Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Boxes - inside, outside, wherever

Once upon a time, there was a Marx. There were many, but two of them became famous. Both said intelligent, quotable things. The one who has a bearing on this post was the Marx without ants in his pants – Groucho. He did not want to belong to a club that would have him as a member. A very droll observation. But sometimes, when one cannot contend with a vampiric corporate culture, one thinks of him. One realizes that he was wise, not funny. One is bemused.

In every appraisal since my first job, I have been considered ‘creative’. I used to think I knew what that meant. But then I joined big companies with lots of people, and the definition changed a little. Now, the ‘creative’ title is what is bestowed before my scatter-brained, irresponsible mode of work is gently rebuffed. ‘Creative’ is their tactic. ‘Creative’ is their hoax.

So, when I am asked to think of ‘creative’ ideas, I am asked to think of ‘feasible’ ideas. Nothing wrong with that, but one can’t commit the fallacy of mixing one with the other.
If one begins with thinking what is likely to get done as opposed to what all can be done, then one must shut his trap about thinking outside the box. Because when I do that, they point at the box and tell me ‘Can it fit here?’

An incident.

I was asked to give two ideas for a concept. I gave them. Too much trouble, too few resources, too many new areas to venture in.

So, I was asked to give some different ‘creative’ ideas. Again, I gave them. Not as much trouble as before, and it was familiar territory for most parts. But what was this? Something unheard of. So more brainstorming.

I took an existing screen. Pointed it out. Changed a few things. Bingo! Good! That was a ‘creative’ idea.

My work done, I stood up to leave. Very difficult to swallow bile sitting down.

I was beckoned again. I was supposedly owed an explanation. Most creative people are, I guess, for having simpering temperaments and fragile egos. The explanation to me came with a stunning rhetoric.

I was told that if I were asked to creatively design a structure, I should get creative. But I must also remember that structures are straight. So one must be ‘creative’ that way. Let’s say you have this zany, incredible concept about the architecture– but the structure is crooked. Is that creative? No it is not.

I see, I said. I did not.

I wonder if anyone told Bonanno Pisano that. I wonder if he were told to stick to building a beautiful structure instead of an architectural enigma. I wonder if he showed the plans of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and was told to go back to the drawing board.

Who needs another wonder of the world? A straight structure. Now, that’s something.

‘Creative’ - Hah!


doubtinggaurav said...


I think the tower was meant to be straight, but the soil of the region was weak in strength and foundation was not good enough hence the leaning.

In this case one should blame lousy civil engineers and not creativity ;-)

Mukta said...

hey gaurav,

As with most historical instances, this fact too is disputed. However, I go with the people who believe that the slant of the structure was intentional. It ties up with the small detail that while other structures built at the time was supposed to serve some practical purpose, this tower was not. It was supposed to be some grandiose response to Florence I believe. :-)

nevermind said...

Reminds me of some deep, famous type who said 'There are two ways to be creative. In the first, one can sing, dance, sculpt etc. In the second, one can create an environment where those who sing, dance etc. can flourish'. Or something to that effect.

Dadoji said...

mukta: Tower of Pisa was not meant to be leaning. Heck, it was even repaired. However, I see your point and can feel your pain. And hats off to

"Very difficult to swallow bile sitting down."

doubtinggaurav said...


On a related note ask any KGPian (to mortals it is IIT Kharagpur) about water tank near Patel hall

Swapna said...

I totally understand. It's very frustrating.

Ameet said...

Most managers would rather stay in the box and continue their drab existence than take a risk on a creative idea. Sad but true.

Hash said...