A garage has had a symbolic role in innovation. We think of startups founded in garages – even if they hardly ever are.
As Steve Johnson writes in “How We Got To Now,” most innovations occur in the “adjacent possible.” And, a few make seemingly impossible leaps.
While the popular theory for innovation is that it is the work of a genius, there are plenty of high IQ individuals at any given time. If there is a common thread, it is that inventors worked at the intersection of multiple fields. Ada Lovelace could see the future of computers as she lived at the edge of science and art. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are modern day examples of cross disciplinary mastery.
Staying within the boundaries of a discipline can enable incremental improvements – which are critical to progress. But, to make leaps, we have to travel across borders – sometimes geographical. These time travelers often have hobbies and interests in varied fields. And, this is one of the reason garages have such a symbolic role in innovation. After all, garages are peripheral spaces where hobbies are worked on.
So, what does this mean for you and me?
Pick a side project. Any side project will do. Work on something you care about and get better at it. It may seem like it has nothing to do with what you do to earn your paycheck. But, it’ll surprise you. When this one runs its due course, it’ll lead you to the next one. And, so on. Very soon, you’ll have a body of work that speaks volumes about who you are and what you care about.
These side projects serve as differentiation in our career – in ways we’d never have imagined. They also give us energy and cross-disciplinary ideas that we would never have dreamed of.
And, most importantly, our side projects are how we walk toward our future selves.
We build ourselves into who we want to be, in time.
And, all that tinkering in our garage plays a big role in that process.