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India Insight Out By Susan Hague

My friend and colleague Cedric Serpes is director of the Center for Creativity and Innovation at Goa Institute of Management in India. Creativity and innovation have been adopted by the MBA programs over there as a necessity for successful entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, or being creative within your company.

The Symbiotic Institute of Business Management (SIBM) in Pune even created a post-graduate two-year program in Creativity and Innovation, and needed to select its first batch of students. Cedric and I were invited last summer to help choose which 24 out of 240 students applying would be the best candidates, so we flew Air India from Goa to Pune.

Of course we had to fly through Mumbai, the Atlanta of India. On the plane, the flight attendants gave us coupon booklets good for deals at the Air India kiosk in the airport. The booklet came with a scratch-off, too, that added another discount to the item you chose. The Bluetooth speaker looked interesting, and so did the animated dinosaur, especially since Cedric wanted to use a puppet for his classes.

I showed the dinosaur to Ced, which was around $16 with the coupon. We went to the kiosk when our plane landed, and they had the dinosaur and the Bluetooth speaker, so we gave them our flight information, boarding pass, coupons and cash to get the deal, then we had to hurry to catch our ride up the mountain to SIBM-Pune.

As soon as we were settled into our respective rooms, we took out our new toys to play with them, only to find they required batteries, not included. I went to the campus bookstore, and was sent to the mailroom to get AA batteries (the mailroom?) But they had a strip of 12 batteries, so I bought them all and carried them triumphantly back to the room, where we stuffed them into the dinosaur and Bluetooth speaker.

The voice on the Bluetooth told me, “The de-wise is now weady to be pai-wed” (the device is now ready to be paired). The dinosaur walked and roared, moved its head from side to side, but not robustly enough to move it once it was inside Professor Moody, Cedric’s puppet. But that’s another story.

We still had to assess 20 students and their likelihood of success in the new program. Indian students are coached in how to answer questions for any kind of interview, and they come out of the interview and tell the others the questions. They know the answers the interviewer is looking for, and gladly supply them with as much sincerity as possible (acting has a place in the MBA programs, too).

Interviews started after Indian breakfast and tea in rooms with no air conditioning, only ceiling fans reminiscent of “Casablanca.” We were given pencils with no erasers, but we did have separate eraser blocks, and they fed us tea, coffee, and cookies. Coffee was instant powder, so tea was always a better choice. Cedric and I would ask the usual questions about strengths, weaknesses, goals, then I would ask, “What is 2 + 3 + 7? What month and day is Christmas? Do you drive on the right or the left side of the road in India?” Then I would ask them to quickly tell me a color and a tool. Most people say a red hammer, and the 2 percent who do not are likely to be more creative and innovative, so we gave higher marks to the few who said, “Blue saw,” “Purple screwdriver,” or even “Blue hammer.”

Cedric didn’t believe me when I told him most people would say, “Red hammer,” because he said blue screwdriver, but after 10 or so answered with red hammer, he started to give me The Look of Disbelief Turning to Surprise. We finished our assessments early with the help of the Magic Question. No one knew what the “right” answer was, making the best tool for the job—a tool and its color.

Next issue: The dinosaur and Professor Moody

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