What once was new is now old
And what is now new will soon be old
And so it goes
With friends and foes
Once a friend, now a foe
And now a friend, but a foe before
Nothing to hold
Nothing to last
Each day is gold
But flowing so fast
Regret not the past
And fret not the future
The moment is now
Let’s make it a wow!
Happy “Now” Year to all of you!
And for those anxiously awaiting the IP linkage, let me point you to two important words deployed in this poor attempt at poetry above : “flow” and “now”. In many ways, they constitute the core essence of creativity. Those that create often tell us that they are in the “moment”, in the “zone” when they create best. Where often times there is no distinction between the creator and the created; so immersed are they in the act of creation that …..boundaries dissolve, borders merge, spaces expand, time ceases to matter and there is one continuous “flow” between subject and object.
A process captured best by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a leading expert on the psychology of creativity who first propounded the theory of “flow”. For those interested, here is what he means by “flow”.
1. Flow: “A state of “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” (See Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”).
2. Case Study 1: Csikszentmihalyi gives us the following case study of a leading composer, who describes his experience thus:
“You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.”
3. Case Study 2: And yet another case study (of leading poet Mark Strand) who describes his “flow” experience thus:
“You’re right in the work, you lose your sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing…. there’s no future or past, it’s just an extended present in which you’re making meaning…”
4. Autotelism: Almost all the people studied by Csikszentmihalyi placed the joy of working ahead of any extrinsic rewards they may receive from it (“autotelism”). A piece of wisdom that is incredibly important for our IP debates; where even absent compelling empirical evidence, we assume that external rewards are what primarily motivate and incentivise people to create/innovate.
“Creative persons differ from one another in a variety of ways, but in one respect they are unanimous: They all love what they do. It is not the hope of achieving fame or making money that drives them; rather, it is the opportunity to do the work that they enjoy doing. Jacob Rabinow explains: “You invent for the hell of it. I don’t start with the idea, ‘What will make money?’ This is a rough world; money’s important. But if I have to trade between what’s fun for me and what’s money-making, I’ll take what’s fun.” The novelist Naguib Mahfouz concurs in more genteel tones: “I love my work more than I love what it produces. I am dedicated to the work regardless of its consequences.”
Flow(ing) from Dhyan: Made in India?
Interestingly, “flow” resonates with many of the tenets of Zen Buddhism, whose core essence is that of being “in the moment”. Fully and completely. Not dwelling in the past; or anxiously awaiting the future. But focussing on the here and “now”.
Zen, they say, derives from “Chan”, a Chinese precept. And “Chan” in turn drew from “Dhyan”, an absorptive “meditative” state well known to Buddhism and Hinduism. The notion of “Dhyan” underlies many of our ancient spiritual traditions, including Yoga. Csikszentmihalyi acknowledges this link in one of his works:
“The similarities between Yoga and flow are extremely strong….Both try to achieve a joyous, self-forgetful involvement through concentration, which in turn is made possible by a discipline of the body.”
There you have it, we’ve come one full circle to realize that the concept of “flow” may have been “made in India”. And yet we’ve all but forgotten this historical heritage and its potential value for our innovation and IP debates. Where we end up spending more time fixing the things that matter less for creativity and innovation. And ignoring the things that matter more. Such as the fact that our schools kill creativity a thousand fold more than IP (or the woeful lack of it)! Where parents keen to see their children settled in stable jobs and well-dowried marriages shudder at the very mention of entrepreneurship and risk. We need to fix these! And fix them quick! For they matter more for the unleashing of creativity than technical twitches to legal regimes. Particularly when the empirical connect between such legal twitches (increasing patent protection) and the alleged enhancement in the rate of innovation are still heavily contested.
As a well cited report (“A patent system for the 21st Century” [Committee on Intellectual Property Rights in the Knowledge Based Economy]) tellingly put it:
“[t]here are theoretical as well as empirical reasons to question whether patent rights advance innovation in a substantial way in most industries.”
And on that metaphysical note, let me (on behalf of the SpicyIP team) wish all our readers a very Happy New Year! Or better still a Happy “Now” Year! One with more of a flow and less of an (IP) row.
Ps: Interestingly, “Csíkszentmihályi” is pronounced as “Chicks sent me high”. Quite fitting, given that the intimate presence of the fairer sex (and vice versa) has been known to spur creativity like no other!