Most of us are alive today thanks to Alexander Fleming. Millions of lives have been saved by his discovery of penicillin and antibiotics. If an antibiotic hasn’t saved you personally, it has saved one of your ancestors.
What distinguished Fleming from other scientists was that he thought like an artist; he was more interested in experiments that went wrong than those that worked. He didn’t follow the logical and reasonable path but searched instead for the weird and different. He favored the methods of painters over those of scientists.
Look anywhere and find inspiration
In September 1928, Fleming found a fungus killing abandoned bacterial cultures. He was fascinated by the colors and patterns the fungus created. This led to his discovery of the antibiotic properties of penicillin, properties that would change the world of medicine forever. Many other scientists had seen penicillin growing in their laboratories, but thought it was a mistake.
Fleming was a watercolor painter. He had more affinity with the artists he mixed with at the Chelsea Arts Club than with his fellow scientists. He also painted in an unusual medium, depicting dancers, buildings, battle scenes and other subjects using bacteria, which he created y growing microbes and cultivating the vibrant colors he needed. The fact that they were alive added to Fleming’s passion for his artwork and science.
When he discovered penicillin, he was really looking for something he could use in one of his paintings. He spent his life in search of the unusual and every process that created it. Everyone’s interest in culture enriches their own subjects.
Most innovative companies today appreciate the cross-pollination of ideas. Spontaneous meetings that take place in common areas of any workplace open the window for the exchange of ideas and information that lead to bold new creative solutions.