Most of the pluralists I know have fingers in a number of pies but it is less usual to find someone who has pies in a number of sectors. We tend to stick to what we know – and rightly for the most part – since our expertise and experience usually keep us going down the same track, even if there are little diversions away from the main road.
I don’t advocate jumping into completely unknown territory, not least because the amount of research required almost certainly doesn’t make it worthwhile, but it never hurts to look beyond one’s normal horizon:
The most usual alternative to a work sector is one that we already know about from private interests or hobbies. I never cease to be amazed by the level of knowledge amassed by people doing voluntary or leisure activities in their free time. From the workings of steam trains to categories of butterflies to the films of Orson Welles; people have extraordinarily deep knowledge of things which they never use at work but which inform much of their thinking. This knowledge might never bring in an income but, then again, it might lead to understanding of wider topics beyond the usual ones encountered at the office
We tend to start our careers at a suitable organisation and before we know it we are a big cheese in our field but was it what we actually planned? Should we have taken a slightly different path and become a big cheese in another field? Is there scope to cross over now? Can the learnings from the past give insight into an associated, but different sector?
Some of the greatest leaps in innovation have been because someone has seen the commercial potential of a sector or, indeed, seen the scientific potential of a sector. If you know too much about something, it’s hard to see any potential beyond that which you are trying to achieve, whereas those with a different knowledge can see a range of potentials. I’m not a fan of the expression ‘thinking outside the box’ but sometimes what is needed is to…think outside the box
It can be worth doing an inventory of the knowledge one has amassed and then looking at the scope it gives you. That might mean using your business skills in a slightly different sector or using your knowledge to start a business. It might mean developing a new role as a mentor, NED or investor, or becoming volunteer.
The secret is to keep those horizons broad and one’s mind open – it would be a waste not to.