Many innovations have emerged by simply considering the intersection of two or more established ideas. For example, Google Adwords combined online advertising with online auctions. Biomimicry combines nature’s solutions to problems with R&D efforts to develop new products (http://www.biomimicryinstitute.org). Kiva combined developing nation relief with venture capital for entrepreneurs (http://www.kiva.org)
Universities are replete with knowledge bases, but rarely do they interact. Even students who take courses from a wide array of fields rarely see how elegantly our knowledge “fits” together. If we lined up all of the fields of study at a university on an x-axis and the same ones on a y-axis, we would have a myriad of possible combinations to consider and to explore. Combine these with each individual’s perspective, passions, and creativity, and the possibilities are truly endless. Stanford’s Design School has always been tops at this.
As a simple example, consider two fields that are considered on the opposite ends of knowledge, and often on the opposite ends of campus: finance and philosophy. A recent example of a scholar who has created a unique niche at this intersection is Professor Brad Thompson at Clemson University. He oversees the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. According to its website, it is “… America’s first and only University-based teaching and research center dedicated to exploring the moral foundations of capitalism.”
Sounds like a great discussion waiting to happen! And it’s a great example of how we can combine even the most disparate fields of study to develop innovation and improve our condition in the world.
Do you know of any other good examples? Let us hear from you!