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很多人想到創意,就想到與眾不同的想法,或是繪畫音樂等藝術,或是獨特設計的產品,甚至於有點昂貴。這些想法都很正確,毋庸置疑。但是,我希望大家想一想的是創意的目的到底是什麼?只為了要與眾不同?只為了要提高產品的售價?一樣的,我覺得這些目的都沒有錯,每個人有每個人的想法。但是,我深深相信創意還有另一層更深的意義,就是解決問題。我在從事創意領域這些年來,很多人不理解我的工作。不理解的原因很簡單,因為對創意的認知不同。

對我而言,創意是解決問題的利器,所以我在我的創意工作坊或是培訓中做的是如何有效率地解決問題,如何利用現有的知識及創意解決現在面對的問題。但我不會講一些一般坊間可見的方法,如要如何管理時間,要如何專案管理,要如何溝通,要……。我不說的原因是,那些都不適合『當下』的狀況,如果適合,『現在』就應該沒有問題了。還有問題的原因,就是那些幫不了『現在』的問題,沒時間慢慢學習也沒時間慢慢看書,『現在』就需要一個方法,一個可以短時間解決現有問題的方法。可這辦法只有當事人知道,因為當事人最清楚其自身及團隊的狀況。我的工作在幫助客戶透過分析了解現實,並發揮其創意來找出解決問題的辦法。即使發現沒有辦法解決這問題也好,因為至少確定了不用浪費時間在那問題上,可以把時間精力花在別的事情上。有時候在我的工作坊中,客戶會發現他們以為的問題根本不是問題,一是沒問題,只是想多了,一是真正的問題在別處。而這都大幅減少了無謂的時間、人力或是成本的浪費。

所以我說,我談的創意,重在解決問題,不在與眾不同,藝術或是設計。但是問題解決的過程中或是結果,新穎及提升產品價值等也會被實現。我認為,”新的點子”不一定能解決問題,但是能解決問題的方法可能創造”新的價值”。這是我談的創意,也是我常說的創意問題解決。再來就是,如果你把創意的重點放在創意解決問題而非藝術設計,創意就不一定是昂貴的。去年10月國家地理雜誌的一篇報導“大創意,小包裝”就應證了這樣的概念。為解決世界各地的問題,設計師創造了價格低廉的新穎產品,這些創新發明中很多是為要給第三世界的國家裡的人使用,所以便宜可用是目的首要考量,功能差一些沒關係。這些創新產品的存在的空間及價值在解決第三世界的國家裡的人面臨的問題。以下就分享這些創新不貴,幫消費者解決了問題又幫公司賺錢的創新產品:

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  • infant warmer: 類似保溫箱,給早產兒用,嬰兒大小的尺寸
  • water container: 主要是有些落後地區,因為乾旱要走很遠取水,所以設計了像輪子的桶子Q drum,可裝13加侖的水,用拖滾輪的方法可以輕鬆的走較長的距離
  • asthma devices: 一個協助氣喘病患用藥的產品,只賣一塊錢美金取代原來約二十美金的產品
  • purifying straw: 有些落後地區缺乏水處理設施,喝的水都不乾淨, 使用本物品可直接取表面水過濾就可以比較安全的喝了,方便攜帶,隨時都有乾淨的水喝
  • chili grinder: 傳統上衣索匹亞的婦女們都用水把紅辣椒磨成粉, 耗時而且手會被辣椒刺激,現用一個兩層的金屬東西手搖,只要大約原來的四分之一時間就可以磨出比較均勻的辣椒粉,而且手不接觸辣椒
  • sugarcane charcal: 許多落後地區會砍伐森林樹木當材燒, 不但煙會污染空氣而且也破壞森林,把甘蔗莖做成木炭來燒就會同時解決前述的倆個缺點,又開發了新的木炭商業價值
  • portable clay cooler: 運由古老方法,將小碗放在黏土做成的大碗中,小碗內欲保存的食物, 兩碗中間放濕的砂子,利用水分蒸發保持較低的溫度, 原先只能保存幾天的番茄可以保存幾個禮拜

還有一些,我就不一一介紹,有興趣的可以到國家地理雜誌的網站上看更詳細的資訊。

For most people when they think of creativity, they think of brand new ideas, art or fancy designs, and often ‘pricy’ comes to mind. They are right, no doubt. But, I want to ask what is the intention behind using creativity? To be different? To make products pricer? Again I will say there is no problem with any of those answers – every individual has their own way to interpret the meaning for themselves. However, I believe that solving problems should be the deep meaning behind all kinds of creativity.

During the past few years working in creativity and innovation field, I have met many people who don’t get what I am doing. It’s understandable why they don’t get it, since different people have different ideas of what creativity means. For me, creativity is a tool to help people solve problems; so I help (or train) the participants how to solve their problems efficiently using their knowledge and the creativity they already possess. I don’t discuss the methods you can find in many books, like time management, project management or communication skills, as those methods are not that useful for the problems at hand. If they were useful, the problems would have already been solved. The reason the problems are still bothering people is those methods don’t work now, for this problem. People usually don’t have time to learn and digest new skills or methods – they need a solution now; a solution they could put to work on in a short time. Usually the people who would recognize the best solution are the problems’ owner(s), since they have the best understanding of the problems. So my job is to help my customers analyze the context and put their creativity and resources to work to find the solution that works best for them. It is possible that people realize that there is no way for them to solve the problem now, but at least they come away knowing that they should spend time and resources on other solvable problems now instead of wasting additional resources on this one. Sometimes my clients discover that what they thought was the problem ended up either not being a problem at all or not being the true core problem. Either way helps them save lots of time and effort.

That’s why I said my creativity focus is on solving problems – not on being different or artistic or coming up with new designs. But the process or outcome of solving the problems usually also come along with originality and value of the products or services. I think “new ideas” do not necessarily solve the problem, yet solving the problem might bring out “new value”. So I don’t like to just say creativity – I like to say creative-problem-solving instead.

Besides, if your focus is solving the problems instead of fancy art or design, creativity is not really that expensive. National Geographic Magazine had an article “Big idea, Small package” last October which illustrated this concept well. Those designers came up with many inexpensive innovative products to help people solve the problems they encounter. Most of the products are for Third World people; utility and affordability are the main design goals, while fancy designs and unnecessary functionality are afterthoughts. As you can see, those innovative and inexpensive products solve the problems for users, but are also profitable for the companies. I will share some products below. If you are interested in learning more, please go to the National Geographic Magazine website to read the report “Big Idea, Small Package“.

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  • Infant Warmer

    Around 19 million low-birthweight babies are born every year in developing countries. Unable to regulate their body temperatures, many die. The Embrace helps to warm vulnerable infants (a special pouch slips into the back of the bag to provide hours of safe heat) while allowing for nursing and cuddling.

    Developed by: Jane Chen, Linus Liang, Naganand Murty, Rahul Panicker
    Website: embraceglobal.org
    Launch country: India

  • Asthma Device
    Young asthmatics often can’t coordinate breathing with the aerosol puff dispensed by inhalers. The folded-paper Respira “spacer” traps medication around the mouth so that it can be inhaled. Conventional spacers can run $20 or more—a prohibitive cost in the developing world, where asthma rates are rising. Respira costs about a dollar.

    Developed by: Eric Green, Santiago Ocejo, Barry Wohl
    Website: respiradesign.org
    Launch country: Mexico

  • Water Container
    In impoverished rural areas, clean water is often miles away from the people who need it, leaving them susceptible to waterborne diseases. The sturdy Q Drum holds 13 gallons in a rolling container that eases the burden of transporting safe, potable water—a task that falls mostly to women and children.

    Developed by: P. J. and J. P. S. Hendrikse
    Website: qdrum.co.za
    Launch country: South Africa

  • Purifying Straw
    Some 900 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Sipping through the LifeStraw filters surface water on-site, reducing the transmission of bacteria and viruses. Thousands of ten-inch LifeStraws were donated to Haiti after this year’s earthquake. Each filters about 160 gallons; a new, shorter model, nearly 265.

    Developed by: Vestergaard Frandsen
    Website: lifestraw.com
    Launch country: Kenya

  • Chili Grinder
    Ethiopian women have for centuries crushed chili peppers by hand—a time consuming, painful way to add value to a staple spice. The Pepper Eater mills chilies four times faster, creating uniform flakes and sparing hands from chili-oil burns.

    Developed by: Samuel Hamner, Scott Sadlon
    Website: thepeppereater.org
    Launch country: Ethiopia

  • Sugarcane Charcoal
    Burning wood and dung, the main fuel sources for many in the developing world, has contributed to deforestation and respiratory ailments. Not only do briquettes made from crushed sugarcane stalks make use of an abundant local resource, they burn more cleanly and allow residents to start a charcoal business for less than $50.

    Developed by: MIT D-Lab
    Website: d-lab.mit.edu/resources
    Launch country: Haiti

  • Portable Clay Cooler
    Building upon an ancient food-storage technique, the pot-in-pot system uses evaporation from a layer of wet sand between two nesting pots to help extend the life of farmers’ goods. Tomatoes can last weeks instead of just days, meaning more fresh produce at the market and more income for farmers.

    Developed by: Mohammed Bah Abba
    Website: none available
    Launch country: Nigeria

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