Innovation in boundary crossing

Elizabeth Gordon’s favourite word, from her book Eat, Pray, Love, is the Italian word ‘Attraversiamo’, which means, to cross over. This reminded me of the importance of ‘crossing over’ in science. More than a pretty word, it can lead to creative innovations.

Dr Geoff Garrett, a previous CSIRO CEO, was fond of talking about the importance of boundary crossing in terms of the amazing discoveries that can be found at the edges of, or between, science disciplines. Another word for boundary crossing might be interdisciplinary research. (Yep, I prefer boundary crossing too).

A good example of boundary crossing is the CSIRO WiFi discovery and patent. The science research began as a radio astronomy solution to listening to black holes in the universe, exploding black holes to be more exact. The research Apple products operate at the nexus of the technological and liberal arts.was eventually, many years later, applied to computer science. The result from this space to computer science innovation is WiFi that works and is now common in billions of devices around the world. This includes the one that I am drafting this blog post on.

Another example of successful boundary crossing is part of every Apple product. In the late Steve Jobs’ words, Apple create products that are technological but operate at the nexus of the technological and liberal arts or humanities. This integrated design from both disciplines makes them wildly successful. Another technological example of an innovative individual crossing boundaries is Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook entrepreneur. I didn’t know this until recently, but he studied psychology and computer science. We all know where that led him.

I think innovation, in its broadest meaning, is an important part of sustainable development and corporate sustainability. “Innovate or die” someone once said. The former is a much more attractive and exciting place to be.

Incidentally, my favourite foreign word is the Dutch ‘Alstublieft’, meaning ‘please’ or ‘here you are’. Pronounced Ahl-stu-bleeft, it too works at the boundaries of human interaction.


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