Sathya Vagheeswar

Sathya Vagheeswar Venkatasubramanian

A certain photography company’s advertising campaign featuring the catchphrase “Kodak moment” has been memorable over the years.

Many may also remember when Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012.

“They said, no matter what happens, the demand is always going to be there for film. And they refused to change their ways,” Upper St. Clair resident Sathya Vagheeswar Venkatasubramanian said. “They couldn’t see their own ‘Kodak moment.’”

To help others from falling victim to the status quo by learning how to think with a greater degree of innovation, Venkatasubramanian has created Slingshot, an 18-hour, 27-session program that augments structured education in schools while preparing participants for what lies ahead.

“Regardless of career choice, the ability to create differentiated outcomes is expected to become the top skill in the near future,” he said in a descriptive video for Slingshot.

As evidence, consider the all-encompassing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It changed the perspective of every system, whether it is a workplace or a school or a hospital. It changed the realities of what they thought they were living in, and they were all caught unawares,” Venkatasubramanian said in a recent interview.

“When you are faced with a situation like this,” he continued, “the better place to be is to have the vision to anticipate and be ready before the situation forces you to be ready, so you can actually act rather than react.”

To do so requires skills that relate to what Venkatasubramanian has encountered in his career of helping to protect intellectual property, working for corporations on three continents.

“Even though they may have different background, different industries, even different cultures, the way people thought was very, very similar,” he said.

He earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and one of the fundamentals of the field is that direct-current electricity takes the path of least resistance.

“The mind also takes the path of least resistance. If the mind doesn’t have to think, the mind will never think,” Venkatasubramanian said. “So the mind’s telling us, oh, here’s a problem that you want to solve. Here is how you already know how to solve it. Just try to use that.”

Examples of the inherent fallacy, of course, extend in the world of business far beyond Kodak and its film products being supplanted by the advent of digital photography.

“If we have this common thinking across organizations, how do we find a way to help organizations come out of this deadlock?” Venkatasubramanian said.

“I can solve existing people within organizations to change the way they think,” he provided as part of the answer.

As he acknowledged, that represents more of a short-term fix.

“Then it occurred to me: The earlier I can do this intervention with people, to give this knowledge of thinking and thinking differently, they will have this built-in ability.”

By extension, youngsters would seem to represent the ideal Slingshot participants. Then again, learning how to enhance thought processes is a skill that can come in handy at any point in life.

For example, enrolling in the program alongside student Rajvee Patel was her father.

“Slingshot made me realize that breakthrough thinking applied equally in everyday life as much as it did in solving audacious challenges,” Twinklekumar Patel said. “I was able to navigate through the amalgam of creative thinking, innovation and intellectual property in a single journey.”

One aspect of Slingshot is teaching how to address an admittedly vague, but seemingly omnipresent, directive effectively.

“When people say, ‘Think outside the box,’ they never tell you what is the box you’re supposed to think outside of,” Venkatasubramanian said. “The box is nothing but the manifestation of your inability to think, and the boundaries that your mind builds around you.

“A big part of this program is to actually help people even recognize that they have a box,” he said, adding that it’s not the same as anyone else’s.

In developing Slingshot, Venkatasubramanian has come to recognize some of his own “boxes” of sorts as he addresses how students are able to learn.

“Initially, I started with making them to be great thinkers capable of great things,” he said. “But the only way for me to get them to realize that is if they can actually think about this in the context of their daily lives. And that’s how the program has evolved.”

For more information, contact Sathya Vagheeswar Venkatasubramanian at sathya@svatantrainnovation.com.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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