Inverted triangle of innovation: children invent, engineers fabricate and companies go to market


Third  creativity  camp of  disadvantaged and privileged children organized  recently at IIMA by the Honey Bee Network threw up surprises again. Once again we learned that as we grow, our ability to perceive the unmet social needs, develop empathetic  feelings and convert these feelings into action doesn’t necessarily grow. Can we then listen to the children a bit more? Can we relook at our perceptions and feelings from their perspective?

Shireen, class 6, from  Nizammudin, New Delhi saw along with her group saw women cleaning the clay soil for making pots. They needed to sieve the clay and wash it with water so that they could remove all pebbles and larger sized particles. Else the pots would not be good, they might leak. They needed to get a solution to this problem. It does not matter whether the solution suggested by Shireen works or not. But at least she looked at the problem which might be too small for policy makers, but affects the efficiency and productivity of millions of potters worldwide. Why have not we worked on it for so long. Why does not every design,  technology , management institute spend some time to inventories such unmet social needs and try to address them. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. If the small artisans continue to use ten thousand year old technologies, to expect that we will be able to make the spirit of excellence and inclusive development,  a reality is perhaps misplaced.

Kush looked at another dimension of potter. He looked at the posture of the potter making pots on the wheel. Back-bending  posture , he felt will lead to high drudgery and pain. Couldn’t there be a table with adjustable height for potters to work. That’s how pottery is practiced in many developed countries. He was just saying the courses on furniture design should not aim at adding oen more design fo sofa or chair for rich but the ergonomic inefficiency of existing designs used by artisans in many cases should also be addressed. The engineering students are now trying to address these in a summer school on inclusive innovation in collaboration with UNICEF, Ahmedabad University, LD engineering College, IIMA,  SRISTI, NIF and GIAN. Hopefully, institutionalized inertia of centuries might get diluted to some extent, The energy  level  of  children, students and faculty from NID, IIT Gandhinagar, MIT Boston, Design faculty, Brazil, Australia,  AU, GTU,  and UC Berkeley and other campuses  is worth appreciating. But how do  we sustain this global solidarity in support of the creativity and innovation at grassroots.

IMAG4061Rohit from MIt school of design has developed a remarkable innovation of attaching clip on the cell phone having a socket for a small lens taken out from a computer part. Once he attaches it to any phone, it becomes a microscope ( in just about 50 rs) and can amplify an image by 20-25 times ( see fig)

Now, we could not deliver a microscope to every primary school and thus children can see the life, beyond what is visible  to a  naked eye. They don’t  have to know less just because government cannot provide a small lab to every school. The consciousness about   personal hygiene and sanitation can increase so much more if they can see at that detail about the dirt under their nails, or in water. They can become more curious about insects behavior, form, and shapes. Or for that matter a flower or leave in much greater detail. Once curiosity unfolds, who knows what discoveries these children will make. It can of course also be used for diagnostic purposes.IMAG3095 - Copy

There are several other students working on tents for migrant workers, palm leaf broom making device, educational watch, and so many other devices( more next week). Inverted model will work if companies can join hands. But then ought to be hungry for innovations, they often are not;  not many  Indian companies at least. But things will change, they have to…



Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place