Bring your multidimensional self to the office (or “Multidimensional data can only be understood by multidimensional people”)

I just returned from a long walk near my home in the hills of Berkeley. During the walk I listened to a podcast of an NPR program about research into the causes and treatments of particular neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. One of the researchers from the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California in Davis mentioned that it is currently difficult to identify specific genes that are closely related to autism, because autism isn’t really a single disorder, but rather several disorders that exhibit similar behaviors. If you’re trying to detect high incidences of particular genetic markers that are related to a particular disorder, such as autism, you must define the disorder narrowly enough to find a link to a single genetic cause or predisposition. For instance, in searching for the cause of cancer, you would need to narrow the disease to a particular type of cancer, because the different types—of which there are several—have very different causes. This researcher’s comments started me thinking about the importance of good data segmentation, of breaking business dimensions down into meaningful subtypes to enrich the data for insightful analysis. This point alone warrants a great deal of consideration, but the point I want to make in this blog entry is that a great many of the breakthroughs that we experience when analyzing business data are inspired indirectly from thinking and learning about other things.

Innovations are born at the intersection of disparate disciplines and ideas. Our minds have an uncanny ability to make connections between things that weren’t obviously related until those things encountered one another in our minds. As business professionals, we constantly run the risk of becoming myopic, too focused on one narrow field of responsibility to notice interesting connections and new ways of looking at what we do and the data we seek to understand. Just as bringing a group of people together from various parts of the company to tackle and solve problems gives birth to more intelligent solutions, so too does bringing the broad interests of our own lives, our own multidimensional selves, to the workplace.

Keep your mind sharp through involvement in a range of interests and interactions and bring them all with you to the office and conference room. The most creative and productive people I know are usually those who fill their lives with broad pursuits, fill their minds with far-ranging collections of knowledge, and fill their communities with people of all kinds.


Comments are closed.