Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Working effectively in diverse teams.
Biomimicry is an interdisciplinary endeavor. In addition to having both biologists and designers on a team, it’s helpful to involve engineers and business people or other specialists who may have critical insights into the particular problem you are trying to solve. Therefore, the ability to collaborate across disciplines is critical to doing biomimicry well. This can be difficult because we are often most comfortable working with people like us–people within our own disciplines. But the benefits of interdisciplinary work are plentiful.

Why collaborate?

 

 

We encourage the formation of interdisciplinary teams, and in fact interdisciplinary collaboration is part of the judging criteria for many of our design challenges. So it’s worth the effort to reach out to other disciplines to find teammates or advisors.  Some advantages of cross-disciplinary collaboration include:

  • The world is interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research and teams are becoming much more common. You’ll develop skills for learning, work, and life, which in turn will make you more valuable for employers and other teams.
  • It enables understanding of different perspectives across subject areas and disciplines.
  • It promotes critical thinking.
  • It brings together information and ideas from different subjects and disciplines and considers alternative ways of doing things or alternative solutions.

 

Building a diverse team

 

 

Disciplines that can be particularly helpful on biomimicry teams may include: design, engineering, biology, ecology, chemistry, business, and social sciences. The specific disciplines you seek input from will also depend on your specific challenge. If you’re a student, look for students or faculty in other departments at your school. If your school is lacking in a particular discipline, you may have to talk to people in nearby schools. For everyone working on biomimicry projects, we suggest reaching out to students or academics in universities, your local community, or an online community.

Sometimes you’ll meet a person who is working in one discipline, but has training or side interests in a different discipline. For example, sometimes a biologist is working in marketing, or an engineer has a passion for biology. These people can be especially good collaborators, because they bring even greater diversity to the team.

Another rich resource is the community of people who have been trained in biomimicry. You can find them through our Global Biomimicry Network and on various LinkedIn Groups. For the latter, search LinkedIn for the term “biomimicry” and start making connections.

Exercises

Once you have an interdisciplinary team assembled, the next step is to learn how to work effectively with as a group. Here are some exercises to aid you in establishing effective ways of communicating and collaborating in a multidisciplinary work environment.

Collaboration Exercises

These activities help interdisciplinary teams establish a common vocabulary and better understand each other’s field of work.

Collaboration Exercises - Stereotypes

These activities will help your team to call out the differences among disciplines and make them easier to talk about.

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