People thank me for understanding their business models, for seeing connections, for recognising problems, and for knowing how to approach solutions.
Apparently, I see the forest and the trees, in equal focus. I can suggest options, I ask difficult questions. I point out the ramifications of doing things this-way or that-way. I observe how the problem might parallel something similar in a different context. I point out the good, the bad, the ugly. I own their problems as if they were mine. Then I look at how we can collaborate to put together a workable solution.
Which is not to say that what I am is any better than being devoted to repairing shoes, or making pottery, or running a factory, or teaching people how to de-grease engines.
I just have an insatiable curiosity and a need to find out more about anything that crosses my path. Someone might mention stopping at a kasbah in Morocco. I end up researching what exactly a kasbah is, how it fits historically and culturally, and then of course (who wouldn’t), I calculate how much it would cost per month to live in one, to work remotely.
That’s pretty much how my brain works — I am always trying to understand what it is about the objects, and thoughts, and artefacts, that occupy the focused attention of other people. Why is it that there can be a magazine that specialises in underground parking in Italy? Or why is there a company that markets only things in the shape of a frog? What is it about pure mathematics that sends some people into (almost religious) raptures, and at times fervent arguments?
What do stand-up comedy, quantum physics, and cake decoration have in common? (I have no idea, but it might be interesting to find out)
On more commercial topics, I like to see the connections and differences between different industries – how an idea from the business publication industry can be useful when considering how to build an iPhone app for Venezuelans. How does Content Management for niche information brokers relate to management tools for sales teams? I took a course on Software Gamification to understand what motivates people to fill out forms within their own company.
This is such an everyday thing for me. So much part of me that I assume everyone else does it too. So, I find it surprising when people make comment. As a result of this mind-set, I have been labeled a “full-stack developer” – a generalist.
I have an Architecture degree. Because it seemed to me that architects were the “last of the great generalists”.
The designer’s mind set, and the true meaning of professional “agency” are the most powerful things I learned from architecture. That, and being exposed to engineering, contract law, building trades, surveying, negotiating, estimations, quality, aesthetics, planning, scheduling, government regulation, conflict resolution, colour, ergonomics — a rainbow of ways to look at the world.
Most of the work people do is now hyper-specialised – working within a deep and detailed silo of knowledge. They don’t have the luxury, or ability, or simply the language, to find out what’s going on elsewhere.
So, yes, people come to me with problems impossible to solve within their sphere of knowledge. I help them to clarify what they want to see happen.
I come up with solutions, and they say “Thanks, dude.”