How does diversity helps us with problem solving, creativity, and overall intelligence? It helps a lot. Diverse groups of people can produce better results and radiate more creativity. But what about your own personal diversity? Is it a good idea to accumulate knowledge from a wide range of disciplines? Does knowledge of music theory help you to write better code? Does knowledge from biology make you a better user experience designer? I believe yes, and here is why.
Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander wrote a very controversial book called Surfaces and Essences. It is not an easy read, but it is time spent well. Authors unfold thinking processes from language to high level constructs. They show how analogy-making helps us think, generate new ideas, and fuel our creativity (including scientific insights).
This book deeply resonated with me. In general, I agree that analogy-making is a core of our creativity. I even tried to apply knowledge from the Running domain to the Software Development domain and generated some quite interesting ideas, such as Interval development. Sure, these ideas can't be proved easily, because an analogy doesn't mean an idea is great. But still, it is relatively easy to take knowledge from one domain and apply it to another domain.
How can it help me?
All that brought me to the idea to increase my personal diversity and expand my knowledge beyond typical areas like system thinking, software architecture, groups dynamic, innovation models, user experience and other stuff every CEO learns. I've read books and took courses about quite diverse topics already, but I did that in a chaotic way.
Suddenly it became obvious to me how all these new domains can help me to be more creative and solve problems better.
What domains should I explore?
I think you should try anything you always wanted to learn, but didn't have time to. It is quite hard to predict what analogies can be generated from unknown domains. For example, you always wanted to know how people paint, how art evolved and how Michelangelo painted a fresco of The Last Judgement on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. Dig into the art domain and learn as much as you can in a single year. Will it help you to be a better software developer? Why not? If you try to paint something you can train patience and learn how to sketch (everybody should sketch, you know). Michelangelo's approaches may give you some ideas how to structure your work. As I said, it is hard to predict what exact ideas that you'll generate in the end, but I promise you will generate some.
I personally want to study biology, music theory, architecture, education, medicine, and swimming. If a simple running domain gave me new insights, I believe larger and more complex domains will bring even more value.
Why one year?
A year is a good timeframe to focus on something. It will be your new hobby for a full year. You can read 20+ books, take 1-3 online courses, maybe take offline courses, and try to apply your new knowledge constantly. Small domains demand less time, but larger domains are hard to grasp in 2-3 months.
I don't believe in quick solutions. You can read a book or two about a subject and have some fresh air in your head, but it is not enough to even scratch the surface. In 10 years, you will have a decent knowledge in 10 domains. That sounds cool to me.
Did you try that?
Nope. I started to dig into music theory recently. Right now, I'm just sharing the idea with a hope that there's a chance you'll like it and give it a try.
And maybe, just maybe, you'll even find your new passion. Who knows?