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Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

Creative Peloton

In Awards, Creative Culture on 2010/05/02 at 4:26 pm

This is a key reason why awards and competitions are critical in design and creativity.

A creative community is like the peloton in a long distance bicycle race.

In the race, a large group of cyclists — the peloton — would tactically bunch up to tap the advantage of the slipstreams created by the ones in front.  The reduction in drag can save a cyclist as much as 40% of peddling energy.

The Peloton of the Tour de France, 9th of July 2005 at the begin of the ascend to Cote de Bad Herrenalb. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nature knows this ‘trick’ well.  Migratory birds fly in V formations in which members of the flock take turns at the front to initiate the upwash or “draft” that provides additional uplift to the rest.  By just being in formation, the cyclist and the bird attains a capacity to cover a far greater distance than they can achieve by going solo.

A similar phenomenon exists in the creative process.  Leading designers in our community, like the lead peloton cyclists, generate the creative slipstreams that help to carry the other designers forward.  I believe this is best demonstrated in awards and competitions (closed or open), including curated exhibitions.  Clearly, competition for competition sake can be mindless, self-indulgent, and even misleading; many designers shun competitions because of this.

On the other hand, there is no denying that awards and  competitions as part of design practice is a good way to recognise the extraordinary achievements attained by our leading designers and creatives.  Greater spread and pace set by recipients and nominees can further sustain a strong creative slipstream that will inspire the next wave of leading designers.  They will, in time, lead the peloton and help sustain the whole creative community and keep it competitive.

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Best Progress

In adaptability, Awards, No Readymade World, Transformation on 2010/01/22 at 7:10 am

It’s a different world when recognition goes to progress rather than achievements.

Today marks the 9th Anniversary of a modest award I started in 2001 to encourage architecture students at the National University of Singapore (NUS).  The award, funded from my consultancy work, goes to 3-5 students each year who make the “best progress” in their respective course of study, ie biggest jump in grades or marks.  The rules of the award does not rule out the best students, but interestingly they have never won this award because they have not actually progressed!

The idea for the Best Progress Award came through my son. Ten years ago, he received a Best Progress award from his school for Mandarin, a subject he never passed. That year he made a massive improvement (a doubling of marks I recall) but still below passing grade. Nevertheless, he achieved ‘better’ than those top students who were all staurated at close to perfection. The teachers and students clapped for him at assembly and he was very happy and proud of his award.

I believe that it is more important to encourage and foster a spirit of making progress than of achieving pinnicle perfection. Don’t get me wrong — high achievers and top brains are priceless and must be handled with care. But their recognition and reward come more naturally and are often already built into the value they bring. But we need to understand that life for the rest of us is not measured in GPA (or CAP in NUS).

Moreover, the rules of the game do change. Those who survive are those who are most adaptable to change [Dawwin].  That is, those who can make progress. The best are not necessarily the most adaptable. I remember a very good architecture student of mine who refused to draw in ink because he was extremely good in pencil.  Peers and examiners would pour oos and ahhs over his beautiful pencil drawings. But I was afraid that unless he breaks out to something else as well — something he would not be immediately good at — he may go the way of dinosaurs.

Look to make good progress.

Read Straits Times report on Tuesday 26 Jan 2010: Awards for most improved

Best Progress Award 2009 receipients: (l to r) Loh Zixu, Fiona Tan and Aileen Koh