Leveraging the White Spaces Between Disciplines

#ds353 - Uninspired I’ve often talked about the white spaces between disciplines – a place in which you can discover new insights because you can see the world from another perspective. I didn’t invent the term. It was John Seely Brown who did when he said, “Innovation occurs in the white spaces between disciplines.”

In a recent article in the New Yorker magazine, Jim Lord, author of What Kind of World Do You Want?, called my attention to an article in the January edition entitled Groupthink: The brainstorming myth. In this article, the author, Johah Lehrer, relates the scientific evidence that shows that traditional brainstorming techniques are not the best for discovering new ideas. This was interesting, but then the discussion shifted to the success of teams that include ‘newbies’ in the mix and then on to what happens when people from many disciplines are co-located. The creativity that comes from the simple juxtaposition of people doing different things and how being together forces people to talk to one another. And that’s where the magic begins to happen. Suddenly someone working in one area is stimulated to see a new idea as they talk with someone working in another – perhaps totally different – area. I’ve always known that reading in another discipline offers whole new insights and alternative ways to examine and see your regular discipline of work.

I’ve always known that learning is done in conversation, especially when the group is varied. What I wasn’t aware of was the amazing power of continuous exposure to other disciplines to produce unimagined results. One example, the Bose speaker came from a graduate student, Amar Bose. Bose was interested in listening to great music, and while working on his dissertation in one area, invented the first Bose speaker because he was able to frequent “the Acoustics Lab, which was just down the hall.”

If you are interested in bringing fresh knowledge into your life and work, here is a new insight – find a place where you can be with others who are working on very different things. If you can find that place, you will discover not only fresh knowledge, but you can expect to have breakthroughs that can lead to unexpected but real results.

So, what can you do to join the conversation with people working on very different things or create that place yourself? I’m looking for solutions that go beyond simple networking.

So, please take a moment and comment.

Photo by Sharon Drummond