For years, we have known that successful innovations often come from people working in other disciplines. They bring deep knowledge in a related field, and just enough outside perspective, to solve a tough problem that individuals with years of experience in a particular field could not solve. Harvard Professor Karim Lakhani has studied crowdsourcing efforts and confirmed this result. He found that, "successful solvers solved problems at the boundary or outside of their fields of expertise, indicating a transfer of knowledge."
What does that mean for people trying to drive innovation within firms? I think it means finding ways to expose tough issues to people in different functional areas and silos. It means finding people working at those crucial boundaries. It means giving problem solvers access to the social networks of people working in related fields, thus expanding their perspectives.