Looking outside one’s specific field can create inspiration, help problem solving and fuel creativity, and thereby support the innovation process. In the blog, “Why Interdisciplinary Collaboration Is Important,” Collaboratory outlines some of the ways that an interdisciplinary approach to scientific study, including innovation and other fields, may give the team an opportunity for growth and development.
- Interdisciplinary Collaboration Opens Your Mind to New Possibilities: When you bring together experts from across disciplines and fields, you can get something unique: a whole new way of thinking about an issue that no one person has ever considered before.
- A Cross-Functional Team Can Give You a More Holistic View of Your Research: One of the biggest challenges in any research project is being able to see the big picture. Many have found that one of the most effective ways to improve their ability to see that is to work with a cross-functional team.
- Working With People from Different Backgrounds Exposes You to New Skills and Perspectives: It can be helpful to learn new skills and perspectives from people with different backgrounds than you. Working with individuals who have different experiences and knowledge bases than yours can also help you see things in a new light.
- Your Research Team Will Work Better with Interdisciplinary Teams: An interdisciplinary team is made up of people from different fields who work together on one project. This allows them to collaborate early in the process, when there are still many questions about what the best approach might be for collecting data and analyzing results.
- Interdisciplinary Collaboration Encourages Creativity and Innovation: By working across disciplines and collaborating with experts in different fields of study, you will be exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking that can help you take a fresh look at your work.
- Interdisciplinary Collaboration Can Take You Out of Your Comfort Zone: You learn what it’s like to work with people who have different backgrounds, different perspectives and different ways of doing things. Working across disciplines expands your network, making you a more well-rounded professional; it helps you develop new skills; and it makes you better as a researcher.
The Power of Partnerships
An interdisciplinary approach to innovation has similarities to exploring partnerships and open innovation initiatives outside the company’s internal systems. External partnerships and collaboration can fuel the innovation process and take research into new directions. In “External Partnerships Fuel Innovation,” All Things Innovation’s Seth Adler discussed this topic with Eric Agdeppa, R&D Director, Innovation, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company). Agdeppa presented a session at FEI in partnership with Cummins that was centered on how do you look outside of your four walls of your industry to de-risk innovation.
In “Balancing the Innovation Partnership,” All Things Innovation looked at the delicate balancing act that startup and corporate partnerships entail. Certainly, there are challenges and opportunities from both perspectives. But it can ultimately maximize innovation success for both partners.
Pushing the Boundaries
Interdisciplinary collaboration, which involves individuals from different disciplines working together, can significantly support the innovation process in several ways, as detailed by ChatGPT:
- Diverse Perspectives: Interdisciplinary teams bring together individuals with different backgrounds, expertise, and perspectives. This diversity fosters a rich pool of ideas and approaches, leading to more innovative solutions.
- Holistic Problem Solving: Complex problems often require a holistic understanding. Interdisciplinary collaboration enables teams to consider problems from multiple angles, addressing various aspects of a challenge and promoting comprehensive solutions.
- Cross-Pollination of Ideas: Collaboration across disciplines facilitates the cross-pollination of ideas. Concepts, methods, and insights from one field can inspire creative solutions in another, leading to novel approaches that may not emerge within a single discipline.
- Innovative Synthesis: Interdisciplinary collaboration encourages the synthesis of knowledge from different domains. This blending of ideas can result in innovative solutions that draw on the strengths of each discipline, creating a more robust and effective outcome.
- Increased Creativity: Exposure to different ways of thinking and problem-solving enhances creativity. Interdisciplinary collaboration stimulates a creative environment where team members can challenge assumptions, explore unconventional ideas, and push the boundaries of innovation.
- Effective Communication: Collaborating across disciplines requires effective communication. Teams must translate complex concepts into understandable terms for individuals outside their field. This skill promotes clearer communication, which is essential for successful innovation.
- Accelerated Learning: Interdisciplinary collaboration provides opportunities for continuous learning. Team members can share their expertise, learn from each other, and acquire new skills, leading to a more adaptable and knowledgeable team.
- Enhanced Problem Identification: Different disciplines may identify and understand problems in unique ways. Interdisciplinary collaboration helps in uncovering hidden challenges and gaining a more nuanced understanding of the issues at hand, contributing to effective problem-solving.
- Reduced Tunnel Vision: Working solely within one discipline can lead to tunnel vision, limiting the exploration of alternative solutions. Interdisciplinary collaboration widens the perspective, reducing the risk of overlooking valuable ideas and insights.
- Innovation Ecosystem Development: Interdisciplinary collaboration contributes to the development of innovation ecosystems. By fostering relationships between individuals and organizations from various disciplines, a collaborative network emerges, supporting continuous innovation and knowledge exchange.
Staying (Inter) Disciplined
Embracing interdisciplinary collaboration can be a key driver for successful and sustainable innovation. Interdisciplinary collaboration supports the innovation process by bringing together diverse perspectives, pushing the boundaries of research and development and perhaps creating a fresh vision and different approaches that can support the project. One way to constantly innovate is to be open to looking outside your own field of study. You never know when inspiration will strike.
Video courtesy of Fast Company