During mock interviews with students, I often ask a series of questions on creative thinking. Some questions were, ‘Are you creative?’, ‘How did you shape your creativity?’, ‘How did you handle constraints at your work?’ and others. These kind of questions and various others will trick one’s brain to think. I present a very interesting story of ‘Creative Thinking and Constraints’ –
Two academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peaboy award and the Pulizter Prize winner, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Known as Dr. Seuss) is one of the strong example of creative thinker. He is an author of ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and many other (44) children’s books. He is popular and creative because of writing the books with less than 250 different words.
Way back in May 1954, Life Magazine published a report on children literacy among school children, which stated that children were not learning to read because their book were boring. William Ellsworth Spaudling (director of Houghton Mifflin’s education division) supplied Dr. Seuss with a list of 348 words that every six year old should know and insisted to keep the words to 250 to write a book. It took nine months for Dr.Seuss, using 236 of the words given to him, completed ‘The Cat in the Hat’. The book has many illustrations, verse rhythms, all imaginative power with simplified vocabulary for beginners to read it. They gained international success and remains favorite till date.
The above brief story of ‘The Cat in the Hat’ shows that there is good evidence that we get creative fuel from constraints. That doesn’t mean all constraints are good. I am saying this, because some constraints make solution impossible. If a student is asked to write final examination or build a robot on the second day of the college, it would be insane to blame your failure to take up the challenge as a lack of creativity. But on the other hand, President John F Kennedy’s proclamation to put man on the moon by 1970 seemed many when he said it in 1962.
Now we can derive some conclusions here, persistent at poorly defined problem is futile, and talent (knowledge, skills, ability, aptitude) applied to unsolvable problems is worthless. The challenge must be to define a problem with some or good constraints to help creativity, but not so many that solution becomes impossible. Mastering this skill is one secret that explains who successfully makes things and who doesn’t.