Creativity & Innovation: The 1 Billion Pipe Cleaner Conundrum

A 53 foot truck veers off the side of a road and gets stuck in a ditch. The truck was carrying precious cargo for camp—pipe cleaners. One billion pipe cleaners to be exact. As the driver, it is your responsibility to get the truck out of the ditch and back on the road. There are two caveats. First, you must use all the pipe cleaners. Second, the rules of nature need not apply.

How would you do it?

We use this peulah (activity) to spark more ingenuity in our staff.  When we push our staff to break from certain limitations, the possibilities are infinite. Some examples of answers we receive from the staff are as follows:

  • Create the characters from Harry Potter and have them “wingardium leviosa” the truck onto the street.
  • Build a helicopter to tow the truck to safety.
  • Assemble your smallest campers to scare the truck out of the ditch by screaming at it.
  • Weave a trampoline out of pipe cleaners and double bounce the truck out

Creativity and innovation – or as we call it at camp, Yetzirah – can be found in every space at Camp Judaea—from the rocks for rock stacking to facilities used for this programming. The creation and implementation of ideas is one of the most defining factors that turns a counselor into an educator, mentor, or a guide. Yetzirah is a skill that can be developed, but the camp setting is particularly conducive to this.—Without the noise of technology and where people can fail without feeling like a failure, our staff can push themselves to go beyond the expected.

John Bacon quips, “Constraints on time, money and resources can be incredible motivators.” Camp counselors learn “no-prop” activities and utilizing camp’s resources to the fullest.  Staff are forced to be creative when they only have 10 minutes to prepare for an activity about Yitzhak Rabin and only have paperclips, two tubs of strawberry ice cream, and 68 rubber bands. Only camp staff can make capture the mattress into an IDF operation complete with medics, artillery, and intelligence units.

Staff eventually move into the “real world” and the yetzirah that was nurtured here at camp will be invaluable. Corporations may not need people to get 53-footers out of ditches, but they will need them to innovate and solve problems within huge limitations. Lay’s needs to engineer new chip flavors, Tesla needs to shorten the battery charge time, Apple needs to prototype the iPhone 8 before the iPhone 7 is released, and Zara needs to adapt to changing fashion trends with only a two-week lead time. When companies need team members that are resourceful and able to see potential in the unexpected, camp staff will be their secret weapon. I believe that when companies need that innovation boost, the camp counselors will be the ones standing proud—with pipe cleaners in one hand, strawberry ice cream in the other, holding the universe together.