T-Shaped + Sun-Shaped People
As you probably already know—I'm a big fan of the "T-shaped" mindset. So much so, that I dedicated the notion of it on my personal Website. The first time I read about this was in an Article in Fast Company written by IDEO's Tim Brown. The article is called "Strategy By Design". It's a must read. Here's a snippet of how Tim describes a "T-Shaped" individual.
"We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they're willing to try to do what you do. We call them "T-shaped people." They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T -- they're mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need. That's what you're after at this point -- patterns that yield ideas."
This notion instantly connected with me. I approach creativity as a "generalist"—blending skills in multiple areas. Recently I thought about what my "T" would look like if I visualized it. I put my "principal skill" in the vertical leg as "design". I've always been one kind of designer or another. Then I put my "branches" in the areas of brand strategy and user experience. These seemed to be the best labels I could come up with regarding how I approach my work (or at least try to).
But lately I've been wondering—is there another way to look at this? What if we took a more basic human truth. Most of us have some kind of passion in a specific area. For some—it's a hobby or interest. For others, it's directly related to there work. I fall into the latter catagory. If you were to ask me what my "passion is"—I would probably say that at the core, it's creative problem solving. This is pretty broad and incorporates a lot of disciplines that can relate to it. But that's the point. What if we start with our passions regardless of discipline, and look at the skills which radiate out from it the same way we think about how rays from the sun radiate warmth?
Monday, April 09, 2007
Where do ideas come from? How do they move beyond the realm of abstract thought into something more tangible?
Every day is an opportunity to learn. To observe. To ask ourselves "why?". And to take things apart before we put them back together. To my surprise—the article I authored for BusinessWeek ended up being featured as the lead story in the Innovation section. And I just noticed that it's in the Top 5 most read stories at #4. Did you know that this article would have never come about it wasn't for the actions of the following individuals? Here's how:
Saturday, April 07, 2007
(click for larger image)
Thanks to Karl Long, I got a early heads up that my BusinessWeek article has already gone live. The title is "It's The Conversation Economy, Stupid": go and check it out if you have a few minutes to spare. And special thanks to Helen Walters from BusinessWeek who did some fantastic editing on the piece. I really enjoyed that process, and it made the writing much better.
But I'd like to talk about something else that is both directly and indirectly linked to the conversation economy. The diagram associated with this post basically illustrates two possible paths that one can take in pursuit of becoming a "thought leader". In my visual I describe these two paths as the "round world" way and "flat world" way. The point of this visual is to illustrate the different types of behavior one can take to help spread the idea virus.