ANDREW McWILLIAMS
Posted Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Artist-Geek Hybrid

In this talk at TEDx Seattle, John SanGiovanni discusses what he calls the Artist-Geek Hybrid, and crossover skills in general. This is a topic I am discovering more and more about, as I am increasingly playing a variety of roles myself, including artist, experience designer, and software developer.

Here is a quick summary of the video: John talks about the value of having a 'wildcard' of cross-domain knowledge, which he illustrates with a crazy Teenage Mutant Turtle story.

Intersections and S-T-E-M
John continues by explaining that in the ever-evolving technology sector, real value comes from the intersection between domains. In the commonly-used acronym S-T-E-M, most people focus on the literal meaning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). John contends that in this (or any acronym you care to mention) there is now more value in the hyphens.

He extends this further, and points out that given any two domains or disciplines, there is generally a lot of value in the space in between. Just to add a little of my own feeling here, I think that this is a product of the pace of technological change.

Intersections between various domains
Intersections between various domains

Playing fields are being shaken at their foundations and traditions haven't had time to settle into a place. Disciplines don't know any more what exactly they can expect from each other. There is disruption, new industries are emerging, and old industries are continually developing new form. This form is as yet undecided.

Multiple mindsets
Another addition I would make is that there isn't just value in the wildcards that come from the intersection between disciplines. There is also power in multiple perspectives, and multiple approaches.

For example, an engineering, picture-building, problem-solving mindset is very different to an exploratory, irrational discovery mindset. You can imagine other mixes and matches using different adjectives. For example the following, which are often attributed to people who work in various different domains: opportunistic, creative, and entrepreneurial mindsets - etc.

My feeling is that in uncertain and disruptive playing fields, being able to mix and match your mindset represents a powerful asset. The personal development required to achieve multiple mindsets comes from practice in crossing over skillsets, and so multiple mindsets is in fact another layer over this idea of intersections between domains.



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