Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creativity = The Unexpected

We hope that everyone had a great sabha last week as we start this year with an emphasis on making them great.

Speaking of which, we may have found ourselves in a great debate last week on all things creative. It all boiled down to one question: what is unexpected?
  • One line of thought entailed embracing new approaches, like dazzling visuals courtesy of Powerpoint or hands-on activities or even interactive games. 
  • On the other hand, we felt that we've sat through stellar pravachans given by P. Santo and haribhakto who hardly used any of these items.
So what gives?

After much popcorn and dark chocolate consumption (to get the brain juices flowing), we arrived at one simple but important principle: Creativity is about creating curiosity about the subject at hand.

It can entail a game or activity.
It can entail a vivid image.
It can entail simple analysis.

It does not matter how we do it, but if we can accomplish that goal, then it is creative, it is unexpected. Let's take an example. If we had a presentation on faith, maybe we want to set up a "trust fall" where individuals fall onto the arms of several others to demonstrate the type of faith we should exhibit with God. If this has not been done in sabha before, then this is unexpected (i.e. creative).

Now, let's take a step back and ask ourselves: Did this create curiosity in our audience? It might have, but it all depends on the audience. Have they ever done the trust fall before? Does every sabha have an activity? Usually something like the "trust fall," by itself, does not create curiosity about the topic of faith. This is a common misconception we have had when we were trying to make our sabha sticky. We would throw in an activity (or video, or picture, etc.) just to mix things up. This led to more popcorn consumption and another epiphany: Mixing things up usually does not create curiosity; we need to stimulate attention.

At this point we ran out of popcorn so we bought some Shayona chevado (spicy mix!) and asked ourselves, "How do we do this? How can we create curiosity about the idea of faith?"

We believe that the solution lies in taking this unexpected event and looking at it in a different light. After we "mix it up" with the fall activity, what we say about is what will really create curiosity about the topic(s) at hand. Everyone implicitly knows the moral, "We have faith that the people will catch us."

But what if they don't? Would we do it again? What if we fall 50 times, and 50 times the people who are meant to catch us simply don't? Would we fall for the same trick on the 51 time? Having faith means taking the plunge every time. Dada Khacher demonstrated exactly this principle with his court case.

Trying to find the unorthodox questions, connection, or viewpoint will lead us to the idea that will create curiosity. The trust fall may mix things up enough for people to wake up, but the thought above will create curiosity, make the person go, "Hmmmm," and open them up to our concrete and credible stories to back up our sticky message. And that's what keeps people glued to powerful pravachans; the speakers are providing ideas that provoke our thoughts. They're breaking the expectation of the topic at hand.

When we fail to create curiosity, we run the risk of creating cheesiness which, in turn, results in the skepticism and mockery of the message at hand.

In the past we have relied (often to heavily) on asking questions to "shake things up." So we may ask,"Who is the President?" or "Who likes lasagna?" These were almost rhetorical questions. Nobody was becoming curious or having their expectations broken, so they did not really work for us. It's not to say that someone could not pull it off, but it is just that we could not find that idea or follow-up story that put these pedestrian questions in a new light.

Just as we emptied out the last of the chevdo and read over the bhod katha that Yogiji Maharaj told of the honest thief who became the diwan, it hit us - this story could create curiosity if we looked at it from the point of view of the thief. He was always telling the truth, a real life Jim Carey. He was gangsta in that he had courage infused in him by the Sant he had just met. This led to the idea that honesty is all about having courage, and for us, the source of that courage is Bapa on our post last week.

In short, let's remember that while there many ways to be creative, it's the curiosity that counts; think unexpectedly.

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