Creative problem-solving for Asians : a practical guide to develop your creativity as an Asian 9789810573249, 9810573243

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Creative problem-solving for Asians : a practical guide to develop your creativity as an Asian
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aration tage, the er ator i d pl· i d in the problem and find out a lot of informa ion rela ed o it. But he ·s 11ab]cto ol' theprobl m soheputsi asid oatt ndtoothermatters. H ~' v r the problem remains in the sub onscio s mind of the r a or. I endures further transfonnation, during the phase of inc~ubation. Eventually, a creative idea to deal with eproblem em es fro _ the de th of the subconscious min .


1 Asians can be creative i spite of the, society

This occurs abruptly ikc a h1cf in th night I a in th rea orto experience as dd n bur t of insight. 1 hi pha 111poncnts r11 ~ans cc>n1panic c n . c n 1nanu ~ luring ~osts. 1

n a talk on "inn in t· te i for inno\ ation \\1ozn · k --ai : upru ion i very importan . It motivat~ you always ant to d 0 1





2 Whal Is lhe creollve person like?

2. C'rearor.,· perse vere against rhe greatest obstacles in life The crcalor is not afruid of hardship. He would persevere aga inst lhc gn.:alcsl obstacles instead of g iving up the fight. Zhang Yimou is a very creative 111ovie director from China. But his rise in the Chi nese 111111 world is not an easy one. Zhang was born in Xian, Co1nmunist China. His father was an of'!icer or the Kuo111intang Ar111y wh ich eventually tled to Taiwan. Because of this link. Z hang surlered a lot during the Communist rule, especially during the Cultural Revo lution. Zhan g was in secondary school when the Cultural Revolution started. He had to abandon his studies to work as a laborer, at first on a fann , then in a text ile mill. After the C ultural Revolution, Zhang became a photographer. I le had to sell his blood for five 1nonths in order to raise money to buy his first ca1nera. Zhang applied to enter the Beijing Central Fihn Academy, but his initial app licatio n was rejected, as he was considered too old. He \vas accepted only after a personal appeal to the Minister of Culture, who was irnpressed ,vith the photograpbs tbat Zhang had taken. Upon his gradua tion, Zhang jo ined a core of young filrnn,akers called the Fifth Generation. Collectively, they produced a new genre of Chinese movies that was highly acclain1ed by both critics and c ine1na-goers. But Zha ng continued to face obstacles as a creative 1novie director. In 1989 he made Ju Dou, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. But this movie was banned in China 17

2 What i s the c reative person like?

because the Communist government deemed it to be unsu itable for a Chinese audience. Zhang was eve n prevented from attending the award ceremony. Still, Zhang did not stop making movies. His earlier experiences while growing up had emboldened him to fight such adverse situations in life and defy his own fate. Zhang's hard work and sacrifice paid off: today he is one of the most respected movie directors in the Chinese-spea king world. 3. Creators dare to take calculated risks to achieve their goals

The creator dares to take calculated risks to achieve his goals, by weighing his options carefully in the matter. Dr Jean Borel is an immunologist from Switzerland who was involved in a research project. His goal is to develop a drug that could increase the survival rate of patients in surgical operations by allowing transplanted organs to function properly. After many experimental trials, Dr Borel narrowed his search down to cyclosporin A. But preliminary tests revealed that it could not be absorbed in human blood.

If so, then it is worthless as a rejection remedy for transplant operations. The research project was in danger of being axed. However, Dr Borel was sure that the negative result was due to a technical problem. He based thfa inference on years of o bserving the easy absorption of cyclosporin A in the blood of rats and rhesus monkeys.


2 What is the cieatJve person li~e·?

Dr Borel ought pennission from his company to conduct an official experinient on him ~elf. He kne,v that an animal could not be illed \\rith one do e of cyclo porin A. Or Borel intended to take it in the same quantity. Permi ·sion vla granted, o he mixed himself a cocktail containing 00 n1ilHgTan1s of cyclo porin A.

T· o different bioa- says a few· hours later detected a ignificant level of c clo po 1n A in his blood. Further tests confirn1ed that c ·closporin A can be absorbed in pharmacologically acti e cone ntration. Dr B rel'. ca cuiatcd ri. le-taking on c rclo porinA had paid off. ot on did hi. bra c act pre ent the research project from being axed. In addition, it led to the ma ... production of cyclo ponn A, ,Nhich increased the urvival rates for all transplant operations. 4. Creators en}oj taking up difficult challenges in life

The r ator is an independent person who like to tac e difficult challenges in life. Dr Thor Heyerdahl is a world•rcnowncd anthropologi~ t from Nor\va \'\'ith a sitreak of Indiana Jones in him. He a~lcd 4,300 nauti at miles across. the Pacific Oc an on a prin itive raft made ofbal a-w·ood ncountering ra in stonns and ~ nding off n1an-eating shark , just t prove an ab tract theory to ht coll ague in the academic \vorld.

Dr I hor had argued that the

Islands located 1n the middle of the Pacific Ocean was not cttlcd by inhabitants from India and A ia. In. tl;ad. it v a a ~ ativ A111erican by the name of Kon-Tiki ho fi t ct foot on these i and·. ,outh Se


2 Wha is the c eat ve

r. on like?

i~·s i idea. I h s day·. he on(v ats .. \·ail~ )et ti . . 1 a i,·c~ _1f lh~, ~,r ' t v.i ·r . lsa-\1-vo ratl. . Jt \J ·., • Jr11 ·t · n1 c>s: i le t "rna inc :uc a pri t11 it1 c c '"ft · i ft < n ,_ _-•o s and · ha r k - i n f · ~ t I t: ~ ·1 n. n1 t k in g it.: \.\'· • sh a kj >t n o 11 c> f i~ ·Ian r ui I halsa-\l,' . riti i n, ,,,y cn,·t't.JUt"tJ • • n '- , , J 1.,.un ,. ~ 111tlli( 01, ,, · o/lr,~ c th1nk111 ·ouplc·ll ,nth lht· ,n,; t\'\\ i,,n tlt ,r . ·,>111/t f.; 1111cntio11al~ bein I, ., I\ c·d f.y the: ....1lt' rl,rou~lt lie.. It\\ 1 · , cr11shi11 ~ 1ur11rt·x,io11. • IJ/ j 1011 1,. • 1i11.·t t'l't'/: Ai,ul aurhoril ' l,!f"( •U ' out o/ thi.: ~ 1 · 1t·1tc-. 1 s t'pli a/ allitu_!.,, ,, h i ti J lJ ~~ I , d i " ·c l ( p d at rt:tU ocn lo pp] . rh . . 111. \- a nc\ ' rcna•~ __ t n " . ~. Hr "n.tblt: l l I

P·ixa " th~ th r ~ >1 t an .. · thL t Jolls h· star d \ ·a~· a] · ) uc :·~ 'u I: 1 c at ~d u: · k . )n · c .. d. r · r . i11 t 1c fa ,f rn ih.lft~. ,, i · resi[i nt ·pirit fthc c,

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id of

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· c ampl . homas Edi. on fai cd rn lr ~,· l n I e · to m c a ight bu') , ctorc h ft all) di o · red that lng t n r , a fil t. . · rd r , ad hi tn r t: (ier1iz,.s i · 1% i 1 /Jir, _. on elf) i I ore, a)ucd han ·\v ~-nes. focus n lher ).

, a result the t ·pie I We t 1t1cr is likel t de, lop an xtr \'crted an n r nality. and engages in th. c b ha\'ior that are t ·-pical f the cr -ator. For exa1nplc. he i ind pendent, a rt1 . e ri k-oricnted1 . cun u nfid 'nt, d\·cnturou and broad-n1inded.


3 How lhe

tM .. i

... a,e• ~ es 1h11 a

·,,, pe,504 afitr

Cruton are dogmatic pe.ople, "nice" pe.ople an aot creative and c~tiYe pe.ople are not -mc:e"

1·ve argued 1hat it is hardtt for-the creative personality to take root in the East. as -~'e-fleS.'S•• is 1;:afued over ··t-ness- in a coilectivisric culture.

By oontrasl, it is easier for the creative personality to take root in the West.~ " l•ness' · is valued over "We--oess" i.n an individualistic culnR. Many pcoplc - cspccially those who li ve in the East - disagree with my argument that Asians are less creative than Westerners because of the society they grow up in. So let me present my thesis in a different way. It begins by considering the creative act. A creati\·e act, by definition, involves the introduction of novel eleme.nts into an established domain. Consequently, it threatens the c,)nvcntional niannerofdoing things. So there will be much resistance faced by the creator to conform to

others. lnstead of succumbing to this insidious pressure to toe the line, the creator resists it by stubbornly clinging on to his radical idea. Put in a more succinct and pungent manner, creators are dogmatic people ,vho engage in conflict and confrontation with other people in society. As Albert Einstein has remarked: Great spirits hCI\/e always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The la11er cannot understand it when a person does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices, but honestly and c ourageous~)' uses his intelligence.


3 How the env,ro

en1 shapes the c, at1ve personal! y

Thi parad x 1cal notion of the dogn1ati creator chaJlenge. the c nv~ntio 1al Yie\v f lhl: c cat r as an innovati v per ·on ·ho · hink ut o ~t e x In dditiort t al Jll\'i ( · an intercstin 1 thou ht: Hnice •r p ople are not creativ, and creative people a~ not "nice ~·. H.

The reasoning is as foJlo\, : Hnice ~~ people aJi agre .abJe individuaJs ,vho go alon \\ ith ~,·hat th group say . in tead of upsettin c ryon by doing thjngs their o\,n way. 1

In contr l, rea i, e peopl arc not "nice·· ecau. e hey in ·i ·t that other hould do as they ay. n tnatter ho\v strange or \Vacky their idea5 ar .

ian. are like] · to Ix ·~nice~, p pie \\'ho ar not creati e. h1 is becat · the; rivc in a coliec i, i r'c c1 ty \\ hich value·' \\" -ne s · over ..I- e s'". Ape on \\'tth hi p tern of p rsona ity ("nice,· but not crcat·ve) viii fi nd 1t ha1 o beha\'e like the do natic creator. because heh no · om ch for 'onflict and con rontation \\1th her p ople in society. This is illustrated be 0\V. 1



C Ioc ·vjs ic culture in I _ - -> the~

Int rdependen icw of se]f

c:onfonning~ avoid conflict

,.vith oth

g (~00 . L1bera11ng rhe ,:reaI1 e sp1r11 m6ap rt ; Pcarso E ucatio11 ·o t Asia. p. 157

Adapt , fr

u1 Asurn


• No al e connota1Ion 1s associated w• h 1he word "nice". hat is. · nice" does not mean "'moJal y . etter . Instead .. n,oo means abd1ty to get along v,ith ot er people w,1 a minimal amount of soc,al frrctron".


3 How the ,e nvironment shapes lhe creative personality

ln contrast,.Westen1ers are likely to be creative people who are not "nice·. This is because they live in an individualistic society which values '"'l•ness'' o er ··v..·e-ness'.,_

f personalit ( creati e but not "nice.,,) behave Iik~ the do matic crcat r ho defends hi · radical idea against the onu11ur1ity, in tead of ucctunbin to its i~ idiow pressure to confonn and toe the 1ine. Trus is illustrated below. A person with this patten1 ·

lndividualistic -----"'-.

culture in the West


Independent :

" e, ie\J of lf 1....--✓ faces confhct -~1.wness., with others 1

Liberating the creattv,e 'Prrrt in As,an students ingapore: Pearson Education .o uth Asia. p. t 57.

Ad4Jpted from

The creative

'g 2004).

sian: Co1nbining Ea t and West

I hav argu d that it is d ifTicult for the typical Asian to develop a treatiYe p rsonruit · due to th nature ofsociety in the '..aSt. But ""difficulf' docs notmean · impossible"'': \,v e can still strive to be a creative Asian. Many people ma think that in order to a hieve this goal, we 111ust "chuck out the East in fa o r ofth We f'. That i · w·e mustforsak ~ ~hoppi 1 , cnte . in. ingapor to look or thi toy ct. H en cnl istcd the h Ip of r lati e and friend 11\ i •g abrc ad in hi · ~earch. Bu he co lid not find ~that he was Jooking for. . t e lc:\t d ~.



aking and evalua ·ng a creative prod ct

. , l\'i n ch.: id~d to bL ild the toy s,et him e]f To a hieve t ·s goa] he c O\'C cd part ofhjs hou. c inlo a \1.·orkshop. H came up 1wvith different ~1 ap ~ . and experimented with differ nt material. E entuaUy, Al in -u cecdcd in creating a \vorking prototype of B achwork .

h·in managed to 1ndlc the tntl:r t ot Ru bermaid a Fortune 500 coinpan v. h1 h manufactur .: playground equip 1en in his de, stle proje t. Ht! had to t1 to th Chicago Toy & Craft Fair to n1akc his r >ntation n Beachviork to Rubbermaid.

\Vhe AI in arri cd at his de tination after an cxharustin° flight, t e ·found hat Rubbermaid \Va ~ n tat the to air ue to a last-min te cancel ation, lt looked like his hard v ork had come to a dead end. H \vcver A fvin had co e so far and r u d to gi c up on ht

dr am. So h approach ·d th other c mnpan!es at the toy fair and tdcd to arou e their int rest in Beach\\-'Ork . t fir t he m t ,vith lit I . u because no on had p cted him l"Atr'~

But l\ vin' d termination paid off at ast: Ea l Affiliate a ·lastj -manufacturing ·on1pan , be amt! in re te in his business a. Th11 u ,ha. r cs f lorfu) lides s i-fi tyl A vin .nticed h audicn c \\'ith th·s business fonnu a:

no. of kilo,nerer o· andy b ache x of H'arrn ·u,n1n r day rro. of adult~ ind children


th b ach /or 1oi11g to th beach

pent at ►1·ho

Ea l ffi liatcs a\.v the busincs potential in the and ·a ·tte nh re and can1c up with US l 1nillion for the project. Thi· m ney w, u·ed to 'O\' r pi duction mark ting a d other co ts. B a \ or wa. laun hcd to gr at fanfafie at th ew York Toy Fair 1997.


4 Ma ing and evaluating a creative product

It turn d oul to be a high l :~uccc ., fur lau nch: Rea h,vork ~-cl!

featured n n1ajor T nl;t,vork. in America and. ingapore. It c,·CfJ v.-on Alvin th pre tigious Or, penhiu111 Gold l\v ard 1997.

Bl;a h\ ork j · able to do so v.,· I in the n1arkctp)a c h cause 11

fulfill the t: . . entiaJ criteria of a ·r ati c product. F 1r t it is novel and refre hingf di Jlcrl;nt fr ·n the tandard hcach tools for building sandca tlc..

· nd. it is practical and a · to use. as 111.any ·hj Jdrcn and eve adult avcdiscov red. FinaUy itis thc cul n1jnation of man rionth f hard ,vork b it creator. \vho elaborated on an initial idea tha1 arose fr m an outj n to th beach. How is a creative product c,,aluated.

L ·k rnan thin 1 s that \ve do in 1if the rcat i c product· t at, . on ·tru ·t must ntually undergo t;. tcrnal l: al uation b ' othe1 parties. PsychoJo 1 i ts have d ,\·el pculd p nd o t . de ai] our


in the fie d

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