A nerd’s tryst with Design, Creativity and Leadership
While growing up, the most useful pages were those at the back of academic books.
Those would hold solutions to sums and problems, which I would check often. If they
would match with mine, I would get cheap thrills, almost like a chronic desire for ego
boost. A nerd’s favoured spectacle for the quantification of self worth, an image of
constant feedback that I had gotten it right; there was only one answer, and I had been
able to achieve the same. Life was already laid out, learning was a monologue; some
greater nerd out there had taken out the time to give all solutions already…
Life at school was hence black and white. Leaders were those who looked like the
stereotypical boy on the “Ideal Child” poster, with knee length socks, hair neatly
combed and crisp uniforms. One of our school counsellors, Sister Yvonne, once gave
me the photocopy of an essay on youth, which spoke of youthfulness as a state of
mind and the essence of great leaders. Their fearlessness, that ability to take risks,
the resilience to overcome hindrances, the strength to choose a different path and be
themselves were ingredients, which many of my age had lost already. I believe that was
one of the most important lessons in those fourteen years of schooling.
What intrigued me the most was how even art classes were homogenised. I used to
wonder if all children in all schools paint only that one scenery with conical mountains,
river and a house. Thankfully my father taught me how to draw a tortoise, snail and
wild flowers. I almost failed in art at school and got selected to a design school for
graduation. It changed my perspective forever.
I faced ambiguity for the first time, not an image, but a full-fledged draconian self.
At first I was overwhelmed, but slowly I learnt to embrace it and enjoy it. That was
it. The moment you start loving what you are doing, you would be ecstatic. I realized
there are no concrete preconceived solutions and one has to find those relative to each
context. It was a different world altogether, and I realized that I was not out of place.
Most importantly, there was no right or wrong, there were only greys, and greys are
beautiful indeed. They give you so much scope to innovate, to stretch the imagination
for concepts, to map the mind till the last bit can be oozed out and tried and tested. It
was different, flexible and much more real than the surreal certainty, discipline and
claustrophobic rigidity I had faced earlier.
Having spent some of my most important years in exploring Design, I had been
exposed to various streams and ways of thinking. This rekindled inquisitiveness as
well as the courage to meander. After cajoling in a creative environment, attempt at
understanding leadership was indeed an organic step, which came in a flow to expand
my thinking further, to unlearn and learn yet again. I applied for a fellowship in science
and liberal arts, aimed at inspiring leaders for tomorrow.
It would be a hyperbole to claim that I truly understand leadership now, or have
proved myself as a leader, nay. However, I have certainly felt that having come from
a stream that allowed the mind to open, have helped me grasp leadership to a humble
extent. I have come to realize that leaders do not come from another planet, they
cannot be created, they can definitely be encouraged and empowered, but basically
leaders are people who did not lose themselves in the crowd of reassurance and
reaffirmation along the way. They did not stop themselves from trying, and have
understood the importance of even failure.
In fact we must all sympathise with dear failure, which is not a monster, but just a
feedback that this step is not working, and leaders recognize it as that step perhaps. I
strongly feel that exposure to creativity certainly helps one in doing so. For the Design
Process or Creative Process as I have come to understand, involves lateral thinking,
coming up with different concepts to one problem, narrowing down, prioritizing,
testing, seeking feedback, re-working; it is a long process, a tedious, meticulous
process which requires patience and resilience, conviction and will power. If in the
process the feedback is negative, you find out why it doesn’t work, offer solution to
it than take it as a setback. It is not just about having the freedom to think, imagine
but also the strength to see it till the end, till its application. Furthermore, it is not just
about creation, but about being sensitive to the entire chain of consequences as well,
and hence taking informed and responsible decisions.