Started the creative thinking course this morning, which is taught by Peter Childs, the head of Design Engineering at the Imperial College of London. The first assignment was to chose a quote that describes creativity and explain why.
I chose extracts of two quotes. The first is “Creativity is the forming of associative elements into new combinations…”(Mednick). The second quote is “Creativity denotes a person’s capacity to produce new or original ideas, insights, inventions, or artistic products…” (Vernon)
I used the Hippo Roller invention as an example.
I worked in Africa during a protracted drought. The wells dried up. Women were walking long distances, sometimes as much as six hours round trip, to wells that were still functioning. They were taking their older children out of school to help. The women carried water on their heads.
The Hippo Water Roller is a invention that shows how its South African inventors, Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker, reconfigured the elements associated with carrying water to produce an out-of-the-box water carrier.
The first “associative element” is how much water a family needs. To give an idea of how much water someone uses for drinking, washing, and cooking, the municipal government in Capetown, Africa, set a usage limit of 13 gallons a day per person. (North Americans use much more, as much as 101 gallons per day per person according to some estimates.)
The second associative element is the physical act of transporting the water. Each gallon of water weighs eight pounds. Carrying water is back-breaking work requiring strength and stamina.
The third associative element is cost and durability. Where I worked in Africa, the median household income was $450 per year. The solution had to be cheap and last.
Another element includes ease of cleaning. Contaminated water make people sick.
The inventors have done a brilliant job of reconfiguring associative elements to solve the problem. The Hippo rolls the water container on the ground instead of being carried on the head. This makes it easier and much less strenuous, increasing the number of people in the family who can assist in transporting water.
The Hippo holds up to 24 gallons – five times more water than traditional containers. It is made from low-density polyethylene and is rugged enough to cope with the rough surfaces found in rural areas in Africa. It has a large opening for easy filling and cleaning, doubles as a water storage container, and it costs $125. Families pay 10% ($12.50), NGOs pay the rest.
According to the United Nations, 2.1 billion people live without access to safe water in their homes. These statistics do not reflect the reality on the ground, such as the time people spend transporting water. The Hippo is a simple and creative solution that immediately improves that lives of users, unlike many projects in developing countries that require extensive time and money before results are seen. Easier access to water improves hygiene, which reduces illness and – just as important – improves personal dignity.