I have always caressed the subject of innovation and strategy. One thing that is obvious is that most times, some of the best ideas come from the unconnected. Over the last four years, I have seen myself brainstorm on and advice on several ideas – some are on areas I don’t have core expertise on but I had strong vibe to learn and grow. These areas are what Frans Johansson calls the intersection in his book ‘The Medici Effect’.
The Intersection is the unknown territory where we cannot easily apply past knowledge and experience. Some of the most successful innovations come from the place of interception.
For me, the intersection is uncomfortably soothing – and I love the challenge, knowledge and comfort it brings. I remember a discussion with my Dad earlier this year, where I confided in him that sometimes, deep down in my heart, I really don’t know how to recommend the paths I tread to others. Not because I don’t want others to learn, but because those paths don’t seem conventional and connected.
People stay in a field – even when they are convinced they shouldn’t – because of the time spent in the field. Lots of emerging professionals continue with what they do unhappily because they have spent years studying a thing, even when their hearts aren’t there. I have seen people whose ONLY reason for proceeding with further studies (Masters/PhD for instance) in a field is that they studied that subject in their first degree (even when they don’t like it). I have seen businesses stick to what they used to do that didn’t work because they thought that is their niche. The decision to invest more time (and resources) in anything should be based on what’s going to happen in future.
I agree that consistency is very important; it makes sense to be a expert in an area. What if we can throw that ‘long-standing caution’ in the wind, and embrace innovation and ideas outside of our current domain of expertise? We must never allow what we have done in the past become a criterion for what we can do in the future.
What drives me in most things I do is how I can understand how these unconnected sectors work and how we may influence the future of education and governance through technology and values-based leadership. This seems audacious and will require me to be comfortable staying at intersections – even if they don’t seem to pay off at the moment.
Embracing intersection requires that we acknowledge our fears and embrace risks – it is not as easy as writing this, but it is worth it. It means embracing the risk of forming new relationships in the new field, learning at an exponmential rate and I agree that the intersection unleashes great creative powers through the explosion of concept combinations; for those thinking about ground-breaking innovation, this can represent a gold mine of ideas.
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