The cracks between knowledge
As I say in my book, ‘Invention often sprouts from the cracks between areas of knowledge’. This means that creative ideas are often born at the intersection of two (or more) totally unrelated things. Often when we try to bridge to seemingly unbridgeable ideas, our innate creativity springs into action. How does this work?
Let’s try an experiment. Go to your dictionary and choose two nouns at random. In other words, flip to a random page, choose the first noun you come across, and then flip to another page and do the same thing. I just did this and my nouns are cougar and magnet (you can do this with verbs as well). Now, write a paragraph relating these two words. There is no obvious relationship between cougar and magnet, but as I write and try to imagine some kind of way to bridge these two things, I will inevitably come up with a creative idea. This principle works in many realms and is one of the axioms of invention. We all know many things very well, but we don’t necessarily know how to relate things that don’t seem to have any bearing on one another. Let me give you a personal example. I have a strong interest in working with special needs children; I also have a passion for engineering, my field of study. On the surface, there is no relationship between children with profound mental disabilities and the field of engineering. They are not two areas that one normally puts together in the same sentence or thought. However, I combined these two unrelated areas in a unique way: I created a program to teach robotics to special needs children. It turns out that this seemingly bizarre idea has produced very powerful results. The kids love the hands-on approach to learning and not only do they surpass what they thought they could accomplish, but their self-esteem increases as they solve problems that they thought they lacked the capability to unravel. This is an example from my life of creating something between the borders of two totally unrelated areas. Invention often follows this pattern. Creativity comes when you say, “hmm, how can I combine cougar and magnet ?” The beauty of this is that your creative solution might have nothing at all to do with cougar or magnet, but might be the result of those two words acting as a trigger for your inventive mind.
Below are two links to articles on my triple intersection of unrelated things: Robotics, special needs, and Jewish education: