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Saturday, August 04, 2007

A System for Innovation

Diversity in our lives brings a wealth of knowledge and experience at unexpected ways. There are many facets to diversity; examples are age diversity, education diversity, background diversity, interest diversity and the list can go on.

Imagine if all people were interested in playing basketball, then all what the world will know is basketball. Now with the presence of soccer, one can think and say, what if we come up with a game that has some attributes of basketball and some of soccer, and call that game handball, just an example. This diversity in the athletic domain can yield new types of games. Not only that, but also consider for a moment how a team can lead innovation based on experiences from basketball as a knowledge domain. There are many areas, team work, flexibility, adaptability, endurance, and probably a dozen other areas of knowledge.

This weekend I had the privilege of hosting a couple of my friends' teens at home. Being a married professional my late 30s, most people I deal with are professionals around my age or a bit older or younger, as well as my spouse and young girls. How often do I interact with a 14 or 16 year old? The answer is not very often. Spending an evening together pondering on the creation of Allah (SWT), and reading from his book, and then hanging out at the gym together the next morning has given me a very interesting insight. "Strong nations need and must communicate across all sections of the society". The old and the young, the senior and the junior, the poor and the rich, and so on ...

This should be no surprise to a systems engineer, as Allah (God) tells us in the Quran that God has created us from a male and female and make us into tribes and nations to know one another and to know that verily the most honorable among you are ones who have the most piety.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

Allah has created diversity. Diversity in gender - men and women - as well as in color, demographics and place of origin. This diversity if put to action correctly in compliance and adherence to the guidance of Allah, we will not only succeed in this life but also in the hereafter.

On the other hand, we are also diverse in levels of piety and belief. As humans we can recognize this through contrast and comparison to other groups and nations. Someone who is not on the right path can easily identify so by seeing or dealing with someone who obeys his Lord and fears the consequences.

In just less than 30 minutes with two teens, I was able to learn about every single piece of workout equipment in a room the size of about 70' by 40'. In an hour we tried out almost 75% of the equipment. So you probably ask now, whats so interesting about this? What is interesting is the unexpected power of knowledge developed by mixing the teen and the 30 year old ideas, thoughts and passions. My younger friends provided a blend of motivation, risk assumption, willingness to explore and hastiness. I pitched in with risk control, analysis, prioritization and feedback. Now lets consider on the other hand that I went to same gym with the parents of my young friends - i.e. my friends - would we have explored those dozens of equipment? Would we have attempted to try half of what we tried out? Would we have motivated each other and encouraged one another to try out equipment... I can guess probably not. Imagine going with a newly retired friend who is in his 60s .. what experiences can we expect and imagine ?? Probably a lot more that are different from those discussed above, adding even further wealth. Humans need to mix across generations, not only for social purposes but also for strength and growth purposes...

This is definitely a complex topic, involving tens if not hundreds of factors... The main point to take out of this discussion is that "Diversity leads to new experiences, these experiences could be good or bad. In either case the experiences tends to be of large dynamic nature", and we should understand its implications very well to better control it, and leverage it to innovate and grow stronger.