You know the old joke,
Q. How can you tell an extroverted statistician from an introverted statistician?
A. The extrovert looks at your shoes when they talk.
Well, the statisticians that I work with every day are a pretty lively bunch, so this joke doesn’t really apply, but it brings up a stereotype that people who work with statistics are dull. Many of us working in the area of applied statistics are expats from other disciplines: psychology, physics, chemistry, education, engineering, mathematics. Something brought each of us together to work in the fields of applied statistics. I think that many cases, the common denominator is a strong desire to tinker. If you’re reading this blog, you are probably a fellow tinkerer.
I was reading this blog post over at Harvard Business Review about the threats to creativity. There’s no doubt in my mind that a work environment that fosters creativity should have some mix of these three key ingredients. To compete in the modern marketplace, creativity is critical.
The key ingredient that strikes a strong chord with me is related to #1: Smart people who think differently. Amabile describes creative thinkers as people who “[have]deep expertise… as well as broad acquaintance with seemingly unrelated fields.” These are people for whom graduation did not spell the end of being a student; these are people who read, learn, and practice new ideas continuously. In other words, tinkerers! Whether in academia or private industry or government research, stale knowledge is a death knell to progress. It’s the reason many universities won’t hire their own graduates as faculty, and why research sabbaticals can be beneficial to all parties. It’s also the reason my boss does not grumble about buying textbooks for the department to stay fresh on statistical and analytical topics. Tinkerers thrive in a supportive work environment.
Among SAS users, the tinkerers are also the ones who have the greatest impact on our statistical courses here at SAS. Students take classes, ask questions, pose suggestions. New ideas form and make their way into the next revision of the class. With feedback from our students, courses remain fresh. The same is true of our software: feedback from users keeps the software releases fresh.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this theme. What are some ways that you have found help you stay creative, at the top of your game, fresh? Tell me all about it—I’m over here, the one in the brown and blue cowboy boots.