Are We Transdisciplinary Yet?

Bridging Landscapes of Understanding

  • We often claim innovation requires transdisciplinary learning – But is that so? Or is it still an aspiration?
  • Where are we not transdisciplinary? Are we mistaking inter or multi for trans? (Why it matters)
  • How might we structure transdisciplinary deep listening  and progress towards constructive dialogue?
  • How do we bridge different paradigms of working without getting into frustration and confusion?

Where are we effective in working together across disciplinary and mindset boundaries?

In social, business and policy innovation we often share a common context of collaboration in mixed, yet transitory groups. Often we find ourselves with experts and advisors from very different organizations, with academics and sponsors, designers in name or by kind, joining in bursts of teamwork to develop proposals, pitches, and processes. Adopting design thinking or collaborative sensemaking approaches, we also often assume these innovation methods shape the structure of participation and enable fluid collaboration.

Perhaps. It could even be that because we believe these practices enable collaboration, that we agree to “stay in flow” and don’t really question the authenticity or effectiveness of collaboration.

We would like to slow this process down and inquire: What does transdisciplinary collaboration mean?
Are we learning from one another’s disciplinary expertise or are we (more or less) aligning skillsets to produce a desired outcome together? How do we enable deep listening or dialogue to develop in collaborative relationships?

Stephen Sillett led this session on eliciting and observing transdisciplinary discourses, the metaphors motivating us, and search for the social affordances that may help create bridging relationships and inspire curiosity between our lived worlds and contexts.

What are the underlying physical metaphors and entailments that we do not typically notice? Can we learn to draw these out for understanding ourselves and others better in the everyday practices of collaborative innovation? Stephen has us look at our experiences of working across paradigms and challenges of communicating through unknowns. As part of his early PhD research, Stephen will also trial a reflection on these questions through adapting embodied, expressive and “topographic” approaches. (e.g., you may be asked to get out of your seats!)