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The Curse of Creativity

THE PROBLEM with creative people is they like to do creative things. Throughout history, they have tormented mankind with the prolific use of their brain cells. They began by creating guns and then went on to make nuclear missiles. And as if that wasn't enough destruction, they invented domestic appliances.

There is a reason why we are so acerbic about the whole thing. Guns are okay so long as they are not pointed at anybody in particular. Nuclear missiles can be tolerated under 20 feet of Siberian snow. But domestic appliances? There is simply no excuse for that. We could have forgiven those creative monsters for making so much of an apple falling on their heads, but the conception of the vacuum cleaner is absolutely reprehensible. Honest, hard working housewives who used to have the time of their lives mopping floors and washing dishes are now deprived of their daily pleasures, and have turned into bored slatternly scalawags, thanks to this creation of devious minds.

Although there is an infinitesimal segment of the world's population who would like to believe otherwise, creativity is a curse, not a blessing. It is the cause of all the world's troubles. Even offices have not been spared. Like a contagion that has reached epidemic proportions, every office has its bunch of infected workers. Every so often, they come up with new ways to improve productivity, design new products or build new equipment, leaving little gasping space for ordinary people or little chance for them to cope with. But there is a remedy. In fact, there are six.

a. Stifle artistic tendencies: A lot of these creative types tend to be artistic. They usually like to play around with norms and see if they can bend the rules to add an artistic flourish to their work. Make it clear that you won't stand for this kind of tomfoolery.

b. Red-Tape: What would the world do without it? If, perchance, anybody should come up with a creative idea, ensure that they have to get it signed, attested and ratified by at least fifteen people, including the invisible housekeeping staff, in different parts of the office building before they bring it to your notice.

c. Conform, I say: Creative people usually have their own way of functioning and are extremely possessive about it. So, the easiest way to stop their onslaught is to ban anything they find comforting. If they like to put up pictures of Jimmy Hendrix or Einstein, take care to inform them that it is against company policy to brandish pictures of anyone other than the boss. Also, strategically place maniacal `Big Brother is watching you' posters around the water-cooler.

d. To be or not to be: Whoever came up with the concept of delegating decision-making was a lazy brute. Not only is it harmful and dangerous, it is plain silly. The idea is to accord all decision-making capabilities to the top level of management and make rubber stamps out of the rest of the company's employees.

e. Isolate the Philistines: Do not, by any chance, include them or ask them to participate in any grand scheme the company wishes to undertake. Give them monotonous tasks to accomplish and leave them in the dark about what the aims and objectives of the project are. Was it Confucius who once said it is always safe to let your left hand be unaware of what your right is doing? Or maybe it was Richard Nixon. In either case, it is a sound theory that has stood the test of time.

f. Reward incompetence: Surely, the best way to curb that painful creative impulse is to hand the apple to the slob who sits at his desk twiddling his thumbs all day and to regard with disdain the pencil-necked geek who chirps about arcane things like quality and productivity. In all cases, seniority must be the benchmark for reward, not ability. One of the great, or perhaps the only great thing about creativity is it can so easily be delightfully corrupted. Thomas Alva Edison made the light bulb after two years of failed attempts, but it takes only one bungling electricity board employee to shut off the power of an entire region. Who is more powerful? We leave it to you to decide.

ARJUN SENGUPTA

Arjuns.hyd@cnkonline.com

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