Structure of Team Science: Opportunities for Design
Last week’s conference on the Science of Team Science at Northwestern University provided two and a half days of thought-provoking presentations and discussion (for examples, see here, here, here and here) on the challenges and opportunities of team science and how it has the potential to (and indeed, already is) transform research.
One word that was nearly absent from the conference was design. While much attention was paid to the who (scientists, practitioners, policy makers, interdisciplinary interactions), the why (more productivity, better able to tackle wicked problems), a little on the what (what is the what of team of science), some on the how, and only partly on the where (with places like Northwestern and UBC leading the way). It is the last place, the where, that might be the most important.
As the Science of Team Science conference unfolded, another event was taking place that could be equally as important — if not more so — than what was being discussed at Northwestern: Stanford prepared to open its new d-school (design school) building. The picture above, from Fast Company’s story on the new school’s home, illustrates the look and feel of the place. It’s safe to say this is not something that would be seen at most places of research such as universities and laboratories (at least, not during office hours when the professors are around and the grad students aren’t left alone) .
The Institute of Design at Stanford University is set up to succeed in creating new ideas and transforming them into innovation. Sounds a lot like what universities and scientific laboratories are supposed to do isn’t it? Yet, how many institutions are set up like this? This is not about money — not entirely — it is about vision. Stanford’s dschool’s mission and vision fits on a napkin. They see themselves as a place to bring together multidisciplinary groups to tackle hard (maybe wicked?) problems and provide space for interactions to take place and interact.
A quote from one of their team members (note, this isn’t “staff”, “faculty” or “students” — its team member)
We couldn’t be more different, except for our shared values. And that makes working together enjoyable
The new dschool building is designed to be “homey” for people who want to create, sketch, collaborate and be what I call artists in the service of innovation. They have designed their space and their program to be in the service of ideas and useful products, not just themselves. Look at the modern university, discussed recently by Seth Godin as an institution ready for a meltdown, and ask yourself if that is a venue for innovation? Are we creating the space for innovation and the structure of buildings and organizations to really promote the kind of creative process that Stanford’s dschool does or that the attendees at the Science of Team Science aspire towards?
It’s time to bring design into that conversation.