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Transdisciplinary Knowledge for Holistic Innovation

By: David Elliott and Rob Barker
Posted: June 1, 2012, from the June 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • The combination of transdisciplinary knowledge and different thinking styles may be the most productive model for innovation and creativity in the workplace.
  • Real creativity and real innovation seem to have been created by those who stand at the intersection of the humanities and science.
  • Creating an innovative working environment likely means less constraints and allowing employees to work on a range of different projects with different focuses.
  • Creativity requires both divergent thinking—the generation of fresh ideas, and convergent thinking—channeling those ideas into a practical solution.

Despite the fact that Roger Sperry’s preparatory work for the award of the Nobel Prize in 1981 gave clear indications on different thinking styles,1 this message—of the brain processing different stimuli differently—may not have been clearly understood by business industry members—including those in the beauty industry—until the recent past. Instead, many times, groups of people deemed creative and/or innovative have been gathered in ivory towers—and then have failed to be sufficiently productive.

This article explores that phenomenon and suggests why moves such as those that encourage innovation through a collaboration of transdisciplinary knowledge may hint at a more productive model for the future.

Barriers to Holistic Innovation?

In an excerpt from GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) website, the pharmaceutical giant describes its early discovery research environment.

“In our early discovery research, we have created a new entrepreneurial research environment, where those closest to the science make the decisions. These mini-biotechs, or Discovery Performance Units (DPUs), are small teams of multidiscipline scientists—between seven and 70—all working together and concentrating on one disease mechanism or scientific area.