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Most creative breakthroughs come via making atypical combinations of skills.
Researcher Brian Uzzi, a professor at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, analyzed more than 26 million scientific papers going back hundreds of years and found that the most impactful papers often have teams with atypical combinations of backgrounds.
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Polymaths have existed forever (they are often the ones who’ve advanced Western civilization more than any others ) but they’ve been called different things throughout history:
Even if you're merely competent in these skills, combining them can lead to a world-class skill set.
... is someone who becomes competent in at least 3 diverse domains and integrates them into a top 1-percent skill set.
It's easier than ever to pioneer a new field, industry, or skill set:
Specialists build up a narrow skill set and reputation and become highly paid for it, but they become fragile as their professions disappear or evolve.
It’s easier and faster than ever to become competent in a new skill. The quality of knowledge in every domain is improving and there is an abundance of free or affordable content from the world’s top experts in every medium you can think of.
The relevance of supply and demand to the job market, to goods and services, to the world of ideas, and to many other places means that you can have the most valuable skill set in the world, but if everyone also has that skill set, then you’re a commodity.
A polymath can take the skills that she or he has learned and combine them in new ways quickly to master new fields.
Being a polymath sets you up to solve more complex problems. Many of the largest problems that face society and individuals benefit from solutions that integrate multiple disciplines.
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