What does interdisciplinarity imply for innovation and creativity?

December 12, 2018

Around 80 people from industry, public and academic institutions in Bergen and beyond registered to hear inputs from leading global experts, and to engage in “hands-on” interactions in their own multidisciplinary groups, at a one day Symposium, Building Bridges: Interdisciplinary Collaborations for Innovation, held at the Faculty of Fine Art, Music, and Design at the University of Bergen.



Ingunn Johanne Ness, SLATE´s Theme leader on Creativity, Learning & Technology and the leader of the organizing committee, welcomed participants to an interactive day to learn more about this area.  Barbara Wasson, Director of SLATE, underlined the importance of interdisciplinarity on the Norwegian academic landscape by pointing to the report the Research Council of Norway commissioned in 2018 entitled, “Case Study Review of Interdisciplinary Research in Norway” (SLATE was one of 5 interdisciplinary research environments evaluated for the Review).


Setting a framework ….


Creativity researcher and SLATE Associate Professor II, Vlad Glaveanu, from co-organiser Webster University in Geneva, gave the first keynote. Informative and entertaining, it provided a framework for the symposium.



 He concluded his talk with the following points:


- Creativity is based on differences and the dialogue between different perspectives


- Disciplinary perspectives are place in different types of dialogues by multi- and inter-disciplinary exchanges


- Both monological disciplinarity and transdisciplinarity end up reducing differences


- How do you cultivate them for innovation?




And filling the framework with some examples …


Three different researchers - three different perspectives ...


First presenter, Bettina Husebø, provided a practical example of interdisplinarity in action with her thought provoking presentation on her work with nursing homes and dementia – a growing 21st Century challenge requiring effective interdisciplinary approaches (see Lancet commission). Learn more about her work in the COSMOS and LIVE@HOME projects.


Second presenter, Francesco Arese Visconti, spoke of a completely different approach to creativity and interdisciplinarity. He studies photography and the relationship between faces and masks, and the different perspectives of the photographer, the sitter and the viewer.


The final presenter, 2018 Hjernekraft prize winner Petter Bergerud, provided yet another take on creativity, interdisciplinarity and innovation. Bergerud works with diverse groups of students in spacial experiments that have resulted in wooden projects, lightweight and tensile structures, and also ice structures – the project results are often to be seen around Bergen.


The morning concluded with a lounge panel where moderator Anders Waage Nielsen summarized the input and then challenged the presenters to consider how their experience could address the activity of another of the presenters.



Interdisciplinary interactions begin among participants …


There was a stimulating buzz of conversation during the delicious lunch by KMD’s canteen, as participants reflected on the morning’s ideas and networked among themselves.




The afternoon kicked off with a musical lecture by jazz musician, Ole Fredrik Norbye. He spoke of the process of jazz improvisation and the multidimensional dialogue ongoing within the musician themselves, and with their instrument, setting and audience. 







The afternoon’s first keynote was by world-renowned creativity expert, Mark Runco. His take on creativity comes from a cognitive perspective, as opposed to the more social-cultural perspective advocated by Glaveanu and Ness. It provided an informative and stimulating contrast, building on the ideas exchanged earlier in the day. He also provided a more historical perspective where the ideas of multi- / interdisciplinarity were grounded in interactions between the “hard-core” sciences and social sciences.


Interactive sharing


The afternoon progressed with hands-on group activity where participants were divided into groups to address

  • The roles that people play in groups

  • Challenges & conditions affecting interdisciplinary collaboration



Before the group work began, Ness presented how to succeed with innovative work in multidisciplinary group by sharing findings from her research on creative processes in multidisciplinary settings. The “Room of Opportunity” is a model describing the phases through which multidisciplinary groups pass as they innovate. Furthermore, she emphasised that the underlying conditions for successful interdisciplinary groups include: Openness, Curiosity, and Respect.



Bente Irminger, from KMD, has been involved in a collaborative Master degree in Design Thinking between KMD, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL), and the Norwegian Business School (NHH). She shared some of the techniques they have developed for building effective multidisciplinary collaborative groups among the students.



Reaching new frontiers



Innovation catalyst and dynamo, Michela Magas, was the final keynote speaker of the day. Advisor to both the European Commission and the G7 Leaders in the area of Innovation, Artificial Intelligence and Creative Industries, Magas encouraged participants to push the boundaries, to reach way beyond. She says that infinity is tangible and everything is possible! Quoting, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”! She underlines that innovation cannot be organised.



What is the role of universities?




In the final lounge panel of the day, which included Michela Magas, Dean Bente Wold,  Barbara Wasson, Ingunn Johanne Ness, UiB Rector Dag Rune Olsen reflected on the role of academic institutions. By educating critical thinkers are we limiting creativity? How can we foster curiosity? He quoted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “diversity is the foundation of all innovation”.




Olsen went on to wrap up the day together saying that he believes in students and finds them much more creative and innovative that they were even just a decade ago. He says that the

university is establishing knowledge clusters to address large, global challenges, that any single discipline or viewpoint is insufficient. Increased diversity, especially students and faculty from different cultures, have huge, valuable contributions to make to creative and innovative processes at the university.


Research Centres, such as SLATE with its values of Openness, Curiosity & Respect, and KMD, UiB’s newest Faculty, are environments that can help to foster and inspire creativity, innovation and interdisciplinarity.

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