Creatives need variety

A close look at my bookshelves regularly confuses guests at my home. Sure enough, they expect to find books on creativity and innovation (and there are plenty), and most visitors know my background is in law – so the books on law, evidence, witness memories, crime and jurisprudence won’t surprise them much. What does surprise most people is the menagerie of books on topics like philosophy, history, biology, religion, politics, management and psychology that also grace the shelves.

Why creatives need variety

Most people in creative professions have the curious habit of exploring a multitude of unrelated fields and topics. While this time-consuming activity might seem like a counter-productive practice, the opposite is true. It is exactly this strange custom that enables creative people to come up with new and original ideas.

Creativity is nothing more than combining existing parts to create something new. Therefore evidently it is in a creative’s best interest to have a broad knowledge of a variety of unrelated topics. The more unrelated facts and theories you have in your head, the more new combinations you can make.

So, if you’re in charge of innovation at your company, or if you want to increase the number of original ideas that you have… explore some new subjects. Books and documentaries are a goldmine, but blogs on various topics are great sources of new knowledge as well. And when filling your bookshelf, don’t limit yourself to study books. There is no reason to exclude fiction, biographies and novels. These sources too can give you valuable insights.

Increase the chances of stumbling onto brilliant new combinations. Expand your horizons. Make it a habit to once in a while pick up a book or magazine on a subject that normally doesn’t appeal to you. And try out new activities whenever you got the chance. Not only will you be the life of the party, you might surprise your market with the next great invention.

Have you ever combined unrelated topics to create a brilliant solution? Or do you know a real life example of someone who used knowledge from an entirely different field of expertise to improve something? I’d love to hear your stories.

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