“Practice makes it Perfect” and “Repetition is the mother of Habit”

We would have heard the above phrases very often. Then there is Malcolm Gladwell’s 10000 hours rule, that 10,000 hours of “Deliberate Practice” guarantees success, though there are confusions, counter opinions about the number of hours, but the truth is that “Deliberate Practice” makes things easier for us, as we save time and effort.

“Deliberate practice was a strong overall predictor of success, people who report practicing a lot generally tend to perform at a higher level than people who practice less,” Oswald said.

When we look at the differences between expert performers and normal performers, the experts have a life-long period of practice to improve their performance in a specific domain.

Practicing is not just how often you practice, but also the way how you practice.

To gain skills rapidly, we have to find a way to incorporate the practice into our everyday life.

Evidence shows that the creative experience only comes after considerable effort and time has been put into practice to help us generate ideas at will in short time. How will you incorporate this practice into your everyday life? Let’s look at people who have incorporated this practice into their everyday life.


Designers – Product, Industrial, Graphic, UX designers, Architects etc… Designer’s job requires the highest level of creative processing and they have practiced thinking creatively on purpose. They cannot wait for Inspirational moments over breakfast or bathing to generate ideas since they need them every day to meet tighter deadlines and cannot charge for “Thinking Time” in their client invoices.

“Creative people have considerable cognitive flexibility, communicate easily, are intellectually curious, and tend to let their impulses flow freely.” Donald N. MacKinnon

Donald N. MacKinnon (2005) has outlined three different kinds of creativity, first is artistic creativity, the second type is scientific and technological creativity, the third type is hybrid creativity, found in fields of design, architecture, that exhibits both a novel problem solution and the personality of the creator.

The designers which I’m mentioning are of the Third type – HYBRID Creatives.

What can we learn from Designers? Yes, Designers sub-consciously use creativity tools to generate ideas but I’m not going to talk about them(“Lateral Thinking” or any other creativity techniques)in this blog. Anybody can use creativity tools and generate ideas with practice, but designers have certain strengths/skills which make them so successful in coming out with creative ideas, help them to distinguish between Cool and Useful Ideas. I will list some essential skills that I think are essential to creativity.


Observation Research is one of the main components of Designer’s work. As a designer, we have to watch people’s actions, Body language, situations, events, environments. A beginner’s mind is essential to start observing, by putting aside prior experience, pre-conceived notions and suspend judgment.

The first task in creativity is to “See Things Clearly” than “Think Things Clearly”

How can observation help?

The more you start observing, the more you will start to see things, which others don’t see.

  • You can reframe the problem -Observation skills help you to identify the exact problem.
  • What works – When you observe, you will subconsciously identify activities, events which people feel good and the reasons behind the same. This experience may come handy while generating ideas(Will discuss this under Cross-Pollination)
  • Knowledge – More people you observe, more situations you observe, you are going to gain very useful knowledge. Psychology to Behavioural economics to Jugaad Engineering to Creative thinking to People Management
  • Pattern Recognition – Recognising patterns will help us to come out with useful ideas

How can you practice observation?

  • Spend more time looking at the products in hand, going through the details, think about it – Do you see the sticker in an apple? Did you see how people struggle to remove?

How about your boarding passes, train tickets? Did you see how things are confusing, and did you check what you should see first?

How about observing different people while walking down the road? How about observing things in a supermarket – what to observe, See the type of packaging, type of fonts, what brands are kept nearby, what color spectrums, what is kept at eye level and the reasons, What other product categories are kept nearby and why?

How about watching movies, but looking at things other than characters and story? Watch short clippings in Youtube – Look at the products in the scene, look at the body language of character, Look at the wall’s color, texture, what’s hanging on the wall, legs of the table, the cushion of the chair etc…


We all know that Curiosity is a Questioning mind, with a desire and willingness to learn and explore more. Research phase coupled with observational skills have made the designers strong in “Social Curiosity” and “Intellectual Curiosity”.

Without curiosity, our mind may not recognize ideas, even if they pass in front of us.

  • Whenever we start a new project, we keep a beginner’s mind, throwing away all assumptions.This helps us to learn.

What you learn is more important than what you know

  • Deep Dive Research – Designer’s try to get in-depth knowledge, which in turn provide Intrinsic Motivation to be more curious. Tools like 5 Why help them to dig deep and learn more.
  • Time Investment – The more time you start investing, the deeper knowledge you can gain, develops massive interest in the subject
  • Designers develop personal interest in things, places, people, other’s ideas which further fuels curiosity
  • Every project is different for designers, so the more diverse knowledge, more the curiosity. When the project is new, there is an itching to find out more, more you feel you are ignorant, learn more about people and the cycle keeps going.
  • Spending time with people, listening to stories have developed Emotional and Mental skills, which in turn have increased curiosity levels


Real innovation comes from “Deep Contact with and Empathy with real customers”.

To find a useful solution for a user problem, Designers have to feel the pain of user. They go out, live with customers, talk to them. We may not learn much if we talk or live with only happy customers. Designers focus on Un-Happy customers, Non-Customers etc…

Designers project an image that they really care about the users, seriously like to solve their problem, provide confidence and inspire those unhappy customers.

They have developed an uncanny knack of making people talk about their own stories.

Whatever ideas you create, they have to solve a real user problem. Some of us may have the same problem, but a magnitude of problem and solution requirement may be different due to environments, where everyone has been brought up. When we apply different use cases(User Scenarios) to the solution which we have thought about, we will be able to differentiate Useful Ideas from Just Cool Ideas. Simply, we have to think like a User in different situations.

Stories help you to remember a lot of essential details, thereby you will have increased retainable knowledge. Discussion, interaction with people from diverse backgrounds will help to gain more knowledge, exposure to different cultures.

If you are stuck in a waiting room, bored, try to strike up a conversation with a neighbor, guide them to tell you an interesting story and watch their mannerisms too. You will be fascinated. Traveling in a taxi. Strike a nice conversation.


Typewriter keys idea came from Piano Keys. More the knowledge a designer gathers, the more they can fit ideas from seemingly unrelated fields to solve their existing problems.

Analogical reasoning is creating something new and better through the unexpected mixture of seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts.

It maybe a creativity tool, but it has to be part of our subconscious thinking. Example, If I want to design a clock and like to gather ideas from Rain. Can the clock sound like pouring rain? Can the clock provide Thunder sound and Lightning at certain times? Can the clock surface appear like a cloud mist? Can the clock have water, which can be evaporated and condensed to colored rain artificially within this space? Can the clock shape itself one drop of falling rain? Can the clock provide Earthy Odour?

To come out with Analogy ideas, we need to have good Cross Field Knowledge. Working with different clients, different industries have provided sufficient knowledge to designers.

The more languages you master, it is easier to absorb the next one.

Tom Kelly, IDEO calls designers as T-Shaped people, with deeper knowledge in one field and sufficient knowledge in many fields. A designer needs to have some knowledge of Psychology, Behaviour Economics, Empathy, Research methods, Story writing, Business models, Business Strategy, Idea Diffusion, Creativity, Branding, Colours, etc..

What I’ve mentioned above are the major skills, other than practicing creativity tools. There are certainly other skills needed. Reference — Books by Tom Kelley, Denis J.Hauptly.

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