Overlapping different projects allows new connections to burgeon at the margins, helping to create innovative ideas.
Via Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:
Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities— a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity— but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies…
…It is tempting to call this mode of work “serial tasking,” in the sense that the projects rotate one after the other, but emphasizing the serial nature of the work obscures one crucial aspect of this mental environment: in a slow multitasking mode, one project takes center stage for a series of hours or days, yet the other projects linger in the margins of consciousness throughout. That cognitive overlap is what makes this mode so innovative. The current project can exapt ideas from the projects at the margins, make new connections. It is not so much a question of thinking outside the box, as it is allowing the mind to move through multiple boxes. That movement from box to box forces the mind to approach intellectual roadblocks from new angles, or to borrow tools from one discipline to solve problems in another.
…Chance favors the connected mind.
This is also a good reason to read multiple books at the same time.
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