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Collaborations for innovation

Melding our brains together

Collaborations between different disciplines, companies and types of organizations with the aim of improving their capacity to innovate has been unanimously signalled as important. But for most people this goal, however ideologically resonant, seems difficult to achieve.

What, for instance, can a designer, a scientist, an engineer, and a manager do to effectively work together to produce a better product?

Certain collaborations as of late (such as the examples below in this article) seem to indicate that combining different strengths from individual disciplines often leads to a sum greater than the whole.

The big thing is, designers are usually a stubborn breed. Rightfully so; after all the art of creating is a thing of beauty in itself, let alone  when you are the one who can inspire so many others. However, I believe it is important we learn to let the ego go more often, accept our given importance in the matter and respect the input of our fellow co-creators.

The left & right brain by Mercedes Benz
The left & right brain

I know all of us ambitious lot would like nothing more to have the right for final approval on all things, trying to control the big picture to our own liking. However, each of us has a grand passion -even if we might not know it yet- and once you find it, there is nothing that you could be better at doing. So let just have everybody fully concentrate on their passion. Trust the unity of the orchestra and do what you love to do the most and concentrate on that with full dedication.

If you truly know what your skills are (and you should when you are focussing upon what you love to do the most) and you put your ego aside, together you can design the most inspired, amazing products and designs you could ever dream of.

When it comes to the different design disciplines, working together is usually better than working alone. Besides having more hands to work with, a set of uniquely wired  brains having the same goal but operating on different frequencies can motivate each other even more through their contrast.

Some tips: to synergistically have things work between disciplines, it helps to know the people who you’re with, what their capabilities are and to give them the space they need to fulfill their assignment. Every person works different and has his or her own pace and approach. Trust them! It is also a necessity to communicate with each other clearly and respectfully. Give people around you time to vent and don’t take stuff too personally. In the same vain, let them know when you are happy, frustrated, angry or need some space. Bottling up your emotions will only lead to more frustration down the road. Even opening up to the little things can make your work easier.

craftdesignscience chart by Hanna Zoon
Craft designscience chart by Hanna Zoon

There is a reason why we have a left and right brain that are each unique and work magnificent in unison.  I have read an interesting manifesto of Hanna Zoon about the scientist, the designer and the craftsman:

‘Curious Design is an iterative design process by way of exploring and questioning,
working together with people,
and letting designs be inspired by this process
– Hanna Zoon

In her article she explains what the differences between the scientist, craftsman and designer are and why they nééd each other to make life changing design.

Manifesto the scientist, the designer, the craftsman

  • A designer

..bases his vision partly on intuition, partly on knowledge of the world, and partly personal preference. A designer should continuously be inspired and inspiring to people. Only a designer can create a ‘simple concept’ through which people can get a feel for the essence of an ideaas well as gauge the final product’s potential without it ìtself having to be the final tangible thing.

  • A craftsman

..is basically similar to the designer but with the distinct difference that the designer applies it to a specific end result, mostly geared towards the constructive capabilities of their hands.

  • Scientist and researcher

..the scientist and the researcher create new knowledge. As such, the purpose of the scientific community is to gather and then share this knowledge with the world where it can subsequently be picked up by designers, strategists and companies to create innovative ideas and products. Scientists themselves usually do find it more difficult to take on the next step.

All of these three areas of expertise; science, design and craftsmanship cover an important part of what’s necessary to be able to stay innovative. Each has its merits and importance. But if you want to achieve anything unique, of real importance, you need to work closely together. As much as we all would like to be a Leonardo da vinci, the truth of the matter is, most of us aren’t. But would you truly want to be?
So what happens when top practitioners in each respective fields collaborate?..

Kirstie van Noort worked closely together with Rogier Arents of UT Eindhoven on the project of ‘Color Collision’.
‘Color Collision’ shows, in a series of photos, ceramics and film, what happens when the ph value of red cabbage changes. The ceramics change in color when the pigment found in red cabbage comes into contact with a different degree of ph value.

Color Collision from Rogier Arents on Vimeo.

Studio Daan Roosegaarde with their Smart Highway is another great example on how collaboration with different disciplines can be a huge success. Together with Heijmans infrastructure, Daan Roosegaarde developed Smart Highway which already is an international phenomenon. The glowing lines of the ‘road of tomorrow’ get charged during the day and glow eight hours during the night. The goal is to make “smart” roads by using ‘light and energy road signs’ that respond to the occurring traffic situations as they develop.

Smart Highway by Studio Roosegaarde
Smart Highway by Studio Roosegaarde

A more current project of Studio Roosegaarde is the ‘Smog free park’. In collaboration with his expert partners ENS Europe and Bob Ursem, they aim to produce smog free bubbles for public use. With their patented ion technology they are building the world’s first smog free vacuum cleaner. Their goal is to help people breathe fresh and clean air for free. To support this ambitious project, Studio Roosegaarde has created ‘smog free rings’: 1000 m3 of polluted smog particles being compressed in a ring. By buying this ring you donate 1000m3 of clean air in the city!

A smog free tower in the park from the smog free project by studio Roosegaarde
A smog free tower in the park from the smog free project by studio Roosegaarde
Smog free ring from the smog free project by Studio Roosegaarde
Smog free ring from the smog free project by Studio Roosegaarde

 

The Smog Free Tower by Roosegaarde on Kickstarter from Studio Roosegaarde on Vimeo.

 ..I can think of many more examples of great collaborations between different disciplines. Do a google search and let yourself be inspired.
Get out of your comfort zone and go into the sandbox!

Article by Elise von Grumbkow


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