Interesting results always happen at the intersection

You need to venture out of your niche if you want to have truly unique ideas

My friend Tom Goodwin Tweeted a great comment this morning:

Incidentally I shared similar thoughts on one of my old blogs a decade ago I think worth re-sharing, so let’s talk intersectionality and why it’s so important:

Cross electronic music with jazz and you get UK duo Zero 7.  Mix abstraction with architecture and you get Frank Gehry. Combine art, anonymous self-expression and a love of postcards and you get Post Secret. Combine an attorney with blogging and love for tech and you get TechCrunch.

So many interesting artists, designers, ideas and entrepreneurs are successful because they find a unique combination of passions at a synergistic intersection.

Pursuing several concurrent paths of personal development opens you up to so much.  By embracing several passions that feed off each other, you open up a world of possibility you otherwise would miss.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert A. Heinlein

Someone who has spent their entire life doing one thing and just one thing may never be able to view things from outside a singular perspective. It is the antithesis of finding a unique path. By embracing multiple passions and allowing natural intersections to form without forcing them, you’ll develop mental process which produce results that are exciting, useful and truly your own.

Your mind will never reach it’s full potential unless it is challenged

If you are  involved in one and only one interest in life, you are not exercising the full capabilities of your mind, even if you are challenging yourself in that field. Image if you were to go to the gym each day but only working out one muscle. That muscle might get very strong, but you’d be falling far short of your potential gains from working out your whole body, which working in aggregate would equal far greater results.  Participating deeply in different subjects is to your mind what working out different muscles is for your body.  In both cases the growth does not happen in a silo – rather you are encouraging a 1+1 = 3 effect. The experiences build upon each other.

Cross-pollination of niches breeds creative results

Imagine a pastry chef who is also a visual artist, versus one who is purely a pastry chef. The results of the pastry chef might be perfectly fine and meet all traditional standards of excellence. But the visual artist who is also a pastry chef may take the designs on their desserts to a different place entirely, a place the other never would have considered.  I am not saying one design may end up being better than the other, that’s entirely subjective.  They will just be different –  but one will invariably look similar to the products from others who are purely pastries chefs and one may be remarkable.

Approaching problems and creating solutions in different ways

Engineers won’t look at a problem the same way as marketers.  Programmers don’t view things the same ways as designers. IT professionals don’t see the world the same way as lawyers. But what happens when you get people that have strong cross experience and knowledge in both? They sometimes come back with the most creative approaches to problem solving of all. This is because they unconsciously process solutions in multiple ways simultaneously, taking a hybrid approach which balances more variables and possibilities than those limited to one.

From Steve Pavlina (I’m going to just take a few bits but the whole post is worth reading):

One of the reasons I’ve been so successful as a personal development blogger is that I came into this field as an outsider. My college degrees are in computer science and mathematics, not psychology or philosophy. Because of my background, I often notice patterns that other people in this field overlook (or simply discount).

What makes me different from most other experts in this field is that I tend to think in binary and algorithmic terms. When you write a computer program, either it produces the desired output or it doesn’t. A math problem is either solved or it isn’t. You can’t use a half-assed or fuzzy approach in those fields and expect to succeed. Either you’re right or you’re wrong. Either you have a solution that works, or you don’t…

Since I like patterns that are very tight, precise, and effective, I dislike solutions that aren’t universal. I also dislike gray areas since I prefer to think in more black and white terms…

Similarly, if you were a psychologist coming into the field of computer science, you might be inclined to introduce problem-solving methods that allow for more fluidity and imprecision

I believe the cross pollination of my experiences being a participant and student of sociology, marketing, the web, financial markets and art combined is what has enabled me to see things from a unique vantage point. So I don’t believe my ideas are necessarily better or worse, but simply different from peers who have never ventured or studied outside of the marketing space. All our ideas are valid, but to make them our own we have to follow a dynamic path.