`People aren’t always allowed to be creative’

Disrespect, question, playfulness, failure, mistakes“ aren’t the kind of stuff your folks at home, school or office will teach you but these forbidden acts can be key to unleashing the creativity inherent in everybody , expressed Tobias Degsell, curator at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm on his visit to Mumbai on Tuesday .

Those are also the first words that stare back at you from the floor as you set foot in the “little known“ museum dedicated to Alfred Nobel and the eponymous prize.“We believe that creativity is for everyone. The problem is people aren’t always allowed to choose to be creative. To break patterns, it’s necessary to push the boundaries. It’s not about disrespecting people but about questioning ideas, learning from mistakes and failing in order to succeed,“ says Tobias which isn’t just pep talk but based on years of research on 900 laureates till date.

Shattering the myth that creativity and innovation is a privilege of geniuses, labs and researchers, it can be cultivated in anyone, he adds.Just like Alfred Nobel who had never been to school, let alone university .

While there can be no definitive measures to being creative Degsell states that an attitude of courage, perseverance, vision and curiosity is crucial. “You need an enabling environment that enhances creativity and innovative human beings, that’s why we’ve brought Tobias here. Because it seems innovation and creativity is being discussed more and more in India,“ explained Fredrika Ornbrant, Consul General of Sweden. “To sit in Sweden and not share is the recipe of failure and against the spirit of the Nobel prize.We are all equal, need to work together and solve problems,“ added Degsell who on his visit to India this time helmed workshops at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and the Welingkar Institute of Management in Mumbai on what makes a creative and innovative mind.

While cradling innovation is a universal problem “because it is disruptive and goes against an existing system“, Sweden’s rank as a frontrunner in thinking outof-the-box Degsell believes owes itself to the early 19th century when people were starving in the country .“Sweden has always been a small country and we learnt the importance of using eve ryone. That’s why you won’t find hierarchies. When you depend on higher authorities and politicians to tell you what to do, it doesn’t work.“

One may wonder how a country like India with its diverse communities and hierarchies can allow for creativity to thrive, “Diversity is good,“ insists Degsell. “To promote creativity , it’s important to start really early .And it’s not about finding right answers all the time but about finding different kinds of answers and working together to solve problems.What we need in the future is teams who solve problems.“

The Nobel Museum in an old part of town is Sweden’s best kept secret that startles even the Nobel laureates when they come visiting. What started in 2001 as a travelling exhibition to mark the centenary year of the Nobel Prize moved into a brick and mortar space of 1000-sq mt that is almost a lens through which one must look at the Nobel with creativity as common ground. If the hallway manages to fit in 900 laureates, their pictures going around on a conveyor belt “like at the drycleaners“ laughs Degsell, the chairs at the museum café serve as a guestbook of sorts cataloguing signatures of all the Nobel laureates who visit.

Among the heap of memorabilia that the Nobel Museum houses Degsell’s favourite pick is a bicycle mounted on its wall that belongs to Amartya Sen. Not a common tool in economic science, but Sen’s cycle had played a major role in his research when he cycled through Bengal’s countryside, weighing children himself, when villagers refused to.


Source: The Times of India (Mumbai)

Date: 16th December, 2015.


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