It’s increasingly obvious that good innovators come in all shapes and colors, all moods and forms. What’s also obvious is that many of the best innovators seem to be “Renaissance” people – that is, people with a lot of interests or who are engaged in a lot of different fields. This always poses an interesting chicken and egg question for me: do you have to be a Renaissance person to be innovative, or do all innovators resemble Renaissance people?
In our increasingly specialized world, deep industry or operational knowledge is often valued over breadth of knowledge and connections. The deeper and more arcane the knowledge, the higher the compensation. This leads to many information silos where individuals have great expertise but little motivation to network or learn outside of their silo. As long as the future doesn’t require integrated knowledge or insight, the deep but narrow model prevails.
If you want to be more innovative, read outside your industry. Try something completely new. Read literature or watch TV shows that you’d never typically watch. Interact with people who are very different from you.
The “Renaissance” men and women were naturally curious and didn’t have Google or the ability to view information at their fingertips. They worked for the information they consumed and were happy to contribute information and insights back. This broad networking and learning made them more innovative, to our great satisfaction, at least where governance is concerned.