creativity: the gambiarra. what brazilians have to teach us about being creative.

For the sake of this posting, let’s assume that you are American, born and raised in the land of plenty where pretty much any man-made object that exists in the world can be found. Sure, it might take you some time to track something down, to find the right store or website, or you might need to save up some money first before you can make your purchase. But, in the end, you eventually find (and buy) what you’re looking for.

And what exactly are you looking for?

Is it some kind of specialized thing that fits over the other doohickey that you have? Or is it the latest stuff that goes with you’re really cool thingamabobber that you use only on weekends when it’s not raining? Or is it straight up cool gear, must-have accessories for your work or hobby?

Is it the answer to “If I only had the _________, I could do better work/art/music. I could have more fun. I could be a better me”?

Americans are inventors, frequent pioneers in the design of new tools and technology. We excel at developing brand new, resource rich/dependent, first world solutions to current problems. Ironically, this approach in itself has the strange side effect of stifling personal creativity. You see, if you’re not an inventor of solutions, you’re a buyer of solutions, consuming someone else’s answer to your problem.

Well, yeah. That’s how it works, isn’t it?

introducing the gambiarra

Now, just for fun, let’s assume that you’re not an American, but, rather, a Brazilian. You live in an unequally developed country where most consumer goods are imported and heavily taxed, where, for the majority, the cost of a computer/art supplies/music gear/doohickey xyz relative to your income can be overwhelming. For example, to buy the most basic MacBook would require 5 months pay at minimum salary. In other words, if you bought nothing for 5 months, no food, no rent, no bus fare, then you could buy yourself a brand new MacBook. Yay!

Obviously, in this reality, you often can’t just make a run to the store and buy your way out of a problem with a new gadget. No, you have to get CREATIVE. You have to use what you have on hand, be it a rag shirt, twisty ties, old cardboard boxes, food coloring or plastic grocery bags. This type of recycled innovation is known here in Brazil as a gambiarra. (gam-bee-AH-hah).

Though not always beautiful, to me a gambiarra represents simple and pure creativity. No one owns the solution or feigns to be an expert in it. There are no patents, training courses or certifications declaring your competency and ownership. Rather, the creativity of a gambiarra is innate, a built in function of every model of human being. It is your own imagination at work.

As first world consumer citizens, encouraged by society to look for answers in an external, packaged, brand spanking new product, we can easily forget our own creative potential. You don’t need to be a self-professed artist or a trained musician in order to be a creative person. Sometimes, it’s as simple, or as silly, as putting plastic bags over your shoes while riding your bike in the rain. Not genius. Gambiarra.


  1. Felipe Abreu on October 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Ficou muito legal!! Parabéns pela sacada! A solução nem sempre precisa envolver custo! VIVA A GAMBIARRA!!!

    • admin on October 7, 2010 at 5:20 pm

      Obrigada! É bom saber que voce curtiu.