Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST)
Creativity for Cross-Pollination Innovation
Designed for BIST Ignite! , January 2021
Scientists from multiple BIST research centers attended a 4-session online workshops series to develop skills for cross-pollination collaboration and innovation. All sessions utilized the creative sprint method to practice applying creative tools immediately.
I designed this workshop series as four building blocks:
Session 01: Context for Cross-Pollination – Be you.
Session 02: Building Chemistry & Trust with Others – Be connected.
Session 03: Share – Be open.
Session 04: Create Together – Be creative.
In the first two sessions of this workshop series participants explored their own contributions to the cross-pollination process, and learned practical creative tools to help make connections with collaborators from other disciplines. In the last two sessions participants practiced communicating across disciplines using storytelling methods, and then built fresh ideas through mini cross-pollination brainstorm sessions.
Participant Results & Insights
It was a small group of participants from various BIST research centers; each person with a unique set of expertise, interests, and skills. Over the course of four sessions they were introduced to the following creative methods, which they put into practice using short creative sprints:
- futures thinking – ‘scientists from the future’
- 5-sentence story
- brain dump
- Bad Ideas – ‘bad times’ newspaper headline
- cross-pollination brainstorm
Here’s what some of them had to say,
“It was the perfect balance between theory and practice! To let my creativity go, and foster it.”
“What I liked the most was that now I’m aware of the things I have to work on.”
Finally, after the workshop series was complete, one group was able to submit a tangible cross-pollination multi-disciplinary project proposal to BIST leadership. Mission accomplished.
I love working with scientists! Especially the BIST community. The process of engaging scientists in creative methods always delights and surprises me. Scientists are naturally creative. They pursue new ideas, and explore the impossible all the time. And then, they spend years testing and proving those ideas. They offer the perfect example of being creative.
However, what always surprises me about working with scientists is their reaction to the notion of “creativity”. It is actually a common reaction I observe in all contexts when teaching creative methodologies; one which includes a resistance to “creativity” based on the assumption that being creative is meant for someone else.
With that stated, my work in the beginning of any creative workshop means breaking down those barriers to creativity by redefining its meaning. Once people understand that creativity is for everyone, the channels to their own creative capacities begin to open up.
A final note on cross-pollination collaboration for innovation:
Collaborating across disciplines produces meaningful work, but the process also comes with its own set of challenges for the collaborators. Multidisciplinary collaboration demands an established common vocabulary amongst collaborators, and an openness and curiosity to help maintain balance in the cross-pollination innovation process.
With open communication, shared leadership, and good storytelling techniques teams can learn to build trust and earn mutual respect with one another across disciplines. As educators, our biggest challenge and responsibility is building that trust.