I recently read a blog post on the Harvard Business Review that falls into InnoCentive’s “sweet spot” of out-of-the-box-thinking and diversity.
The article, Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities by Tony Golsby-Smith, is about the importance of diversity in the workplace – the diversity of thought, knowledge and academic background. Many of our Solvers have solved InnoCentive Challenges that are outside their sphere of expertise, but because of their cerebral dexterity, coupled with imagination, experience, knowledge and adaptability, have allowed them to solve Challenges that the domain’s owner had not envisioned. Case in point: Solver Bruce Cragin is a semiretired radio frequency engineer who won the NASA Challenge “Data-Driven Forecasting of Solar Events.” The Challenged was looking for a suitable method to more reliably predict the particle storms originating with solar events. Though Cragin had various degrees & experiences in physics, engineering and as a radio frequency engineer, he’d never worked in the area of solar physics. His experience with image analysis skills, interest in “small comet hypothesis” and curiosity about the theory of magnetic reconnection” enabled him to connect the dots.
Golsby-Smith does not address related disciplines in his article, but he goes one step further and recommends hiring graduates that are not only in science, business or economics, but in the humanities. He argues that these graduates are taught how to navigate look up and out to question and discover the “unknowns”. Graduates of philosophy, drama, literature, ethics, history, etc are, by the very nature of their subject matter, taught to “play with big concepts” – to observe people and situations, to be curious, to consider “why”, what were they thinking”, “what if”, etc. This is the kind of thinking that needs to be included in a world full of analytics, reasoning, and dissection, when faced with “a murky future”.
It is an interesting article and has elicited quite a lot of comments. Check it out here.