Learning How to Play Outside the Lines

Never fitting in because you’re having too much fun exploring outside.

No longer are we in an era that’s just about deepening our individual expertise within our silos. That game no longer works.

John Seely Brown

I just finished watching the above 2017 speech by John Seely Brown (discovering it indirectly when searching for “work not being transdisciplinary”) and I’m completely blown away. That’s because over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been moving closer and closer to the edge of something at the core of my being that is going to give me a vista of my life that I’ve been struggling to put into words for the past couple of decades. Unbelievably enough, this video of John opens up this vista and helps me understand what I’m looking at.

If I could put this feebly into words right now, it would be this. Our lack of innovation, our inability to change and adapt to the times, is inherently found within our lack of imagination, our ability to play outside the lines, borders, and boundaries of our existing mindsets. This is what is limiting most individuals and organizations to adapt to these times because their very structural sense of identity prohibits them from doing so. In effect, we are standing in our own way (A. Montuori) because we are fearful and lack the courage to step into the uncertainty of the unknown.

To get around this (and ourselves), we need to stop thinking within the lines, borders, and boundaries of our mind. Yet every single one of our relationships, especially within the world of work, are based upon putting you within a box and keeping you there. This is for the most part why I know I wouldn’t fit into the context of most conventional companies today because I’m no longer specializing myself to fit into a single siloed discipline like others but rather enjoy exploring the in-between liminal spaces between them.

For example, if someone looks at me on paper, I look like I’m all over the place, lost jumping around aimlessly, because I’ve added domains of knowledge to my life that I’m not only still exploring but, more importantly, I’m trying to weave together in a single integrative way, combining my knowledge of games, computers, the Web, communities, culture, organizational development, personal development, social innovation, creativity, and play to do so. So I’m not lost so much, as I’m following and exploring a definitive purpose to my life that is pulling me along.

I do this because when I look at all of these things, I see an emerging bridge to The Future of Work that is being woven right now. For example, I imagine the possibilities of creating a web platform that, when combined with AI, could allow individuals to discover their untapped potentialities just by simply using it like a social network. And once they discover these unseen potentialities, this platform would allow them to be seen and to see other individuals, connecting up and working with them in the same way that the individual’s own ideas are connected up and woven together in new ways.

I see these things because I’ve been talking about these things for the past couple of decades of my life. But I’ve been talking about them within a specific context (i.e Connected Communities). Yet when you let go of the context or blur the lines of it, you suddenly see how these patterns of life can be applied within a larger context, a bigger picture. This is Miyamoto Musashi’s famous quote of “From one thing, know ten thousand things” personified.

This is why for the past decade of my life, I feel like I’ve had exponential personal growth in understanding myself and learning new knowledge but at the same time feel more and more restricted and limited because I can’t find a company locally that operates in this same curious and open way as I do. A company of people that accepts me as I am unconventionally am because they themselves are unconventional as well.

For example, you hear that lifelong learning is critical for The Future of Work, yet most companies that agree with this don’t actually practice this belief internally. Why? Because if you believe that lifelong learning is critical, it means accepting people who don’t have formal degrees or titles, thus being open to anyone that can just prove themselves and their knowledge. Yet most of the companies that I’ve researched that promote Creativity, Social Innovation, and The Future of Work, often seem to function and work very conventionally within, wanting the person to have a prestigious conventional degree or work background, so that they “fit in” to that perceived mold.

Because of this, I feel like life is showing me a sign and making me realize that if I truly believe that future organizations should work openly and curiously then I need to embody it in my own work, creating my own company in the process. In effect, I need to stop looking for the leadership that I want to find out there and instead take the leadership in following my own beliefs. I mean why put your life on hold waiting for someone else to come along to “discover you”, when they may never appear at all. Discover yourself by just being yourself.

You have to understand your own center of gravity. You have to understand who the hell you are. You have to understand your forces that you can do.

John Seely Brown

Leave a Reply