Some time ago I had a curious experience. I was invited to a workshop and seminar of creatives who were considering the best strategy to promote and launch a new product on the market. This was some sort of brainstorming meeting that brought together a diverse number of experts in various not related fields.
From the world of advertising, public relations and marketing. From the world of science and technology. And even from the world of leisure and entertainment. Among some others. What at that time used to be called synergy meetings.
Synergy meetings: A dynamic system of searching for solutions from points of view and perspectives different from the specialty, field of work and product or specific topic that originates the problem to be solved.
I am not going to go into much detail to explain what these synergy meetings consisted of. But just for reference, I will mention one of these famous events that I remember by heart. A noted event that happened a long time ago.
I am going to do just a very brief synopsis and a general description of what happened at that legendary event. And I will do it just to try to better illustrate the story of this curious personal experience that I have come to tell you today.
A long time ago in the oil industry. Was raised the problem of how to optimize, how to reduce costs, how to increase the ROI of the extraction operations and above all, how to extract every last drop of oil from oil fields and wells they were working on.
For this, they decided to organize one of those synergy meetings that was talked about so much at the time. A fancy trend indeed. Since there were rumors at the time that these types of meetings had been quite effective and successful finding solutions in other types of industries and specialties of all kinds.
In order to form the panel of notables. They invited a dozen of diverse experts, specialists, academics, engineers and outstanding exponents in various very dissimilar subjects between them. That is, from within the oil industry itself as well as outside and very distant from it. A truly interdisciplinary meeting.
Obviously, among them there were oil experts, engineers and scientists like a physicist, a chemist and a computer scientist. But they also invited a firefighter, a priest, a housewife, a child and a comedian. And do you know what happened?
What happened is that it was the comedian who provided the lasting and definitive solution to the serious problem. Yeah, in this type of synergy meetings the solutions and eureka moments usually come from the most unsuspected and unexpected sources. And from what I remember by heart and in order not to make this story too long, I will only mention some key and crucial moments of what happened in that highly technical event. Again, through an extremely reduced summary:
After several hours of arduous technical and scientific debate with various considerations of all kinds within the academic field of the oil industry by the representatives of these erudite specialties pondering possibilities and feasibilities left and right about the subject that occupied them without a visible agreement.
Suddenly it was the turn to talk about, to the neophytes of the matter. The firefighter, the priest, the housewife, the child and the comedian. To tell the truth, unfortunately I don't remember exactly the order in which the events happened.
But what I can tell you is that it was only after the intervention of these last five neophytes that one crazy idea and proposal led to another even more absurd to end in the final catalyst of the comedian who until that instant had remained silent all the time. But who was also just listening attentively to everything that had been raised so far in the room, by everyone, to finally come up with the brilliant solution.
As I remember, it was something that began with what the firefighter raised, which was later developed a little more by the housewife and a somewhat philosophical and esoteric intervention by the priest. But then, it was the innocent, natural and spontaneous opinion of the child what finally made the comedian's eyes shine and he managed to break his long silence. He had already found the solution!
He only said: ¿And why don't we push all the oil that remains in the abysmal depths of the reservoir upwards from below?
This seemingly far-fetched proposal from the comedian evidently generated some sneaky giggles of disdain among the erudite members of the panel of engineers and oil experts. But which the chemist craftily took on the fly and quickly began to expose a serie of factoids on gas properties and chemical reactions that could make this supposedly absurd proposal highly feasible.
And once the exposure of the chemist was completed. Immediately the physicist then continued with a series of logical arguments on fluid dynamics, characteristics of gravity and mathematical formulas that further rounded off what the chemist had been talking about. The spark of ingenuity had been lit. By a comedian joke!
The exposition of the physicist was then followed by the computer scientist. Who began to describe the potential development of an automated control and monitoring system software of all the processes that would be necessary for such chemical reactions and the dosages of liquid and gases in a controlled environment that would allow such an operation to be carried out successfully.
At the end of his intervention, it was then when the engineers took turns. Among those who were a mechanical engineer, a materials engineer, a process engineer and a petroleum engineer that ended up illustrating in a more material and concrete way the concepts somewhat more intangible of what the scientists had been exposing. Accompanied by few and some brief and hilarious interruptions by the neophytes of the group throughout the exhibition.
The fact is that the true "experts" from the oil industry couldn't contribute with anything more. Almost everything had already been said and described in a fairly detailed and complete way without leaving much more to add by the outsiders.
The process of providing solutions had been reversed. This dynamic had followed a back-and-forth sequence from lower levels of expertise to higher levels of expertise in where these last highly qualified especialists ultimately failed to add anything useful to the experience. That marked a milestone in industry decision-making.
This experience demonstrates why sometimes it is difficult for specialists and highly qualified experts to find solutions to problems if they insist on only remaining isolated in the own bubble of their high horse, sacred pedestal, and comfort zone shared only with other colleagues in the same academic echo chamber.
Due the seemingly usual competition between colleagues, inadvertent shyness, potential embarrassment or plain fear to propose something "unprofessional" or say something inappropriate within their academic circle or within their work ecosystem. They often have a hard time thinking outside the box.
And that is why they often find themselves caught in the middle of the same common discourse that everyone in their own circuit handles uniformly in what was taught to all of them equally. Evidently, they too may have wild and far-fetched ideas, but they dare not share them in public with their colleagues and coworkers.
Well, I think that despite the effort I put into it, I sort of exceeded the reasonable length of this "brief" preamble in the post to better illustrate the story of my own curious personal experience. For which I suspect that it would be better to leave that interesting story for a future post.
Because the truth is, I don't want that due fatigue, exhaustion or lack of patience from my few readers the impact of the message of that story is gonna be lost. Which precisely consist in explore, discover, analyze, decipher and finally determine what kind of sense of humor most people believe they have.
I guess everything has its optimal time. And this very moment seems to be the best to close and culminate this post. But before finishing. I would just like to add that if anyone remembers having seen, read or heard before something about the history of this legendary event and experience in the oil industry that I have narrated in this post. Please let us know. Because the truth is that I don't remember if I originally read it in a scientific magazine article, a business or tech newspaper or if I saw it in some old documentary from the 80s of the NOVA series or something like that.
The fact is that from the successful experience that resulted from that celebrated synergy meeting in the oil industry. Never again did a comedian stop being invited and present at such sort of interdisciplinary events. And I understand that until this day it continues to be so. So, to refresh your memory and if you want to help me out to locate said historical event. I will tell you that these types of newfangled synergy meetings, at the time, these also used to be denominated with the avant-garde acronyms "IBM" & "AiBeEm." Acronyms which I think were just an encrypted, fancy and lazy way by hipsters to mean:
"Interdisciplinary Brainstorm Meetings"
Alright! until here the first chapter of this post. Do not forget that the second part of the full story is still missing. And that will be the most important, fun and interesting part to unveil the mystery that is hinted at in the title of this post.