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Taking An Interdisciplinary Approach to Innovation

Learning An Interdisciplinary Mindset

So just how can interdisciplinary competencies and creating this special mindset foster innovation? In i2Insights’ blog, “Interdisciplinary competencies and innovation,” the company makes the distinction that, “Interdisciplinary mindsets involve recognizing diverse knowledge to enable collaboration to enhance collective creativity, whereas interdisciplinary skillsets embrace relational competencies, work experiences, the sciences, humanities, trades and technologies. Integrating such diverse knowledge and skills is key to innovation.”

i2Insights identifies some key traits and strategies for implementing interdisciplinary competencies, including:

  1. Recognizing prior knowledge and skills: A “growth mindset” that focuses on strengths and competencies that is grounded in transformative learning strengthens confidence, affirms lifelong learning abilities, and motivates individuals to identify and address learning gaps.
  2. Flipping the innovation pyramid: This approach to innovation invites people with first-hand knowledge and expertise of the situation or problem to drive change and take leadership roles, while at the same time creating opportunities for cross-training and lifelong learning.
  3. Thinking inclusively and relational responsibility: The principles of interdisciplinarity allow for a synergy of ideas from diverse disciplines, address individual differences, expand relational competencies and support on-going development of transferable skills.
  4. Transforming ideas into action: Transforming ideas into action requires the capacity to communicate and access collaborative knowledge and skills for effective team efforts. Leveraging solutions includes the need to value and understand diverse worldviews.
  5. Micro-credentials and mini-qualifications: An important strategy to develop interdisciplinary competencies is online courses and accreditations such as webinars through professional associations. Mini-qualifications demonstrate knowledge, skills and/or experience in given proficiencies.
  6. Reflective practices of unlearning and reframing: Developing interdisciplinary competencies through reframing and unlearning using reflection is another key approach to implementing interdisciplinary competencies. Interdisciplinary competencies involve reframing what we already know and how we think about problems and solutions. Expanding what we know requires unlearning and reconsidering what we think we know by seeing things through different lenses and adjusting our perceptions and interpretations.

Igniting Interdisciplinary Interactivity

All Things Innovation looked at this topic further in “Inviting Interdisciplinary Innovation Collaboration.” Like many scientific, research and business fields, innovation often calls for more interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation. This can help break down the silos built up in a larger enterprise, which can hinder projects and communication between departments. Yet just what are some of the advantages of interdisciplinary innovation collaboration? It’s important to broaden skill sets across the organization, develop multiple perspectives and team up with diverse fields of expertise to undertake a complex project efficiently and effectively.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature the session, “Uniting Changemakers: Unleashing Innovation Through Interdisciplinary Interactivity,” presented by Liza Sanchez, Vice President, Research & Development, Procter & Gamble; Christian Saclier, VP Design Innovation, PepsiCo; and Dakota Crow, VP Head of Innovation Programs, U.S. Bank. The focus of FEI 2024 is on uniting corporate changemakers to drive innovation forward within global corporate enterprise. As disciplinary best practice continues to evolve, innovation experts come together live to share their key wins in uniting changemakers and stakeholders across their respective organizations. They’ll share pitfalls to avoid, and will also provide the questions for the ensuing roundtables to answer. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Bringing More Knowledge Sharing Across Disciplines

Interdisciplinary interactivity in the field of corporate innovation offers several significant benefits. Overall, interdisciplinary interactivity in corporate innovation enriches the innovation process, leading to more creative solutions, faster time-to-market, and a more resilient and adaptable organization. Courtesy of ChatGPT, here are the top benefits:

  1. Diverse Perspectives: Bringing together individuals from different disciplines fosters a rich exchange of ideas and perspectives. Each discipline brings its own unique approach to problem-solving, leading to more creative and innovative solutions. This diversity of thought can spark new ideas and challenge conventional thinking, driving breakthrough innovations.
  2. Holistic Problem-Solving: Interdisciplinary teams are better equipped to tackle complex problems that require expertise from multiple domains. By leveraging the knowledge and skills of team members from different disciplines, organizations can develop more holistic solutions that address various aspects of a problem. This comprehensive approach often leads to more effective and sustainable solutions.
  3. Cross-Pollination of Ideas: Interdisciplinary collaboration facilitates the cross-pollination of ideas across different fields. Concepts and methodologies from one discipline can inspire new approaches in another, leading to novel innovations. For example, insights from psychology might inform the design of user-friendly technology products, or principles from biology might inspire advancements in healthcare technology.
  4. Faster Innovation Cycles: Interdisciplinary teams are often more agile and adaptable, enabling organizations to iterate and innovate more rapidly. By breaking down silos and promoting collaboration across departments or disciplines, companies can streamline the innovation process and bring new products or services to market faster.
  5. Reduced Risk of Groupthink: Interdisciplinary teams are less susceptible to groupthink, where individuals conform to the prevailing consensus rather than critically evaluating alternatives. The presence of diverse perspectives encourages constructive debate and encourages team members to challenge assumptions and consider alternative viewpoints. This helps organizations identify potential blind spots and mitigate risks more effectively.
  6. Enhanced Problem Identification: Different disciplines have different ways of framing and approaching problems. Interdisciplinary teams can leverage this diversity to identify underlying issues or opportunities that might be overlooked by a single-discipline approach. By considering problems from multiple angles, organizations can uncover new insights and uncover innovative solutions.
  7. Improved Innovation Culture: Embracing interdisciplinary collaboration can help foster a culture of innovation within an organization. By promoting cross-functional teamwork and encouraging knowledge sharing across disciplines, companies can create an environment where creativity and innovation thrive. This can lead to a continuous stream of innovative ideas and solutions that drive competitive advantage and long-term success.

Uniting for Creative Collectivity

While creating an interdisciplinary approach may once have seemed a daunting task, in today’s complex innovation environment it’s a key approach to getting the job done—especially in an atmosphere that fosters cross collaboration across industries, teams and personnel, all of which may not even be in the same location (or continent, for that matter).

As i2Insights concludes, “In a knowledge-technology society, using interdisciplinarity to stimulate innovation is helpful within a range of settings, including in research, education, and individual career development. We must pay attention to building interdisciplinary competencies for collective creativity.”

Video courtesy of Stanford eCorner


  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

    View all posts

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