Monday, July 18, 2011

On Creativity

I once stayed in an upscale hotel in Mexico.  When I checked in to my room, I found a piece of paper near the telephone. It said “We are having trouble with our phone system.  To reach room 123 dial 125.  To reach room 124 dial 127...”  A full page of this, meticulously hand typed.  And again in Spanish on the other side.  Using a mechanical typewriter.

Someone had recognized a problem.  They had envisioned a solution.  They had implemented that solution. 

This is not the solution that an American would come up with.  The American would call the phone company, who would send technicians to work on the “issue.” For days, the customers would be told the phones were simply “out of order”.

The American solution is clearly the most elegant, but also the most expensive in both time and manpower.  It is not clear which solution is objectively better.  In the end, the customers at the Mexican hotel are probably not any less satisfied than in the American case. 

Creativity comes in many forms, and our previous experiences mold both our expectations and our ability to visualize solutions.

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