Sunday, February 21, 2016

In Praise of Engineering Polymaths

From the New York Times Book Review today - - a review of Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World by Pagan Kennedy and Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant - - written by Clive Thompson:

"Kennedy also argues that inventors are often polymathic connectors "who - by luck, design or some quirk of personality - are able to bring together knowledge from several fields."  In her most surprising chapter she examines InnoCentive, a website where companies post problems they cannot solve, listing a financial reward for anyone who helps out.  It turns out that people most likely to solve problems on InnoCentive are outsiders to the problem's field.  For example, food company was struggling to make a health shake but found its formula kept producing a revolting color.  The person who devised a solution wasn't in the area of food at all: He was a marine scientist, who had seen the same thing happen in ocean water and suspected (correctly) that the color was caused by iron.  He spent a single weekend writing up a solution and who InnoCentive's $25,000 prize for it."

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