How multi-disciplinary teams promote innovation

Work Club Melbourne

Work Club Melbourne

Do you ever find yourself wondering who first thought of combining pancakes and maple syrup? What about baked potatoes, mushrooms, and sour cream? (That person was a genius!)

Creating a unique and tasty recipe by bringing different ingredients together and trying them out in different combinations is the goal of every budding chef.

In much the same way, today’s organisations are gradually embracing the idea of bringing together people from different departments or disciplines (ingredients) to add fresh perspectives and develop new products and ideas (recipes).

Benefits of multi-disciplinary teams

This approach represents a global shift away from separate functional silos, such as manufacturing, IT, and marketing, to multi-disciplinary teams that work horizontally across an organisation. A team whose members have similar skills and knowledge can become used to a fixed set of strategies and resources. However, a team composed of people with a diverse range of expertise is more likely to see other, more effective, options.

Soren Trampedach is a thought-leader on innovation and the new work culture. He is also a strong believer in the advantages of using a multi-disciplinary approach to foster innovation. In his podcast interview on The Mentor List, he says:

“…If you work in isolation to some extent you are less likely to find answers or solutions. If you extend yourself beyond your tried networks you expose yourself to new ideas or possible solutions, at the very least you learn of new perspectives.”

Other advantages of this approach include:

·      Greater opportunities for members to have their say regarding how organisational activities and decisions will affect their department.
·      Higher quality of ideas generated due to diverse viewpoints and constructive debate.
·      Increased turnaround time because all the relevant people are there and they don’t have to waste time sending messages and documents back and forward for comment. They are also all focused on getting things done quickly and efficiently.
·      Increased job satisfaction through shared ownership of the process and outcome.

Adding more people to the mix

Your business ‘recipe’ becomes more rich and complex when you bring in people from outside. They could include freelance consultants who work in areas not normally associated with your industry. For example, your marketing team could benefit from having a psychologist create a profile of your ideal customer. Or maybe your conference planners could learn from theatrical producers.

(For other benefits of hiring freelancers, see our article 5 ways freelancers can save you time and money.)

Another trend that is growing across the board is the recognition that the end-user needs to be part of the planning process. Often, the consumer (or a consumer representative) is involved in many stages of the planning and design process. For example, an organisation planning a new mobile phone app won’t just go out and create one and then see who they can sell it to; they’ll conduct initial surveys and regular consumer testing to get feedback on prototype designs until they collaboratively come up with a product that the end-user has helped design.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly involved in areas such as health service and policy planning. It is not uncommon for hospitals, for instance, to have many cross-functional committees that include consumer representatives. This gives the hospital a way to understand how their processes look from the perspective of the patients and their families and leads to more relevant and efficient services.

Partnering with other organisations

Let’s take this concept even further. Instead of a new recipe or menu – by bringing entire organisations and industries together you now have a new ‘fusion cuisine’ approach that can draw inspiration from almost anywhere.

One organisation rapidly breaking new ground with this approach is the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Unit. By pairing health researchers with clinicians and other related parties, they are bringing research discoveries into clinical practice faster than ever before. This means that consumers will not need to wait as long as they used to before new medications and treatments are approved and available for use.

The unit’s website explains their aims in more detail.

“We pursue excellence in discovery research within and across six global health priority areas, with our experts from different fields working together in collaborative multi- and cross-disciplinary teams. This approach ensures each scientific problem can be examined from a range of perspectives and each research program benefits from a diversity of expertise. This approach could help to answer cutting-edge research questions such as: the impact of immunity on cancer, how diabetes leads to cardiovascular problems, and the role metabolic interventions can play in killing cancer cells.”

Another way to foster communication between different industries is through the use of co-working spaces. These have become popular with freelancers and start-up operations as they can pool resources and collaborate on projects. Increasingly, employers from larger organisations (from remote workers to CEO’s) are using these spaces to meet and learn from others in their shared working environment.

Call to action…

Soren Trampedach knows all about the advantages of collective intelligence. As the founder of Work Club and Florence Guild, he is a pioneer in using a curated approach to bringing people together to share their wisdom. Soren encourages artists, academics, engineers, and sports people plus countless others, to work together and discuss their challenges and successes.

He created Work Club to provide established businesses with a unique, boutique solution to the challenges posed by the rapid pace of change in the working environment, partnering with TEDxSydney.

Soren has an impressive 20-year career in leadership positions and continues to provide consultancy on workplace optimisation to industry leaders such as Google, Deloitte, NAB and Facebook. Take this opportunity to learn from Soren’s experience and insights by listening to his podcast interview on The Mentor List.

Your challenge, now, is to see where you can combine your own ingredients and use a multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving in your life.

Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List.

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