Spinning, mashing and connecting… it’s what I do. I’ve come to terms with being a Generalist. In fact, I’ve come to be proud of it – after all, it’s one of the hardest things to do well. It’s not just a matter of spinning cellphones on tables to see what happens, although that’s usually how it starts ;-). Steve Hardy makes his case in The Creative Generalist that Generalists are key to discontinuous innovation, being better situated to see how previously unrelated things can be recombined to create something new.
“Ideas are the product of divergent thinking, lateral steps and questions dealing with completely unrelated notions. Seldom pure and often appearing out of nowhere, ideas come from a kaleidoscopic grab bag of other ideas(…) Ideas cannot belimited to the confines of a silo. They need space to run around and occasionally bump into strangers.”
On that note, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology is taking an interesting multi-disciplinary approach to research:
“(T)he institute is building horizontal links among departments to foster multidisciplinary studies and creating research teams that integrate individuals� deep expertise across disciplines to enable more comprehensive studies beyond those led by single principal investigators. We expect this new approach will redefine the very nature of the university system � the traditional home for fundamental research.”
…Which is very cool, of course. I would like to see a University of this type take its General Studies program this seriously. Bringing teams of specialists together to share insights is great, but where are the “connectors”, the Da Vincis who can bring perspective, without the preconceptions borne of specialization?
“Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”
–Leonardo Da Vinci