Knitting and Fruglavation

Through the years I was asked in various settings whether some lessons from my army service carried over to my research. There are actually many things but the one I chose for this blog post has to do with a common army expression that later propagated to the Israeli civilian society: “Knit it”.

The origin of this expression is from a typical answer you would get if you asked your commanding officer: “But how would I do it?” “I don’t care how – Knit it” would be the typical answer. It’s basically a version of “figure it out”[1] but with a flavor of “you are expected to be able to do so”. Habituation is a strong force, as is the growing self belief in your ability to “knit” things when needed. And that comes in handy in research, which is constantly about “figuring it out” since by definition it’s new, uncharted territory and if it was trivial somebody would have already done it….

I was thinking about the “Knit it” attitude as I was listening to an interview with Navi Radjou about Fruglavation [2].  Navi explained that frugal innovation, or Fruglavation, is the art of doing more with less (Hmmm, the word “art” creeped back in even after I dedicated 3 blog posts to it…). It has a cultural base as well – the word for it in Hindi is jugaad. A good example for jugaad is M-Pesa [3]: a way to pay via cell phones, creating an alternative commerce system from rudimentary technology. Fruglavation is not about “make do”, which reflects compromise in the face of lack. Instead of the mentality we are used to see (in the west?) of “more for more” it’s about more (economic and social value) with less (resources). Navi states that some of the underlying principles for Fruglavation are (1) keep it simple (2) Do not reinvent the wheel – try to use what is currently available. I like it because, just like the “Knit it” mind set, it pushes us for creative solutions, revisit our basic assumptions, and being generally resourceful. These are obviously great traits to have personally but also in our society in general. I wonder how we could teach that mindset not in extreme settings like the army to our kids at school and to our students. Any suggestions?

Hmmm. I think this just gave me an idea for my next blog post…

[1] To be fair, it can also be used to mean “I don’t give a damn”.
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frugal_innovation
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Pesa

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