An article by Sonia Manchanda, Academic council member & Co- founder Spread Design.

Do you remember the circus?

Where Trapeze artists soar and flip through the air, with precise mental math, finely honed timing and such amazingly flexible bodies — they take off, swing and sweep through the air; connecting just in time, performing such feats with their partner as the audience sighs collectively, before crossing over and landing on the other side with a flourish.

All the while — we sit transfixed, hold our breath and crave for more thrills.

Now imagine a ‘circus of thought’ or a version of the Cirque du Soleil that is of the mind! What they do with their bodies is what elastic thinkers do with their minds. Shaping fantastical ideas that when expressed and once realised will get the world sitting at the edge of its chair, offering a much needed escape from the drudgery of the everyday. Where everyone else can only see problems, they connect divergent ideas with such dexterity and everyone wonders — how could they possibly think like this!

Scientists, Inventors, Designers, Artists, even some Leaders possess this ability or are possessed by it and like the trapeze artist, it is developed through deliberate and conscious effort. Much like acrobats have their ropes and jigs — elastic thinkers have frameworks of thought that allow them to structurally imagine and reimagine possibilities.

“There are certain talents that can help us, qualities of thought that have always been useful but are now essential — for example, the capacity to let go of comfortable ideas and become accustomed to ambiguity and contradiction, the capability to rise above conventional mindsets and reframe the questions we ask, the ability to abandon our ingrained assumptions and open ourselves to new paradigms, the propensity to rely on imagination as much as on logic and to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas, and the willingness to experiment and be tolerant of failure. That’s a diverse bouquet of talents, but as psychologists and neuroscientists have elucidated the brain processes behind them, those talents have been revealed as different aspects of a coherent cognitive style. I call it elastic thinking.”

Psychologist Leonard Mlodinow in Psychology Today


We need a different type of way of thinking to reimagine everything! The instructions that we have given our own mind / been fed top down will no longer help us. We need bottom up thinking — curious and questioning, imaginative, integrative, making free associations and connections far afield, being insightful, positive and intentional.


We need a different type of way of thinking to reimagine everything! The instructions that we have given our own mind / been fed top down will no longer help us. We need bottom up thinking — curious and questioning, imaginative, integrative, making free associations and connections far afield, being insightful, positive and intentional.


In 2008, MOMA ran a successful exhibition called the Elastic Mind, that deliberately made connections through reflective objects and exhibits between science and design. It is time again to talk about and regain our elasticity of Mind. ‘Technological upheaval’ and ‘Digital Transformation’ that were but ideas that we were resisting yesterday are suddenly today, default options. We have had to massage our collective rigid mind and are adapting in no time with great flexibility to a paradigm shift in the way we have to work and live, now, after and later!


Consider this yoga for the mind — a supple and lithe mind is fully aware and in the moment, it is capable of curiosity and enthusiasm for the new, can hold multiple conflicting ideas without becoming overwhelmed or permanently schizophrenic, can generate new possibilities, think divergently and has an endless capacity for imagination. Creative and elastic thinking is mostly what we need to anticipate and advance, especially in times of adversity.

Here’s how to start stretching those mind muscles because we need a fresh mindset, and before that we must have a mind set free!

Try these free stretches of the Mind!

Word of caution — may require head, hand and heart.


1. Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiink!

Take a strong and big rubber band. Make atleast 20 different letters and objects by just playing with it with your hands or using pins to nail it down.

Record each as pictures.

2. Expand

Take the same strong and big rubberband. Now create an imaginary gamechanging, world altering invention with it. Doodle and sketchnote about your invention on a regular A4 sheet. Give it a moniker/an attractive name. Feel free to share with us or with the world.

3. Bounce around

Jump out of your comfort zone and slip into someone else’s shoes. Try to think like them, act like them for atleast 20 minutes, even if you don’t agree with their ideas.

Even try a conversation between you and them, being two different personalities. (Watch Danish Sait/your favourite funny people who play with split personalities or simulate conversations, for inspiration)

4. Thought Trampoline

Find the most ordinary object in your home and think of 10 x exponentially crazy possibilities with it.

(eg. Is that a pencil or a wand that controls your mind and makes you do its bidding. Is that a pencil or a roll of a secret ancient message that is diguised as a pencil).

5. Wrap around!

Take all the available potates in the house and make the most exotic and unique dish. Take a picture and instagram it with an evocative story of the recipe, the location, you the chef or anything else that will get you a crazy number of likes. And instant gratification courtesy the potatoes.

6. Spot on!

Get Neophilia! What’s the one newest idea online or elsewhere that you have spotted. Discover it and share it with a friend. Make this a habit — this spotting of the new, to decode culture shifts.

7. Dotslinging

Take a human insight plus a new trend plus an available technology. Connect the unconnected smartly and come up with a compelling and unique Start Up Idea and Pitch. In three lines.

Note: Study emerging start ups and always think of which dots they connect in surprising ways.

8. Mindsight

Keep a Journal and stick something, draw something and write something insightful everyday. An insight is the essence of an observation, not an observation by itself and it may not be useful now but it will be useful in hindsight.

9. Expressioning

Read Ogden Nash (google his poems, I promise you won’t regret) and write a funny meaningles poem or a haiku (don’t know what that is — google it) that’s full of meaning.

10. PlaceHolder

Take the name of a place from google, closest to you that no one ever goes to, now find a gesture, object or idea that doesn’t have a name yet. Connect the two. In any language, need not be only english.

(search and discover a crazy dictionary — The Meaning of Liff)

I, for one and about to start posting a funny poem everyday — dear reader, may I tag you as well, to do the same! As I leave, to read some Ogden Nash and enjoy his mind acrobatics, may I also please ask you to check out our Creative Leadership Program where we will work together to transform you into a Leaders vs a follower of instructions, a creative actor vs a passive recipient of what the world has to offer — where we help you develop that elastic mind!

So, do join our Creative Leader’s Post Graduate Certification Program in Design Innovation and Strategy. During the 22 week, live online studio program, you will learn in-demand language, skills and frameworks to take on industry driven projects and solve them with the power of design.

MIND (Manipal Innovation and Design School) is being launched just in time, by Manipal Global, with Post Graduate programs created by Spread Design and Innovation, certified by Manipal Academy of Higher Education.

#MIND #design #innovation #creativity #entrepreneurship #business #life

Sonia Manchanda

Sonia Manchanda

Founding Partner Spread Design and Innovation.

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