Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mediciexity Defined

Check out a most interesting post at Zenpundit, entitled Creating a Culture of Mediciexity. This gets into the definitions and the interplay between numerous concepts such as vertical and horizontal thinking, resilience, complex thinking and the Medici effect (the creation and/or innovation that happens at the 'intersection' of multiple disciplines working and collaborating on the same problem). Zen's concluding paragraph is:

"Is mediciexity a permanent condition ? No. Like the historical Renaissance it is a moment in time that emerges, is enjoyed and then passes, hopefully leaving a legacy in its wake. However, an organization can build a resilient, institutional culture that nurtures and encourages moments of mediciexity and helps them to come to fruition repeatedly. How ? By embracing change; by honest and regular self-reflection; by a steady engagement of horizontal thinking; by welcoming a regular flow of " new blood" or at least ideas; finally - and this is absolutely critical in my view - by investing in the time and space for " unproductive" intellectual free play that is to human creativity what air is to the body.

Mediciexity is what we need to aspire for to thrive in the 21st century."

Zen and I have discussed and written about these ideas for some time now, and I could not agree more (as, hopefully, a long-term project will spell out that we are working on). I have seen this interplay of ideas firsthand on many occasions. In scientific research, check out the make-up of research groups at a university. One professor I've known for a number of years has a large research group made up of postdocs with chemistry, biochemistry, and physics degrees, a computer scientist, and graduate students who are working in biology and physical chemistry. The professor is a chemical engineer. Bringing together people who are vertically trained (i.e. experts in a specific field) in a variety of fields and allowing them to sit down and bounce ideas off each other and bring in multiple perspectives about how they would approach the same problem tends to lead to a collective horizontal thinking process, where creative ideas and possible solutions to the problem are hatched (and which no one individual in the group would likely ever develop on his or her own) and, often, innovative products are the end result.

The days of research that is just biology, just chemistry, or just physics, are numbered; it is along the lines of saying that most of the 'easy' things have largely been done in many of the major disciplines, and much of the interesting and important work is being done at the interfaces between disciplines. This makes me think of a post I did last September on econophysics. Economists are finding it valuable to work with physicists in order to learn and employ mathematical and simulation tools to economic models. Many believe that the 21st century will be the age of biochemistry and molecular biology (which will require more people who are trained in biophysics and physical chemistry since they are working at the molecular and smaller size scales; we can throw nanotechnologists into the mix as well as mathematicians and computer scientists!). So in science, at least, bringing in a variety of thinkers into a group has been going on for some time, but it is really beginning to take hold with the masses, as research is supporting the validity of this method of developing a creative process. My next post will expand on this last statement.

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