Response from Alan to the series on Design and Interdisciplinarity
Thanks for this dialogue Ron.
I have been involved in many successful interdisciplinary ventures including going from artistic and/or future vision to successful market products...including disruptive category shifts. In fact, it is refreshing to see that some of the research I pioneered in the VOIP field is finally surfacing as infrastructure shifts. Therefore, I am less curioius about the magic that happens because, as you reference...., it happens, has happened and will continue to happen. I would argue that EVERY product that is on shelves is as a result of interdisciplinary activity!! The person on the assempbly line is as important as your take on the creative and birthing phase. Are all products luscious and desirable? NO!! could they be improved by more inputs and sweeter collaboration? YES!! However, I'm not that interested to hear about another IDEO flexi toothbrush...mine is fine...
I am more interested in hearing your take on why things don't work...I would love to hear about why innovation and imagination transfer fails.... I have thoughts about this...
I think that your third chapter should be about governance. I was involved in a successful bid to set up a research center in Australia in Interaction Design which was very similar to NewMic
The reason for its success is, in part, how it has been set up. The University partners don't have their hands out looking for dollars. The involvement of researchers is the Universities' in-kind input into the organization (a battle actually occurred as one of the University partners kept committing more people so they would contorl the reserach obejective. Eventually we decided that a researcher would need to commit two days a week to be a valid contributor!). The researchers are then rewarded as the papers they produce are part of their tenure track efforts.
This guarantees a stable research output and results in a research pedigree for the organization. Industry partners are then engaged to take part in taking advantage of this stable research base. There is also a component of SME engagement...that is.... small companies are engaged to do small contract pieces to productize research that the larger companies may be interested in. I haven't checked in lately but they're still operating which is more than can be said for NewMic.
Endpoint is that the governance of engaging disparate organizations is all important before the philosophy and spirit of working together. This is usually quite attainable as I have demonstrated and experienced. Reason before philosophy.
In my time at NewMic I had too many phone calls from University researchers asking for money for their individual reserach efforts which had no connection to the desires of the industry partners...Governance period.