Yo-Yo Ma and the “Edge Effect”

So there I was, killing time on the internet while I finished my Panera sandwich and waited for a good time to leave for the South Coast Innovator Labs meeting, when I came across an article about a speech Yo-Yo Ma recently gave about the importance of diversity to the arts, and how people are so much more creative and inspired when they’re surrounded by people doing different things. He cited an ecological phenomenon called the edge effect, wherein the interface between two distinct areas (e.g. forest and grassland) fosters a much wider variety of organisms than can be found centrally in either one. Ma’s argument is that the same principle applies to human creativity – when you’re surrounded by people with different backgrounds, different skills, and different goals, that creates a richly fertile environment for creativity and innovation.

This speech was centered around the arts, but just as arts integrate with science and engineering (the speech also touches on the STEM -> STEAM concept), the reverse is true too. A software engineer in a room with a mechanical engineer, a carpenter, a machinist, a glassblower, a photographer, a chef, and a biologist is going to come up with more and better solutions to her problems than a software engineer in a room full of other software engineers.

This is precisely the reason why we want to get people out of their basements and garages and into a collaborative space filled with everybody’s ideas. The space is greater than the sum of its makers!

P.S. The South Coast Innovators meeting went well too – they’re a great group of people that’s a quite a few steps ahead of us organizationally, and we’re looking forward to a long future of collaboration between their Taunton-centered operations and our work here on the Cape. More on that later!

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