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After years of being a lawyer I stopped going to legal conferences for a number of reasons:

  • lawyers can be boring and the interesting people were often outside smoking and I hate cigarettes; and
  • I stopped hearing anything new or that I did not already know.

When I started speaking and MC’ing conferences and events I found myself immersed in topics that were new to me. I got intellectual stimulation from learning new things and I always learned or figured out something relevant to what I was doing back in the office, a different way of thinking, a new idea, because I was in a fresh environment which helped my brain to work out an existing problem.

In 2007 a scientific research study was published called “The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving” By Karim Lakhani and 3 colleagues. They showed that disclosure of problem information to a large group of outside solvers is an effective means of solving scientific problems.  For example they showed that if you want to solve a physics problem with a group of physicists, adding more scientist non physicists who know nothing about the subject will increase your likelihood of solving and in fact they showed a 30% resolution rate for scientific problems previously unsolved.

Search for stories online about Building 20 at MIT in 1942 and you will find fascinating evidence of this same intellectual diversity in operation, solving problems.

So, if 45,000 people attending OpenWorld all attend one session totally outside their sphere of knowledge maybe we could see some amazing problem solving happening during the conference as the clever people in one specialization lend some braincells to others.