Creativity in the Year of the Pig

Creativity in the Year of the Pig

Celebrate Chinese New Year by reflecting on how you can be more empathetic and deliver greater value.

Chinese New Year on Feb 5 marks the beginning of the Year of the Pig, or to be more precise: the Brown Earth Pig -- sounds like a perfect fit, doesn't it? The pig is the 12th and last animal of the Chinese Zodiac because, according to legend, it finished last in a race of all animals to the Jade Emperor's palace.

The Year of the Pig closes the cycle of animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac. And this year, I close this cycle, too. For the last 12 years, I have written one article each year in the Bangkok Post (co-published in the Thinkergy blog) of how to creatively approach each New Chinese year in harmony with its animal sign.

So today, let's explore what creative inspirations we may derive from the pig. Kung Hai Fat Choy!

1. Play to the character traits of the pig: How are people born in the Year of the Pig said to be? Action-oriented and diligent, while also enjoying life and indulging in entertainment and occasional treats (work hard, play hard).

They are also characterised as harmonious, empathetic and warm. Because they are generous, empathetically care for others and like to help others, they are at times taken advantage of and are said to be easily tricked and scammed. Finally, they are said to stay comparatively calm when confronted with trouble.

Creative inspiration: Consider emulating the characteristics of a person born in the pig year: Take action and work hard, but also play hard (which stimulates creativity and gives you fresh dots to connect into ideas).

Explore new ways to care for your customers, so they will also help you and think of you when they seek help on future projects.

Be generous to your suppliers, but beware of falling for tricksters who promise you the earth, and in return give you nothing or worse. Finally, keep your cool when facing troublesome situations (such as high volatility in foreign exchange markets, or a sudden slump in the stock market).

2. Be as useful as a pig: Almost 1 billion pigs live on our planet, making them the third-largest livestock population (on par with sheep and behind chicken and cattle). Pigs provide utility to humans in many ways: pork is a major source of meat in many countries.

Humans also use pigs for medical experiments and, more recently, as potential donors of living cells, tissues and organs to humans. We make paintbrushes from the short, stiff and coarse hair (bristles) of pigs. We enjoy hunting boars and escaped or released feral pigs. Finally, the French use trained pigs to search for truffles.

Creative inspiration: How can you be of more value to your clients? How might you serve them in new ways? How could you make one of your core capabilities available to your clients to allow the discovery and creation of new value?

3. Be as smart as a pig: You've probably heard that pigs are intelligent, but did you know how smart they really are? According to recent research, pigs often outsmart dogs and have the same cognitive capacities as chimpanzees.

Researchers have found pigs have excellent long-term memories. They can easily navigate mazes and similar tests requiring spatial orientation; can understand a simple symbolic language; can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects; love to play and tease each other; live in complex social communities where they cooperate with and learn from one another; and show empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual, among others.

Creative inspirations: Who do you regularly deal with without really appreciating how smart they are? How can you increase your own smarts and those of your colleagues in times of rapid change?

4. Stop behaving like a pig: "I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals," said Sir Winston Churchill. He has a point. Not only do some piggy humans emulate the ways of swine as discussed earlier, but interestingly, pigs equal humans in that we have a destructive effect on nature.

When pigs were brought to environments where they are a non-native species, and some escape or are deliberately released as prey for hunting, they have caused widespread environmental damage.

Pigs tend to dramatically transform ecosystems that are new to them because of their omnivorous diet and their feeding method of rooting in the ground. Moreover, because pigs also eat small animals and destroy nests of ground-nesting birds, wild pigs have earned themselves a place on the list of the world's 100 worst invasive species.

Creative inspiration: In what ways do you and your organisation cause excessive damage to the environment? How may you become cleaner, less invasive and less destructive in what you're doing and how you're doing things?

Pondering these questions is well worth your time. In 2020, humanity is due to start the Sixth Wave of technological development -- and clean technologies (in a wide range of industries such as energy, transport and food) are widely expected to be major drivers of this next long cycle.

Dr Detlef Reis is the founding director and chief ideator of Thinkergy Limited (, the Innovation Company in Asia. He is also an assistant professor at the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation-Southeast Asia (IKI-SEA) at Bangkok University, and a visiting fellow at the Hong Kong Baptist University. He can be reached at

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