habit zero #134

the challenge


It’s been quite a while since the last Habit Zero entry. If you are wondering why, I invite you to visit TheCreativityOS.com and start reading a new project I am working on in parallel.

So, today, we have a special treat with a fun Maker Prism. Instead of creative exploration, the Tick Tock Prism challenges us to design (or even create) a clock inspired by the Seed. It is up to you to decide if you interpret this challenge as merely decorating a clock in the spirit of the Seed, or rethinking the concept of a clock from the ground up.

The idea of the Tick Tock Prism is not to come up with something practical. Any idea, as crazy as it gets, is excellent, as long as it could be titled “A Clock.”

For inspiration, have a look at these crazy clocks created by Mateen Baas.

Ready? Time is ticking…

my insight


So… Lost in Translation…

When I saw this Seed, my first thought was focused on the word Translation. I thought of a clock showing the time as text, as opposed to using digits, and using a different language every minute. 11:23 will be shown as eleven twenty-three, but then, the next minute the clock will show onze vingt quatre (I trust Google Translate for that, so excuse me if this is all messed up), and then ग्यारह पच्चीस, and so on.

I felt this is a valid idea — it is not trivial (I personally haven’t seen anything like it) and it is easy to implement. Still, I felt this idea came too easy. I knew I went for the most immediate interpretation of the Seed. So I decided to try again.

The next thought I had was focused more on the word Lost. I imagined a traveler rushing across the globe, moving from one time-zone to another every few minutes. Imagine this traveler’s watch, automatically switching the time-zone whenever the traveler crosses the imaginary line between two time-zones. For the traveler, this is trivial, and any smartphone will do that automatically. But now, imagine the same watch doing that not based on GPS readings, but based on calculating where you would be once you set a “traveling speed” and direction. Imagine buying the watch in France and setting it to traveling speed of 15 degrees longitude and 5 degrees latitude a minute. The watch would then calculate every minute where it “is” on the globe and adjust the time-zone automatically even if you never left home.

Is that a useful clock? Absolutely not. But usefulness wasn’t a parameter in this challenge. Does it “qualify” as a “Lost in Translation Clock?” Well, I think it is. I interpreted the word Translation as time-zone translation. And I pretty sure such a clock will soon create confusion and disorientation — the sense of being lost… in time.

I thought I was through with this challenge, but then, unexpectedly, I thought of a takeoff on the idea. How about programming the Lost in Translation Clock, not just to “move” at a constant speed and direction, but to follow the route of famous travelers. Imagine… the Around the World in 80 Days Clock – following the journey of Phileas Fogg in real time and changing the time-zone accordingly.

Would you buy one?



When I think about the process of coming up with the Insights today, I find two things especially interesting. First, how I came up with the moving-across-time-zones idea. You see, this takeoff on Lost in Translation is not trivial nor is it immediate. Still, it came up pretty naturally… based on the first (much simpler) idea. Thinking of moving between languages (based on the emphasize I gave to the word Translation) triggered the thought about moving between countries, and the next logical step — moving between time-zones. And that was a perfect place to stop this chain reaction because it brings us back to the context of a clock.

Second, the final idea I had was not planned or deliberate — it just happened, and it happened just after I decided to let go of the challenge. And I think it is safe to assume that without the time-zones idea, I would not have thought about this final version of the clock.

This natural evolution of an idea is often part of the creative process. It is, in fact, a positive feedback look in which one idea triggers another, which then can result in a third idea built on top of them or enhancing one of the previous ideas. It is up to us to allow this process and give it the required bandwidth. In other words, it is not always a good idea to fall in love with the first good insight you have.

mental notes


  • Create a space for derivative insights to be created.
  • Don’t fall in love with your first idea.

now it is your turn… be creative!



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