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March 17, 2005

Innovation and Vedanta: Q &A

These are some questions Mahesh had raised and were answered by Prasad:
  • What is the connection of Innovation and Vedanta? Is creativity congruent with Vedantic philosophy and teachings?

    Innovation is considered to be part of growth, management and development according to Hindu Scriptures if I interpret it rightly. There are two kinds of knowledge that Upanishads talk about – Para Vidya and Apara Vidya. While Para Vidya is about self realization, Apara Vidya is about excelling in the external world and innovation could very well be part of Apara Vidya.

    Creativity by itself is considered to be a lower world phenomenon – Apara vidya. The underlying thought is that nothing can be created or destroyed in terms of consciousness and all changes occur in the visible world. The visible universe is the manifested reality of the unmanifested consciousness. So whatever creativity that we bring about happens within the boundaries of this external, manifested world. The rules of creativity are that you cannot create positive without simultaneously creating an equal negative power. Similarly, when we create something seemingly out of nothing, something else gets destroyed – it is like nothing is free and you have to find a way to pay for what you take. The underlying theme is that consciousness is in equilibrium and neutral in attitude (no positive or negative bias) and we are playing a zero sum game. It might sound grim, but when you think deeply, you begin to see how physics principles work and how we operate primarily in Newtonian Universe.

  • What does Vedanta say that is beyond or has not been said in the traditional/western innovation theories and practices?

    Creativity is our birthright. We are about creating ourselves continually. The ultimate creation is re-creating ourselves and breaking out of our habits, our conditioning and our autopilot modes. When we begin to think freshly (outside of our beliefs, dogmas, morals and values), we begin to see the world very differently and we shape each other continually. It is called co-creation—I creating you creating me creating each other.

  • Is there a difference between creativity and innovation in Vedanta?

    In Vedanta we talk about creation and creativity rather than innovation and creativity. Application of creativity in workplace is Innovation. There is no clear distinction that I know of in Vedanta.

  • Is creativity and innovation needed for everyone in the society? Don’t we need to have worker-bees? What would be the effect if everyone were innovative and creative?

    Again, it is our birthright to be creative. Whether our creativity results in innovation and innovative products and services is dependent on many factors: our motivation, resources, fortitude, vision, environment and persistence. Is creativity needed for everyone? Everybody has to answer that for themselves. It is truly choice – or should I say we have to use our sveccha which is made up of two words – sva-iccha which means ‘my desire.’

    Don’t we need worker bees? – We do and we all are worker bees in some form or another, in some context and time or another. For example, Silicon Valley has a few good ideas and millions of worker bees who can execute and test those ideas very quickly and sort them out. In each company, only a handful are being creative in a larger sense and rest of us are implementing, executing on the ideas of those people with minor improvements and innovations along the way. My friend Jeannette says that there are five kinds of innovations: the big idea innovation, engineering innovation, manufacturing innovation, marketing / sales innovations, operational innovations (should I talk about accounting innovations that some companies are getting good at? :). Each requires different mindset and each operate within a different paradigm and is not understood or appreciated across the paradigms.

  • Why do creative folks “appear” to work less? Why are some people more creative than others?

    Creativity has more to do with unlearning and staying open to the possibilities. That means it is not related to activity and busyness that we associate with work. It is more about exploring and examining possibilities that others might have discarded as pedantic or common place or boring. Creativity requires examining our own assumptions, mental models and learning to see things freshly – with new eyes if you might say…

    These happen in punctuated moments of time and are discontinuous in nature. There is no beforemath for creativity though there is aftermath. Another statement that would be interesting to examine is ‘learning is what you breathe in and creativity is what you breathe out’. Creativity is in the gap between breathing in and breathing out and we have to access that gap and keep it open long enough for us to jump across it and make new connections.

    Some people are more open, or more ‘child-like.’ They are curious, willing to be stupid and ask simple questions and are unwilling to be satisfied with stock answers and continue to explore their questions for a long time. Letting go of our assumptions, models, frameworks and patterns is critical and some people can do it more easily than others.

  • How can innovation and creativity be applied to other branches and fields – e.g., politics, social transformation?

    Are we ignoring what has been done before? The application of Gita in politics is what led Gandhi to come up with Satyagraha and Ahimsa movements that helped India get independence from the British.

  • What makes Silicon Valley creative/innovative? How can we transfer that to India?

    It is the environment. In Silicon Valley risk taking and entrepreneurship are not only encouraged but resources like money, people with talent and structures for creativity are provided.

    Transferring creativity and innovation is already happening – in the sense that Silicon Valley is inspiring other places to take risks and create success. Environment, ecosystem, resources, infrastructure and support are critical and would accelerate innovation.

  • What are the practical things that one can do to dramatically increase creativity and innovation?

    • Be clear about your intention. How do you know when your intention is fulfilled? If you cannot answer this question, you are not yet clear.
    • Be aware of your own filters, assumptions and values. It is harder than you think but when you can keep questioning why not and look at where you stop and where you are not flexible and where you are not open, it helps.
    • Suspend judgment – especially in areas you have lot of passion, opinion and clear views. Try it small amount of time at a time and watch your emotions.
    • Be curious. Ask more questions instead of having more answers. See what else you don’t know about that topic and become curious.
    • Pay attention to what does not fit. Where the patterns don’t match, there is creativity lurching. Pay attention to small details, gut instincts and believe in your own intuition.
    • Think outside the boundaries of the field – bring economic models to spirituality, bring physics into art etc. etc. Pay attention to the observer – you, your judgments, prejudices and feelings.
    • Let go of what does not work. Just let go and start over again. Don’t give up.
    • Pay attention to mistakes and errors. They will teach you a lot.

      Those are some that come to my mind at this time.

  • How to increase innovation for people who are working with me?

    Check out March Issue of Harvard Business Review for an article What great managers do by Marcus Buckingham.

  • How does individual creativity differ from collective creativity?

    Let us discuss it this week.

Posted by pkaipa at March 17, 2005 01:04 PM

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