while(self++) { #12 } // Innovation as Interdisciplinarity

When multiple ideas — not normally seen together — come together, you’ll witness some of the most creative phenomena you’ve never thought of. Amazing things happen at the intersection of different disciplines.

You can try an experiment. Write down ten things you know or care about on separate pieces of paper. Then, write down ten things you don’t know much about on separate pieces of paper. Put all of papers into a bag and pick two at random. Write down all the ideas that come to mind at the intersection. It doesn’t have to be a direct correlation; in fact, it could take you some place seemingly unrelated. Free associate.

For example, biology and architecture make me think about how we can build hospitals to be more patient friendly. Fitness and the environment make me think about new kinds of sports that don’t require any extra implements. Writing and games make me think of plotlines for video games and ways to game-ify the novel-writing process. Not every two topics work, of course, but the idea is that you can be inspired in ways you hadn’t thought about before.

But what about the real world? Where has interdisciplinarity come to fruition as innovation? The combination of music and tech led to the creation of the iPod, Spotify, and my attempt at making “music” with Arduino microcomputers. The combination of political philosophy and literature led to brilliant works like Plato’s Republic and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. And let’s not even start about the ground-breaking, tear-wrenching, goosebump-inducing, heart-warming (I can go on, folks…) musical Hamilton. According to Wikipedia lore:

At the airport, while on a vacation from performing in his hit Broadway show, In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda decided to pick up and read Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, a biography of Alexander Hamilton. After finishing the first couple of chapters, Miranda quickly began envisioning the life of Hamilton as a musical…

The rest is history. Literally. The musical is such a brilliant and unique combination of Broadway, history, and hip-hop that it blows my mind. Where in your life do you see innovation at unusual points of intersection?

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