The title of this blog post come from an excellent book of the same name by Fritjof Capra that I would thoroughly recommend to you. However it also seemed appropriate for what I wanted to blog about, namely the value of connections we can make between disparate fields/ sectors/ organisations if we keep a sufficiently open mind to look for them. I think WhatIf call this 'jumping into different streams'.
This was prompted by a conversation I was part of yesterday with a theatre director and neuroscientist who were talking about the way they work. I won't name names as they are both very well known in their respective domains and I don't want to make this about specific personalities. However suffice it to say there was a lot more in common between the way they work than I think any of us really expected before hand.
Firstly, both claimed to be in the business of understanding how we observe things. For the director it was all about the way the audience engages with a play, or more importantly doesn't engage i.e. their mind wanders off from time to time. For the neuroscientist it was all about the way the brain processes visual information. But in essence they are trying to understand very similar things, namely how we process visual information.
Secondly, there was a very interesting discussion about the way they both build teams, either creative or scientific. There was a strong emphasis on finding people for their teams with a strong focus on their specialism but without ego. It was generally agreed that ego gets in the way of good group dynamics and it's hard to find the right balance of talent.
Needless to say, they are going to continue their conversation, and who knows it might yet lead to some creative or scientific breakthroughs. I'll keep you posted.
For me the above conversation reinforced my view that there are usually a lot more connections between disparate fields than we can usually see at first glance. Let me give three quick examples. What are the similarities between the following apparently unrelated activities:
One way of looking at these examples would be as follows:
If we can start to see these hidden connections then there is opportunity to have a meaningful conversation that may lead to genuine insight and learning from another field.
Whilst there are these hidden connections out there it obviously isn't practical to spend your time thoroughly investigating other industries or fields as we all have enough to do already. However coming back to the theatre director and the neuroscientist, I would make the analogy with our peripheral vision. In other words our awareness of literally what is not currently focus.
Interestingly our peripheral vision can be developed – for instance jugglers tend to have better peripheral vision as they don't focus on any of the individual balls, rather they focus on a spot in the middle and the objects all appear in their peripheral vision. For me this is a powerful metaphor for open innovation. Namely if we can tolerate a certain amount of uncertainty, there is real opportunity to create value through engaging with other industries, organisations or groups if only we can make the connections.
Essentially we are all jugglers to a greater or lesser extent and I would argue that we need to improve our peripheral vision of objects, activities or technologies that are developing outside our own domains of expertise. This isn't easy, but it can be developed and it is increasingly important.
What other examples of hidden connections are there (preferably not involving a F1 racing team)? I'd be really keen to gather some other examples in addition to the ones above.