What happens when strangers meet?
A typical response when we need ideas is to reach out to people we know well to brainstorm. Quite likely they are a lot like us.
Turns out, this is not such a great strategy.
There are numerous examples across disciplines that demonstrate the role of diversity in creativity – as demonstrated beautifully in this NPR Hidden Brain podcast.
In nature, the maximum biodiversity exists at the boundaries of two different habitats.
The simple question at the top of this post spurred Yo-Yo Ma to create the Silk Road Ensemble, a space for radical cross-cultural collaboration in music.
Companies with higher-than-average diversity ratings had 19% higher innovation revenues (Harvard Business Review). And international students in the US who stay in touch with their friends when they return home are more likely to be entrepreneurs!
Ibarra, an expert on career transitions, has similar advice. When we want to reinvent, it helps to move out of peer groups and find new ones where we can test a new identity.
So whether you are inventing at work, or reinventing yourself, reach out to those least like you, and perhaps you will find your breakthrough. What do you think?