T shaped people...

I've been spending time with an artist, Tina Culverhouse, as I develop my photography practice.  I'd noticed and become more aware of how people from other creative pursuits often also take very good photographs - my guess is that they have a well honed eye already for things like form, perspective, colour, and overall composition from there day jobs - architects, hairdressers, designers, artists, I could go on, but they often take great photographs with apparent ease.  I thought it would be good for me as photographer therefore, to see a few other disciplines at work just witness them in practice and see if I feel anything in there that might work for me.

I was reminded of a piece of work I did a few years ago, I was researching 'innovation' for a leadership team of a big plc - they were behind the curve with technology and busy trying to restructure everything to suit the multichannel world...  so that wherever you did business with them whether online, or in real world spaces, they always knew it was you and your experience between the real and online world as good as seem-less - it all requires a bit of imagination and creativity to stay at the front of things right.

While researching the idea of innovation then I came across the idea of 'T-shaped people', the premise, which feels like a no brainer to be honest, is that if you want great innovation and creativity from someone look for the deep technical expertise that you require (the upright of the T) whilst also looking for a broad range of other experiences and interests (the horizontal of the T) - have a team of these types of people that are all able to collaborate and communicate freely with one another and you are creating great conditions that will help innovation to happen.  It feels like a no brainer after just a little thought really doesn't it?

There will be some research to support the notion that there is value in having a broad range of experiences for the brain to draw on and bring to the deeper area of expertise is a good thing to do, bringing stuff together or the brain to crunch around and turn into new ideas - I'm not going to find that research by the way, you have a search bar, I'm sure we can agree that it at least sounds reasonable.

We do it in teams by getting diverse skills together, and I think we can do that within ourselves also. I can quickly think of examples of multi-skilled people with diverse interests who did pretty well, were masters of their thing - Jackie Stewart racing driver and crack shotgun marksman, Leonardo Da Vinci Artist and scientist/engineer/inventor, Bruce Davison singer and commercial pilot.  One of the Marx brothers made more from his inventions and the businesses he founded than from his on screen persona.

I'm sure we could think of lots of examples of people who are really successful, maybe even well known at one thing and you suddenly find out they have a real passion somewhere else that they are really good at too, dig a bit further and you will find they are 'good/passable' at quite a few things.  How many really good solid, actually quite skilled dinner party chefs do you know out there who also bloody good at their job, run marathons, and have great kids - you know the one, you hate him, he fabricated his immaculate home office furniture by hand from materials he sourced from railway sleepers and twine or something...   its diversity of interest that makes them so good at what they want to be doing at any one moment, and importantly their real chosen area of devotion and expertise.

When you are creating something new, that coalescence of interest in the brain is what we need to get the ideas forming.

In my mastery journey in photography that means I go out and photograph not just what I want and need to, but all sorts of subjects and styles, and beyond that I spend time with an artist or another photographer, I will read or write something, get into debates and focused discussions, walk with and without camera, drive, coach someone, cook, enter purposeful reflection, create something else maybe draw.

A diversity of experience and interests can help us to take our talents further, add to the soup of stuff where our ideas and creativity can come from.

I've written a little about the experience of spending time with Tina in one of my photography project blogs here

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