Observing Complexity

To me, observing real life systems is something like this:

A real life System comprises of a meaningful set of objects, diverse in form, state and function but inter-related through multiple network of interdependencies through mutual feedbacks enclosed by variable space, operating far from its equilibrium conditions not only exchanging energy and matter with its environment but also generating internal entropy to undergo discrete transformation triggered by the Arrow of Time forcing it to behave in a dissipative but self organizing manner to either self destruct itself in a wide variety of ways or create new possibilities in performance and/or behaviour owing to presence of ‘attractors’ and ‘bifurcations’; thereby making it impossible to predict the future behaviour of the system in the long term or trace the previous states of the system with any high degree of accuracy other than express it in terms of probabilities since only the present state of the system might be observable to a certain extent and only a probabilistic understanding may be formulated as to how it has arrived at its present state and what would keep it going, thus triggering creative human responses to manage, maintain and enhance the system conditions, function and purpose and create superior systems of the future for the benefit of the society at large.

Such a representation of an observation looks quite involved. Perhaps it might be stated in a much simpler way. Most real life systems behave in a complex manner creating multitude of problems of performance and failures. But how do we get rid of complexity and uncertainty as exhibited by systems? We may do so by deeply observing the complex behaviour of the system to improve our perception to gain insights about the essence of the system; find out the underlying ‘imperfection’ that causes the apparent complexity and uncertainty and then find ways to improve the existing system or create new system and maintain them in the simplest possible manner. We do this by applying the principles of chaos, reliability and design. Surprisingly, the same process might be used to troubleshoot and solve problems we face on a daily basis. If done, we are no longer dominated or dictated by the ‘special whims’ of the system.

The crux of the matter is how we observe reality and understand it so as to make meaningful choices as responses to life and living.

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Creative Technique of Joachim Schmid

photoThis is a creation of Joachim Schmid — Photogentic Draft #15, 1991

Problem solving and creativity go hand in hand. So it helps a problem solver to continually hone his creative skills.

Though there are many ways to hone one’s creativity we may always learn a new method to do so from Joachim Schmid.  He creates new images from ‘technically wrong’ images.

This is what he did to create this fine work of art. In this case, he came across a box of negatives, cut in half so they could not be used. Just like putting jigsaw puzzle pieces together – he positioned the different images in odd combinations that created a surprising new image with profound fluidity.

Potential for creative work can just be found anywhere. With this technique we learn how to put together seemingly unrelated images, ideas, thoughts to create a surprisingly new image, idea or thought.

You can see the potential anywhere.

Are ideas really worth 2 Cents?

Ideas are the most profound of products that we as humans generate and possibly the most democratic of all the activities that we ever undertake. The good thing is this is perhaps the only area of human activity where each one of us is “Simply brilliant.” No doubts about that.

Ideas are the fundamental building blocks of creativity. Without such building blocks there would be no stories, no films, no painting, no great scientific discovery, no great analysis or a fine innovation.

Though no one is quite sure about how ideas are generated, idea generation strangely follows some “special laws” which are as follows:

  1. We don’t need any special permission from bosses, spouse, children, friends to come up with a good idea.
  2. This can be done anywhere at anytime without the help of any special gadgets, equipment, environment or even prior practices of any kind.
  3. It can be done in all conceivable positions — sitting down, standing up, standing on your head, lying down, having lunch, strolling in the park or making love in bed.
  4. The best ideas are usually generated even when we are actually not thinking about anything in particular. We can truly celebrate our freedom to conjure up ideas from nowhere — a great luxury.
  5. Generation of ideas does not depend on race, gender, creed, colour, or age. It is truly global and liberating.
  6. And if an idea blossoms at the right place in the right time then of course it holds the raw power to change the course of human history.
So, are ideas really worth 2 cents?

Blank Page Syndrome

The “blank page syndrome” is one of the greatest challenges often faced by professionals, engaged creatively.

We have often heard stories of writers who after putting a blank page into their typewriters keep wondering about what they are going to write. And sometimes they freeze. At times they get frustrated by staring into the blank page for long.

However, this syndrome is not only faced by writers. Whether it is a blank Word document, a blank canvas, or a blank page of a sketch book or a machine that an engineer looks at, the effect is the same. No new ideas flow. It is scary.

As we understand, creativity is the creation of something out of nothing. It is always about creating new knowledge or new interpretation or new explanation of life and the world around us. However, from that “blank page” might suddenly leap into reality a new piece of knowledge, a new painting, a new story, a new poem, a new song, a new explanation that would capture a viewer’s imagination propelling them into another time and space – providing them valuable new insights and new ways of looking at the world and at their lives.

The questions are: How do we overcome the syndrome? How do we start? How do we overcome feelings of possible inadequacy or fear of failure? What is the secret?

The secret, as I see it, is – unless you are deeply inspired don’t create. Once inspired, fear of failure is automatically rejected since it desperately seeks an expression. Love that accompanies inspiration helps new ideas to flow in synchronized pattern. If that is so then what steals or dries up our inspiration?

First, it is our tendency to judge what we come across. More we judge more cynical and depressed we become. I believe that depression and cynical attitude are anti-creative. So, if we suspend our judgement for a while, our chance to be inspired increases exponentially.

Second, our inspiration stops when we expect any specific outcome from our effort of creating something new. Even the mere expectation of expecting people to like what we do can still the creative flow of ideas.

Third, is our fear of non-conformance to the traditional. Thoughts like, “it has always been done this way,” or “people don’t like this way of dressing,” or “it is improper to air my understanding of such and such issues in public,” can freeze us before a “blank page.”

Fourth, is our inability to deeply experience what we come across. More often we do get inspired by what we deeply see and feel. We get inspired when new perspectives, new insights, new knowledge effortlessly pop out from what we deeply experience. Once that happens the inspiration has a life of its own. It flow from the mind to the “blank page.”

In short, getting and staying inspired is the vital ingredient to stay fresh and creative in whatever we do as professionals. It gives us the confidence to succeed. More than that, it always provides the sense of excitement that accompanies being creative. Without fail, that excitement spurs us on in our creative journey.

Possibly a simple way to state this — just play with what interests you. In playing we can simply go anywhere we like and do anything we want to and get whatever we want to get in our imagination.

That is the secret of overcoming the “blank page syndrome.”

There is no need to stare at a “blank page.” When inspiration strikes look for a blank page. 

 

 

 

Creativity in Solving Complex Problems

The other day, at the end of my seminar on “Solving Complex Engineering Problems” a delegate asked me as to whether the entire process of solving complex problems can be automated in some way by means of a software instead of relying on human creativity.

Such a response wasn’t unexpected. In the corporate world the word “creativity” is often looked at with suspicion. They would rather prefer structured and standard approaches like “brainstorming” at 10.00 am sharp or team work or collaborative effort, which in my opinion do little to help anyone solve complex problems or even address complex problems correctly.

That might be the single most important reason why “complex problems” remain unresolved for years affecting profitability and long term sustenance of an organization. Failing to resolve complex problems for years often earns such problems the sobriquet of “wicked problems”, which means that such problems are too tough for “any expert” to come to grips with.

What they sadly miss out is the role of creativity in solving complex problems, which no automation or technology can ever replicate. They miss this because most organizations systemically smother or mercilessly boot out any remnant of creativity in their people since they think that it is always easier to control and manage a regimented workforce devoid of even elementary traces of creativity.

So, is managing creativity and creative people a messy affair? On the surface it seems so. This is simply because we generally have a vague idea of what drives, inspires and really sustains creativity?

Creativity is not about wearing hair long or wearing weird clothes, singing strange tunes, coming to office late and being rude to bosses for no apparent reasons. These things hardly make anyone creative or help anyone become a more creative person.

Actually, things like “being attentive and aware”, “sensitive”, “passionate”, “concerned”, “committed” and above all “inventive” just might be the necessary ingredients to drive, inspire and sustain creativity.

Why?

Though there are many ways of describing and defining creativity what I like best is – “creativity is the expression of one’s understanding and expression of oneself” – deeper the understanding better the expression of creativity.

When we look at creativity in this manner it is obvious that we are all creative though the expression and its fidelity might vary to a great extent. Clearly, some are simply better than others.

Further, if creativity may be thought about as a process, then the inputs and the clarity of understanding of ourselves are more valuable elements of the system than the outputs that the process anyway consistently churns out (remember the uncountable hours we spent in organization meeting, discussing and brainstorming to solve complex problems).

In these days of economic depressions, organizations can really do themselves a huge favor if only they pay more attention to facilitating such inputs to people rather than get overtly worried about control and management by conformity.

The Secret of Everything.

image
The heart of all issues

This I think is the secret of solving or resolving any issue or creating anything worthwhile in the world, however difficult or hard that might appear to be.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a problem or issue of physics or a problem of engineering or a management problem or a personal problem.

So, taking time and patience to learn and master “connectedness” is worth spending a lifetime upon.

One can’t force it to happen. But when it happens consider it as a extremely rate and valuable gift, worth more than its weight in gold.

When one plays with this gift with perseverance it turns into the rarest of rare talent available to the world.

Possibly, we will never have a “Theory of Everything” but we certainly have a “Secret of Everything.”

So why wait to master that secret?

What exactly is meditation?

What is Meditation?

To begin with, meditation is the art and science of:

1) Deep relaxation; as achieved in ‘deep sleep’ phase to release gamma waves

2) Focusing the power of concentrated attention over a length of time.

3) Developing the art of reflecting the reality

4) Freeing one self from the vicious cycle of bodily feelings and thoughts that feed each other, creating mental and bodily chaos (quite often termed as diseases).

5) Enjoying creative intelligence every moment.

The different levels of meditation are as follows:

1. First level — deeply ‘relaxed mind.’ This brings down the cortisol level in the body, which in turn helps to bring down stress level to the smallest possible extent. This helps to bring down the chaos of the mind and body to a helpful level.

2. Second level — a ‘feeling mind.’ At this level we can ‘see’ the sensations that arise in the body. Pain and discomfort in the body are easy to notice at first. Later, with practice, we are also able to notice pleasure and comfort of love even in the subtlest form.

3. Third level — an ‘attentive mind.’ At this level we are able to connect different sensations and the corresponding thoughts to ‘see’ the essence of what is happening. This is the power of see or the power of concentration by which many things, we do, may be easily achieved or done with least effort and time. Helps us to be efficient in whatever we do.

4. Fourth level — a ‘silent mind.’ At this level we are able to disconnect the connections between bodily feelings and the corresponding thoughts that are generated or the thoughts that feed into the body. By this we free our selves from the vicious cycle of ever expanding thoughts and feelings that torment us. Thus we free our selves from mental sufferings. There are many benefits at this stage. However, the first is that of ‘improved health,’ – both mental and physical.

5. Fifth level — a ‘no mind.’ Having seen multiple perspectives and  having gained the ability to disconnect feelings from thoughts, we are now able to choose or select the right response or reaction for a given situation or context without falling back on old patterns of stored responses. It is also called the ‘enlightened state,’ of effectively engaging with the world.

6. Sixth level — a ‘zero mind.’ This is a state of complete merger with deep consciousness, which is generally available only in the ‘deep sleep’ state. (Those who take a high dose of medication and psychiatric medicines do not enter and enjoy this state at all in their sleep). This is the state of highest consciousness and intelligence. Everything seems to happen magically and effortlessly as demanded by a situation. We learn and unlearn effortlessly. We live and enjoy the joy of creative intelligence moment by moment or our existence. We are one with our true self.

Nice to read:

1. Gamma waves:

2. Brain behind Gut decisions:

Resilience through self renewal!

India is a case study of resilience through motion and adhering to one’s calling in life. The idea of ‘motion’ or nomadic life runs deep in our Indian culture. Our rivers flowing endlessly across the vast landscape, giving life to the parched lands, are personified as metaphors of creativity and serve as timeless symbols of state transformations. The timeless whirl of bhikshus and monks wandering for alms in exchange of advice and wisdom for better living, jhum cultivation obeying the rhythms of nature, continuous growth of clusters and settlements in steady flux of self organizing movements, people in search of work, sadhus (seers) and pilgrims, mobile fairs and haat bazzars (markets), itinerant pilgrims, performers, pastoralists, bards and tellers of myths all embody the notion of ‘motion’; all performing simultaneously on the thin veneer of our ancient but extremely flexible and adaptable ‘culture’.

No wonder India is home to the world’s largest nomadic population always on ‘motion’. Nowhere else is there such a variety of people herded and ceaselessly moving in a self organizing way giving rise to complex patterns nor can the diversity of peripatetic professions be matched.

Yet in our post modern times the sedimentary have increasingly come to represent the ‘civilized’. The mainstream (the sedentary) stands oblivious to the pull of the wanderers and the scribes and the worlds of the nomads have been circumcised’ to the odd curious enthusiasts. Little wonder, nomads are considered ‘strangers’ where ‘strangers’ in principle are ‘undesirable’ people.

And how does this ‘undesirable’ attitude surface? ‘Indifference’ is the shield used by ‘foreigners’ (the non nomads) when they meet nomads. Insensitive and aloof the foreigner seems deep down beyond the reaches of attacks and rejection that he/she nevertheless experiences with the vulnerability of a living and tortuous ‘medusa’.

Such a ‘medusa’ painfully brings on an ‘identity’ of ‘being’ something distinct from others with a fixed character of its own. What it fails to realize or let go is that our identity is changed in a nomadic style by the journey we undertake in life where both our ‘subjectivity’ and ‘objectivity’ towards ‘reality’ is recomposed, rediscovered, redesigned and evolved. What we fail to realize or give up or let go is that in this transformation every step forward is a step backwards too. Without this necessary stepping back I can’t go forward. The migrant (nomad) is here and there too at the same time. The exile from the ‘nomad’ life can be deadening with the lack of ‘stretching’ and ‘folding’, which every movement entails. Such ‘stretching’ and ‘folding’ is nomadic symbolizing ‘movement’ that is potentially creative through unleashing ‘chaos’. It can also be an affliction but can also be a transfiguration. Whatever it might be it is a vital resource to create the necessary movement from ‘being’ to ‘becoming’.

If that is so what happens to my identity of ‘being’. My ‘being’ existence is actually non-existent. Is my identity not with ‘being’ but ‘becoming’? Do I live always on the edge of a frontier – a place for separation, transition and new articulation of a state that I haven’t seen or enjoyed before? In ‘becoming’ am I relieved of the odd task of constantly creating a boundary and jealously guarding it against attacks or rejection by constantly stepping back to cross or transgress it?

I realize that I am stranger to my ‘becoming’ state. What would happen is not known to me. What I would do as a response is also not known to me. In the state of becoming I change myself physically, mentally and spiritually and nothing is known to me in advance or ever would.

That to me is the cyclical principle of resilience gained through the constant act of self renewal through ‘becoming’ leading to self transformation.

What helps me do that? Obviously the mind which itself is ‘nomadic’. I can use it the way I would like to evolve, change, be creative and change the course of my destiny and self transform myself. I know the ‘why’ and ‘whom does it serve’ but I still remain a stranger to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ in any given moment in my movement.

That allows me to develop the ability to concentrate or be focused & also keep up a defused state of attentive awareness of the contextual surroundings at the same time (integration of the left & right brains). It is the fine art of being focused on the part and the whole at the same time enabling me to flow with the dance of Shiva. That truly makes my mind & spirit nomadic, enabling flashes of fresh and original insights to act upon.

This video link below shows how we integrate our right and left brains in real situations and how such integration leads to ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’. Though I would always stay a stranger to that ‘becoming’ I refuse to remain a stranger to my present moment that informs my ‘becoming’.

http://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain.html

One thing I am sure of — Nomadic life – physically, mentally and spiritually – is usually the most gainful and risk free mode of resilient survival as it allows freedom from the limitations of confined space and time – the final form of slavery & exploitation, created by seemingly rational concepts, ideas and notions.

Living the life of a nomad is fun too since I would always stay a stranger to myself. It is a practice I love. Rightfully it is the only way one hugs resilience since it helps me to create what I want to. The practice is through travel to unfamiliar lands with new eyes and minds, engaging in spontaneous dialogs, self-study, storytelling, expressing differently through various forms of arts, interactions, improving interdependence and meditative reflection where both the right and the left brains are not only integrated but allowed to come into play simultaneously as a contextual response to real situations.

A few days from now, India celebrates Deepwali — the festival of ‘lights’. It reminds me of a celebration of a nomadic journey, thousands of years back, taken down the southern path of India (one of the two main trade routes) by Rama the hero of the epic story of Ramayana. It represents lighting the inner lamp to ‘becoming’ and to be a lamp onto others. It also reminds us to wish everyone Health, Happiness and Wealth so that the best things in life come back to us manifolds by creating sustainability and resilience at the same time.

On this auspicious occasion I dedicate this post to the Health, Happiness and Wealth of all who care to read this post or don’t care to glimpse through it.

But the question is “would you like to join me in the fun of moving and enjoying Shiva’s dance by being a stranger to yourself in the nomadic way?”

Would eagerly wait for you!

 

 

 

 

NEME that can’t be exactly Named.

Whether it is problem solving or designing or building a business model or taking a decision or for that matter anything practical — four important abilities come together.

a) Notice or discern the ‘differences’ and ‘changes’. (N)

b) Engage with the interdependent constraints in a given context (E)

c) Mull about the dynamic interactions (M). What we think about a situation is not important since it is an opinion at most. It is what the dynamic situation (always creative by itself) wants to do or express.

d) Exchange value through re-design of some sort to change or adapt to existing conditions or assist emerging conditions to emerge the way they desire. (E)

So for any dynamic phenomenon it is a NEME that we exchange. Much depends on whether we Notice or not; Engage or not; Mull or not; Exchange or not. That would help determine both our personal and social character, influenced by our consciousness, which would ultimately determine the fate of an individual, family, community, society, nation and the world as a whole.

Therefore, in Nemetics, NEME stands for many things, such as…

a) A non-linear creative process of coming to an understanding of a phenomenon

b) 4 fundamental abilities that help us survive better

c) Creation of value

d) An exchange of some value, a quanta of energy, a natural resistance that creates newness or a constraint that helps things to flow,

e) It can be applied to physical objects and phenomenon, people, social interactions and a host of other things.

f) Expression of character that determines fate of the individual and that of the collective.

What exactly is NEME then?

Fair to say that NEME can’t be exactly named.