Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Boundaries to Creativity and Innovation

It appears that some of the most critical advancements in technology and practice are preceded by the collaborative efforts of people from diverse educational backgrounds. The seeds of the most widely appreciated technologies of today were developed and cultivated in environments where the cross fertilization of ideas can flourish. Why then does there remain, on a general level of organization in the domain of education, an impetus to segregate spaces, professions, and practices? What drives this type of segregation and why, when some of our greatest triumphs have proven, is there not a consistent appeal for the creation of spaces, events and opportunities that lead to interaction among the separate communities.

Bell Laboratories, throughout a period between the late 1920's and the 1990's, was a hub for this type of interaction. An endless array of technologies were conceived and developed within the walls of this facility; photovoltaic cells, speech synthesizers, semiconductors, microphones, the wireless local area networks. The list goes on an on. The developments that extended from Bell Laboratories are the infrastructural elements of today's technologically infused environment. One of the key factors behind those developments was Bell Laboratories extension of freedom and diversity into the working environment. In the glory days of the mid 20th century designers, scientists and engineers were provided an environment that encouraged cross pollination. Scattered throughout the facility these professionals were organized dynamically, in a way that fostered random encounters and an overall atmosphere of diversity. A decision that pushed for creative exchange of information; and it worked.

Today, there are conferences, charrettes and civic meetings that bring together a broad coalition of thinkers; building teams that are as diverse as the ecologies of the great barrier reefs. This atmosphere is were the ideas of the future are born and the old ways of segregation are deemed a past-time.

At what point do other more common industrial and academic practices change to meet the demands of such a rapidly evolving social and environmental reality? What is the lag time for such change and how can the established organizations reduce such time, thereby increasing the opportunities for real-time growth and development; meeting the needs of the younger generations who readily acquire the perspectives of the time at hand.

The boundaries to our creative future are only those things that we are unwilling to take the time and perhaps the risk to change. They are the stagnant waters of our social and cultural ecology. They are the places where thoughtful men and women are marginalized for the sake of homogeneity.

This is not an argument for or against specialization in our professional communities. It is an acknowledgment of the value of diversity in the greater practices of humanity; those that assemble to direct the developments of our common future. In place of conformity among the normalization of our institutions let there be a push for diversity, a protest against the homogeneity and a clear expression of the value for variation as exhibited in the atmosphere of those places where our greatest leaps in technology, theory and practice have been witnessed.

No comments: