Thinking beyond domains.
How domain dependence can constrain creative ideas.
Last week, I didn’t send out a newsletter. It was a hectic week both at work and home. I also made an announcement on Twitter about the new book I am writing. I am sharing weekly updates on the book writing process on my blog. If you are interested, you can learn more about the book and follow my updates here.
I am going back to short-form articles for the newsletter so that I can spend more time on the book. The long-form essays were a lot of fun. But, they take a lot of time to research, organize and publish. Hopefully, once I am done with the manuscript in late 2021, I will get back to writing longer essays.
Now, let’s get to the idea of the week!
Idea of the Week
Domain dependence is the phenomenon where people fail to translate an insight, approach, or worldview to a domain outside of the context where they originally acquired it. I came across this idea first while reading Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.
Here’s how Taleb explains domain dependence.
Some people can understand an idea in one domain, say, medicine, and fail to recognize it in another, say socioeconomic life. Or they get it in the classroom, but not in the more complicated texture of the street. Humans somehow fail to recognize situations outside the contexts in which they usually learn about them.
- Nassim Taleb, Antifragile
Jeff Bezos had a similar observation about the business domain where people tend to think creatively in one area and ignore the others.
Another important question is whether high standards are universal or domain-specific. In other words, if you have high standards in one area, do you automatically have high standards elsewhere? I believe high standards are domain-specific, and that you have to learn high standards separately in every arena of interest.
When I started Amazon, I had high standards on inventing, on customer care, and (thankfully) on hiring. But I didn’t have high standards on operational process: how to keep fixed problems fixed, how to eliminate defects at the root, how to inspect processes, and much more. I had to learn and develop high standards on all of that (my colleagues were my tutors).
Creativity is the art of making connections between seemingly different ideas and domains. Domain dependence is the enemy of creativity. If we want to be truly creative and innovative, we must have the courage to borrow and exchange ideas beyond familiar territory.
Book of the week.
Keep Going by Austin Kleon is a wonderful book about maintaining the momentum of creation. He originally wrote down this title for a talk to inspire people to get through the four years of the Trump administration.
The book is a delightful read with little tips for fueling our creativity and sparking our passion.
Quote of the week.
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