and on another, they wrote: premature evaluation stifles the conception of new ideas. “Thinking about stifling”, said Pipspike, “I think I am very prone to making plans, which is good, but then sticking too rigidly too them, which is not so good”. Pipspike went on to explain that often new ideas or opportunities would arise, but he was so fixed on carrying out the plan, he ignored them. After a short discussion they all agreed that: a master of adaptive thinking is never the slave of the plan. This they agreed should be put on another encouragement stone.
They all enjoyed the way they arrived at the solution, so on another stone they decided to write: fun is the key that unlocks tight thinking.
THE LAST REST
They were quite near the plateau now, but were reluctant to descend to the bottom too quickly. They stopped on a high ridge, just above the plateau, which afforded them a panoramic view of what lay below. As they sat, they could see the Piped Council meeting below. They were sitting around four large tables arranged in a square, which is the way the Council always held their meetings. “I bet they are still debating how to get straighter lines,” said Pipbold. “Do you know who are least welcome at the meeting, but would be most useful?” asked Pipspike. The other two thought for a while but could not offer any ideas. “Children” said Pipspike, “children”. “They would have fun and play with ideas and who knows what they might come up” Pipsike mused. The other two shock their heads in agreement. “Let’s be like children now”, Pipsike loudly asserted. He picked up a stone and started writing on it. He passed it to the other two. They looked bemused for a while then the slow change on their faces revealed they understood what Pipsike had written. On the stone was inscribed: altering your perception of the reality presented increases your conception of ideas created. “That is exactly what we have been doing for the last day,” said Pipbold, “our whole reason our journey was about this,” he said earnestly.
A big smile appeared across Pipshell’s face as he confidently spoke out, saying, “how about doing just that” pointing to the inscribed stone. “Why don’t we imagine the valley being something else, something totally different and let’s see if we can use this to come up with some ideas to attract more tekram”, said Pipshell. “I know”, said Pipbold, “let us imagine the plateau is a fairground” “Great”, said Pipspike, surprised at realizing how positive he was being. “This is how we should go about it,” said Pipbold, but he stopped, thought for a moment and said, “what do you think we should do?” Pipbold felt a strange kind of release, he did not have to be the one in control and making all the suggestions and it felt good. Pipshell also surprised himself by taking up the opportunity given by Pipbold. “How about” he confidently stated, “we draw a big circle as before and make this our loose thinking area and after this we draw a square and use this as our tight thinking area; in the tight thinking area we can look at the ideas and sort out which ones are practical or not?” They agreed to do this, with Pipbold volunteering to be the scribe. To their amazement the ideas flowed out and this is what they ended up with:
Have bright colours everywhere
Have bright lights at night
Have loud music
Make windmill sails different shapes
Have games and competitions
Lots of flags and banners
Sell tiforp nectar flavoured candyfloss
Make windmill sails colourful.
Being Pipeds, they had to be careful not to lapse into tight thinking and they were very good at stopping when they talked about how it would work, or what it would cost or what were the drawbacks. Even Pipspike checked himself from picking holes in the ideas. Pipshell suggested that they draw another circle and build on the ideas from the first circle, still keeping tight thinking out- they all agreed that could come later. After a few frantic minutes, the following appeared in the next circle:
Have lights at night the same shape and colour as the tiforp flower
Make the windmill sails the same colour and shape as tekram
Spray tiforp nectar into the air
Have the humming sound tekram make fill the plateau.
They could not believe the unusual ideas they arrived at. “Who thought Pipeds could think this way”, Pipshell said in a surprised tone. “What is more Pipshell”, said Pipbold, “was how much fun it was and how well we work as a team”. Pipshell now drew a large square in the dirt, suggested they all step inside this, and use tight thinking to evaluate which of the ideas are feasible and which ones they should drop. A lot of discussion took place. Most tekram travel in the first hour of darkness, so the three decided that having lights on the trees the same shape and colour as the tekram and tiforp flowers could be a winner. They all agreed that the more they knew about the tekram, their likes and dislikes, the better the ideas they could make up.
Although Pipeds like regular shapes and straight lines, they thought that having some trees which round or pointed shapes would look more interesting to the tekram, especially when covered with lights. The lights idea is the one they would present to the Council, as it was easy to do, did not cost a lot, and would probably bring quick results. The idea about the humming sound also intrigued them. The windmills made a constant grinding sound and they felt sure the Piped technicians could alter this to sound like tekram humming. The nectar idea thrilled them, because it was so different. They thought the sails of the windmills could throw nectar drops into the air. They would need to think this through later.
As they sat on the ledge overlooking the plateau, a thought entered Pipshell’s mind. He shared this with the rest saying, “I think our ideas will work just fine, but can you imagine what would happen if one day the tekram decided they did not want to come anymore”. Pipbold joined in the musing, “Or they found another flower they like better and we could not grow it”. “You are both frightening me” said Pipspike, “and the reason I’m frightened is that you both may be right”. “We would need to change everything and our Council and all Pipeds would be at a total loss what to do, with only tight thinking as their tool. They mused a little more and arrived at an understanding that there is never an end or one final solution, but like a carousel at a fair, the world is never in one fixed place. From this, they agreed that survival for the Pipeds rested upon loose thinking, as tight thinking tied you to one spot, while loose thinking gave you the opportunity to move away from where you are.
“It is not our new ideas then,” said Pipshell, “but how we got to them which are the important things to take back to the plateau and share”. “We should make an encouragement plaque,” said Pipbold, “to take back and give to others”. They found themselves a thin, flat piece of stone and set about the task. It was not easy to do. This is their plaque:
Look askew to think anew
You have all you need to succeed
Negative behaviours eclipse the light of creative thinking
Elegant solutions are styled from the threads of different options
Premature evaluation stifles the conception of new ideas
A master of adaptive thinking is never the slave of the plan
Fun is the key that unlocks tight thinking
Altering the perception of the reality presented increases the perception of ideas created.
They were pleased with their efforts, but knew something important was missing. Pipshell provided the answer. “I’ve never told anyone this before” said Pipshell, “but I solve problems by using head miners”. Others laughed loudly at this. Seeing that Pipshell was aggrieved by they asked sympathetically what he meant by head miners. “If you promise not to laugh I’ll tell you,” said Pipshell. They agreed to this, putting on their serious faces to appease Pipshell. Pipshell’s lightness returned and he told them that whenever there were questions needing answers, he would imagine there were little miners in his brain who could, when given a problem, go through the network of tunnels in the brain looking for connections and answers in far off corners. Pipshell assured them eventually the miners would return with an answer, often when you least expected it or when you were relaxed, in the bath or not thinking about much at all. Pipshell told them that for him the best time to give the miners a problem was just before going to sleep and by morning, a solution would pop into his head.
Pipshell assured them it always worked and he now trusted the miners fully. He did tell them however, that miners needed one vital tool to do their job and this was a clearly defined question or problem. A fuzzy question or unclear problem definition was like a blunt tool to the miners expounded Pipshell, and he went on to tell them that miners couldn’t do their job with a blunt tool. Pipshell explained that his miners had been working today. He told them that after crossing the river he thought about the ideas they came up about using hollow sticks as snorkels. Then Pipshell told them, he thought what would happen if there were no suitable sticks available. “I was stuck,” said Pipshell, “so I gave the problem to my miners and asked them what else I could use”. “What happened?” asked Pipbold excitedly. “Well” said Pipshell, “nothing at first, miners need time, but when I was relaxing on the high ledge above the plateau, the answer came- use Pipspikes spikes, cut the pointed end off and you have the perfect snorkel”. Pipbold nodded in admiration, but Pipsike put his hands protectively around his body and in an alarmed tone shouted out “use my spikes”. Pipshell and Pipbold laughed allowed at Pipsike’s reaction and very quickly, Pipspike joined them in fits of laughter. “The point is” said Pipshell, “I trust the miners and if we trust ourselves and loose thinking and all that goes with it then we can be as creative as we want to be”. They agreed this was right and they wanted to make this the last point on the plaque and wrote: trust the process. As the last rays of daylight faded away, our three companions at last set foot safely back on the flat plateau.
Pipshell’s thought about a future disaster happening did actually take place many years in the future. As so often happens with massive change, it had nothing to do with the tekram at all. A deadly virus struck the tiforp trees and since then, no tiforp tree has grown in the plateau. Did the Pipeds survive? That I want tell you. What I can say, however, is that in the immediate years following the journey of the three companions, travellers to the plateau noticed that at the entry to the plateau was a very large plaque with the strangest of sayings on it and the Pipeds started growing far bigger bumps on their heads than they previously had. So significant was the change that the neighbours of the Pipeds started to call them Lumpeds instead. With this bit of information, I think you will now be able to decide what the eventual fate of the Lumpeds was, when the deadly virus did strike the tiforp trees.