It’s not that research proposals solicited in a more traditional method haven’t been innovative or produced good science. They have, and they still do, and not every research topic merits a Sandpit initiative. But because the Sandpit format involves a diverse group of people and forces them to catalyse and collide and collaborate, the output is often unique and innovative. Questions arise that wouldn’t otherwise have been posed, and partnerships form between people from very different scientific disciplines.
Hackers are problem solvers. They get juice from understanding a problem and sorting out a solution. Their motivation to meet challenges is internal. Occasional bragging rights aside, hackers do what they do because it’s extremely satisfying to solve puzzles and fix the up-until-now unfixable. The pleasure derived is both intellectual and practical.
Maybe creativity is just the adult word for play. Think about it: creativity involves testing, trying, imagining, pretending, expressing, making things up – everything that is part of a child’s world of play. When we use our creativity to solve a problem, we’re actually playing with the problem, playing with language and perspective, toying with possible solutions.
Creating an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions is key. Most people are too careful about asking questions, “for fear of looking stupid, or because they know the organization won’t value it.” This fear shuts down the overall critical thinking quotient, and closes doors that might otherwise have been open to new ideas and solutions.