We normally think of an intersection as a place that slows us down. If there isn’t a stop sign, then we are wise to look both ways before crossing. The objective is to get through the intersection safely and continue on our journey in the direction we had mapped out.
That, says Frans Johansson in The Medici Effect, is directional thinking. It is efficient. It will take you, predictably, to the place you intend to go. It’s relatively safe, with little to distract you from your intended destination. There is a time and place for directional thinking. Like when you need to get somewhere quickly, with as few interruptions — as few intersections — as possible.
But there’s a different way of thinking about intersections. When ideas (rather than cars) collide across an intersection of disciplines (fields, in Johansson-speak) the effect can be startling. Intersectional thinking (according to Johansson, p. 14) is positively creative when it is new and valuable. It is innovative when the creative idea is realized. Intersectional thinking happens when two disciplines cross paths.
We live at a time when knowledge is increasing at a staggering rate. One invention alone — the microchip — has resulted in computing power doubling every two years. So what happened when computer engineers, armed with this ever-increasing computing power, actors, and artists crossed paths back in the early 2000’s?
What happened was 3D animation, a la Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Shrek, and Monsters, Inc.
Back in 1996, Steve Jobs saw it coming and had already entered the intersection of these disciplines. In his first annual report for Pixar after it had gone public, he said the following:
In the new world of computer animation the opportunities for innovation are immense. Traditional cell animators must spend a great del of time drawing…, (over 100,000 frames in a typical feature-length animated film must be drawn by hand)…. Pixar’s computer animation…done by hundreds…of very fast computers…frees our animators from drawing so that they can concentrate on acting, breathing life into their characters as they move.
This allows Pixar to hire animators who may or may not excel at drawing, but are brilliant actors. Our animators even take acting lessons.”
OK, let’s consider theology for a moment in light of intersectional thinking:
God had a “problem:” how best to glorify Himself.
There was no directional answer to the problem, so He welcomed the intersection of infinitely divergent fields of time and eternity. By His own divine alchemy, the eternally holy God would enter time encased in a vehicle of flesh. He would, in an exercise of unfathomable love, willingly sacrifice His only Son in order to bridge the infinite gulf that separates His sinful creatures from Himself. And then His Son would rise from the dead as evidence that He had effectively accomplished His mission. He had glorified Himself in a way that was new, and valuable, and innovative.
We can choose a directional (predictable) approach to solving our problems.
Or we can consider an intersectional (creative, innovative) approach.
Choose a problem today.
Look for an approaching idea. And step into the intersection.