1 Powerful Way to Boost Your Creativity.

Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.

Image Credits: unsplash.com Raw Pixel

What is common between Pablo Picasso, Johannes Kepler, and Elon Musk?

· They are Powerful Innovators.

· They are all “Expert-Generalists”.

And Being an Expert-Generalist is one of the most powerful ways to boost your creativity. Let us explore a bit further.

Orit Gadiesh, chairman of Bain & Co, who coined the term, describes the expert-generalist as:

Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics., etc. He or she can then, without necessarily even realizing it, but often by design:

(1) Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas and

(2) Drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking.”

So What Orit means here is that the one thing that separates the great innovators from everyone else is that they seem to know a lot about a wide variety of topics. And their wide knowledge base supports their creativity.

Albert Einstein was trained in physics, but to formulate his law of general relativity, he taught himself an area of mathematics far removed from his expertise, Riemannian geometry.

James Watson and Francis Crick combined discoveries in X-ray diffraction technology, chemistry, evolutionary theory, and computation to solve the puzzle of the double helix.

Steve Jobs, of course, drew on insights from his study of calligraphy and a rich understanding of design to create a new breed of computing devices.

And so on……………

Sounds Hard?

But being an expert-generalist is not hard at all. All this requires is devoting a concentrated block of time on your personal development every day.

As you go further, you broaden your knowledge horizons and you start connecting the seemingly unconnected dots from various disciplines. And that is when you see a surge in your creativity and your analytical abilities to being able to compare analogies between disciplines.

And here are some simple ways to be an expert-generalist.

Learn a Completely New Skill.

Noted psychologist Vygotsky argued in 1978 argues that learning is most effective within the “zone of proximal development.” I know this sounds like a psychology lecture so, in simple terms, it is the space slightly beyond a learner’s current knowledge base and skills level, but a place where learning is still within a person’s reach.”

In simple words, we are talking about discomfort here. Constructive discomfort. And this is one of the prerequisites to be creative. After all, being creative requires doing something that has not been done before. If you are not willing to do something new, then it’s hard to be creative.

However, creativity also requires knowledge. In order to do something that has not been done before in some area, you have to know a lot about that discipline. Creative painters need to know a lot about art and painting. Creative scientists need to be skilled in their science.

Creativity often requires drawing analogies between one body of knowledge and another. Pablo Picasso merged Western art techniques with elements of African art. He was struck by the way African artists combined multiple perspectives into a single work, and that helped lead to the development of cubism.

Similarly, Johannes Kepler struggled to understand how the planets could move around the sun and drew on his knowledge of light and magnetism to try to understand the force that moved the planets.

So, in short, learn something new and learn it deep so that its analogies can be mined later in a completely different field. This new perspective of looking at things is what leads to creativity.

The more that you broaden and deepen your base of knowledge, the more opportunities you will have to be creative.

Be an Open Networker

Ron Burt, Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business conducted several studies to understand the commonalities between extraordinary innovators in multiple disciplines.

Here’s the amazing insight he discovered: the one variable that explains 65% of the variance in someone’s career success is having an open network.

And the most successful people tend to be what Ron Burt calls Brokers.

Brokers tend to belong to multiple networks and are able to speak the insider lingo and translate to help move information or make introductions of people across those network lines. And this dissipation and assimilation of knowledge in social circles is what makes them insanely creative in their respective fields.

let’s say you attend a road engineering conference, which is outside your area. It’s going to take a little while, going to be uncomfortable to meet people that you don’t know, to learn a new language.

The benefits aren’t going to be as clear up front, because it’s just a whole new area. But then over the long term of doing that, you’re going to be much more innovative, and be able to make connections that other people wouldn’t. And this will give you that edge later when you start drawing analogies between road engineering and your respective field and come up with a brand new way of thinking.

Always remember if you want to be a successful broker, you must decide to be open to different experiences, however uncomfortable they can be.

And Lastly, be a Voracious Reader.

To be an expert-generalist, people at least need 3 skills and the value lies at the intersection of those. One must combine a hard skill, a soft skill, and a perspective to become an expert-generalist.

For example, Elon Musk combines programming, reading, and existential philosophy. Warren Buffett combines value investing, consumer psychology, and humanities. Marissa Mayer combines computer science, management, and linguistics.

And one of the ways this can be done is to be a voracious reader. Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day. Elon Musk completes 2 books a week. Charles Munger never goes to sleep without reading 50 pages. The list is endless.

Bain & Company chairman Orit Gadiesh, attests to the value of being a voracious reader across many domains in her own career, saying:

I bring into my work everything I do; all of my past consulting projects, all of my readings [100+ books a year]. I read novels. I read about physics, mathematics, history, biographies, art. I’ve read Japanese literature, Korean literature, English literature, American literature, Israeli literature, and on and on. I bring all of that somehow into my work. And I think that makes me better at what I do. It also makes life more interesting.”

Not only does regular reading help make you smarter, but it can actually increase your brain power. Just like going for a jog exercises your cardiovascular system, reading regularly improves memory function by giving your brain a good work out.

With age comes a decline in memory and brain function, but regular reading may help slow the process, keeping minds sharper longer, according to research published in Neurology. Frequent brain exercise was able to lower mental decline by 32 percent,

What’s more, you increase your value as a professional. Those who can bridge the gap between silos of knowledge are far more in demand than others who have specialized knowledge in one field.

And knowledge happens to be the only resource which grows by sharing. The more you share, you more you break the glass ceiling of your capacity and conquer new frontiers. Simple as that!

As Michel Eyquem de Montaigne has rightly said.

It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.
About the author-:
Ravi Rajan is a global IT program manager based out of Mumbai, India. He is also an avid blogger, Haiku poetry writer, archaeology enthusiast, and history maniac. Connect with Ravi on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.