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Rashi Goel

Variation Enriches Our Life and Bolsters Our Creativity

Variation enriches our life and bolsters our creativity
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Risk or Profit?

My career spans 7 companies and ~20 brands, living in 4 cities, studying in a 5th, 2 post graduate degrees, and a life spanning 3 continents.

Enough variation to last a lifetime.

My perspective and world view are enriched as a result.

On the other hand, two things have stayed consistent throughout. I have only ever worked in sales and marketing. And only in the fast moving consumer goods industry.

So much variation in some aspects and so much consistency in others begs the question – what is better, variation or consistency?

The answer is yes.

This newsletter focuses on Variation and the role it plays in our lives.

The newsletter on 26.01.21 will explore Consistency.

The Days are Long, But the Years are Short

I remember when I was younger, I used to feel time drag on at an annoyingly slow pace. Life was monotonous, a day spent trudging from home to school and back. It seemed like I had been 8yrs old forever! When I wrote the date in my school notebooks, I felt disappointed that I had to write the same year every day. I could not wait to feel the thrill of writing a fresh new year on a crisp sheet of paper, in a brand-new notebook.

Time slows down when life is ‘boring’.

But as I get older, I feel time is just flying past with a whoosh. 2020 turned our lives upside down; and it seemed that just as we adjusted to new ways to work, eat, shop and meet, the year was over.

Time flies when life is ‘interesting’.

The early years of a regimented monotonous life gave us a solid foundation of good habits, discipline, and education.

The variation of studying different subjects, learning from different teachers, and making friends with different kids in class built our muscle to adjust, respond, and deal with all kinds of situations.

Both, variation and consistency have a place in our lives.

In the short term, we need variation. But in the long-term, we need consistency.

Variation in the short term keeps life fresh, builds our strength, helps us survive, and feeds creativity and innovation.

While consistency over the long run compounds our efforts and gives us above average returns.

There are 3 levers of variation that enrich our lives and bolster our creativity:

  1. Varied routine
  2. Varied people
  3. Varied contexts

Varied Routine: Groundhog Life

Imagine a life in monochrome
Imagine music with just one tone

Imagine a rainbow in shades of grey
Imagine living each day as Groundhog Day

Imagine just one style of clothes, one haircut and one fashion trend
And for all your food cravings, just one flavor blend

There would be no brand differentiator
we would have to make do with the same ad forever

One style of conversation and one type of friend throughout our life
All cars in one design and all phones of the same size

If there were no diversity
We would all copy paste, copy paste, copy paste into infinity

Variation in routines keeps our lives free from boredom.

It has been baked into nature, biology, mathematics, how we work, how we think and behave and we don’t even realize it.

Solitary Confinement Dulls

If a person is put into solitary confinement, or lives in a room with no sensory variation, he or she struggles to function in a world that is ambiguous.
Following the same well-trodden path day after day weakens the muscles to navigate unexpected surprises.
Any kind of variation in our daily routine is good.

Gates and Bezos Do the Dishes

“I do the dishes every night. I’m pretty convinced it’s the sexiest thing I do,” Bezos in a 2014 interview.

“I do the dishes every night,” Gates on Reddit in 2014.

They add variation in their heavy-duty corporate lives and billion-dollar decisions through repetitive chores that add mindfulness.

This break in their day helps them get back to work rejuvenated.

“Rotten” Skittles

We all eat candy and we expect the same taste each time.

For 2020 Halloween, Skittles launched – Zombie Skittles. A packet of five fruit flavors along with ‘rotten zombie’ pieces that look exactly like fruity skittles, but taste “utterly disgusting.” 

You won’t know which flavor you’ve got until you bite into it.

"Rotten" Skittles

The brand suggests using this candy to prank trick or treaters – a great fit with Halloween.

This interruption of predictable fruity tastes ensures Skittles becomes a preferred choice as part of Halloween candy purchase.

Varied People: Variation is Survival

Variation is baked into biology. Without genetic variation, entire species perish.

As Drawin noted, “all individuals did not start with the same set of characters (or traits). Therefore, the forces affecting survival did not weigh on individuals and species equally; there were always variations, some of which would prove favourable and confer fitness over others.”

Look at these ducks. They came from the same gene pool, but their beaks evolved – Tweezer, Spoon, Duck bill – to adjust to the food available.

Tweezer Bill
Tweezer Bill
Spoon Bill
Spoon Bill
Duck Bill

 The mammoth on the other hand could not develop variations to adjust to the warm climate and hunters, and perished. In other geographies, it evolved to become the elephant.

Diversity = Strength = Survival of Groups

A group with different types of people is more likely to survive the unexpected.

Susan Cain looks at the work of Dr. Elaine Aron, who has spent years studying introverts, and is one herself. Aron explains how a diverse group has higher chances of survival:

“I used to joke that when a group of prehistoric humans were sitting around the campfire and a lion was creeping up on them all, the sensitive ones [introverts] would alert the others to the lion’s prowling and insist that something be done. But the non-sensitive ones [extroverts] would be the ones more likely to go out and face the lion. 

Hence there are more of them [extroverts] than there are of us, since they are willing and even happy to do impulsive, dangerous things that will kill many of us. But also, they are willing to protect us and hunt for us, if we are not as good at killing large animals, because the group needs us. 

We [introverts] have been the healers, trackers, shamans, strategists, and of course the first to sense danger. So together the two types survive better than a group of just one type or the other.”

Lego: Power of Different Ideas

Lego has a Create and Share website, where fans share designs and pictures for new products.  

This mixing cauldron has created commercially successful launches like the mini-Big Bang Theory Lego set,  the Adventure Time themed set and the Beatles – Yellow Submarine set.

Lego maintains that this ‘everyone’s invited’ innovation approach is said to be one of the core contributors to  its success.

Varied Context: Mini-Saga

White muscled male with a horn on his head, most unique in the circus of freaks.
He ruled with an iron hand.
Millions paid millions to see him.
But his ship capsized, he was a castaway.
He found himself on an island where everyone had a horn on his head.

 (This by the way, is my attempt at writing a mini-saga – a 50-word story, first mentioned by Daniel Pink in his book – A Whole New Mind ).

Diversification, or variation is only relevant in a context. We have to carefully judge what aspects of our life, our strengths and personality we have to change as our context changes.
 When two contexts have sex, they breed innovation. There are multiple examples where combining two contexts has led to successful brands and businesses.

  • Kurkure: Indian spices meet western snacks
  • Lush: Personal Care Meets Grocery
  • Uniqlo: Japanese technology meets clothing

Two brands illustrate “variation in context” beautifully.

Google Doodles

Logo meets notable events.

The Google Logo on their home page is a doodle. It changes to celebrate important days, birthdays, celebrations or global events.

This breaks all rules which say “logo should remain the same”.

The first doodle was created by Google founders Larry and Sergey, in 1998 because they were attending the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert

First Ever Google Doodle: for Burning Man
First Ever Google Doodle: for Burning Man

 Since then, Dennis Hwang and his team of Doodlers have produced more than 4,000 doodles.

This is the doodle for 2021 new year!

Google Doodle for 2021 new year
Google Doodle for 2021 new year

 Google Doodles give the brand a fresh, tongue-in-cheek vibe, and make the tech giant a little more approachable.

Here is the archive of all doodles if you are interested.

Amul Campaign

Butter meets current affairs.

The only thing consistent about the Amul campaign is that it does not remain consistent. The cheeky Amul girl comments on everything that is going on, in real time.

Amul Happy Twenty Tea Twenty Tea!
India becomes a Vaccination

Because both these brands respond to context through a brand lens, they never run out of ideas! Amul, infact, has been one of the longest running campaigns of India.

On 26.01.2021, I will discuss how consistency compounds.