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One of the biggest changes in the workforce in the new millennium is that we have to be information synthesizers instead of information producers.  All information is available online.  So we can’t add value by memorizing it.  We have to add value by reframing it. I call this synthesizing.

IBM conducted a survey of CEOs to find out what they thought were the most important leadership skills of the near future. And in the top five was boundary spanning, which is networking ideas and collaborating in order to synthesize information in new ways.

Side note:  I have a theory that this is why we suddenly are noticing how many people have Asperger’s, because it used to be that people with Asperger’s were extremely valuable for their memorizing capacity.  Today, when we don’t need to hire people to memorize things, people with Asperger’s are suddenly viewed as weird and unemployable instead of savants and extremely valuable.

This made me start thinking about how we create that unexpected clash of information that leads to new ideas.

Organizations have been spanning boundaries for decades as a way to expand their brand equity. For example, Shell Oil sponsors the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  Shell has a prominent facility in Amsterdam.  Shell funded research into how van Gogh chose paint, and as part of that, Shell offered up their research facilities and their own researchers to do lab work on the project.

As the collaboration got deeper and deeper, the result was a ten‑year investigation of how van Gogh taught himself to paint through color, and how we can understand color in different ways today. One of the most memorable results is that van Gogh experimented with destabilizing red pigments, which means that today many of his paintings have become more blue than they originally were – like the walls in The Bedroom.

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