Creativity and the "naive daring of outsiders"

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The great physicist Niels Bohr is believed to have said that "an expert is a man who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field."

He wasn't being kind. What about you? Have you ever worked with someone whose view of the right course of action never deviated from what had been done before, or who took only the most deliberate steps toward a goal? Competency is important, of course. But for want of a little courage, some "experts" will miss strategies or paths that might not just compete in the marketplace - to use a business analogy - but miss the opportunity to create an entirely new market dominated by the creator.

Promoting his new book, Jonah Lehrer makes a point about innocence when tackling open ended problems. A certain phrase immediately appealed to me.

Imagination was once thought to be a single thing, separate from other kinds of cognition. The latest research suggests that this assumption is false. It turns out that we use 'creativity' as a catchall term for a variety of cognitive tools, each of which applies to particular sorts of problems and is coaxed to action in a particular way....

We tend to assume that experts are the creative geniuses in their own fields. But big breakthroughs often depend on the naive daring of outsiders. For prompting creativity, few things are as important as time devoted to cross-pollination with fields outside our areas of expertise. (emphasis supplied)

I've always thought of the IdeaFestival as the place where beginners, entrepreneurs, interactive artists, college students, the curious, white color professionals, molecular biologists - you get the idea - are exposed to the widest variety of people and ideas. Arrive with an open mind and the odds of a soul-satisfying, toe-curling thought outside your area of expertise are high. And once "naive daring" has done its thing?

Work like mad. Niels Bohr also new the basics.