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Diversity and forms of collaboration

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

Co-creation is completely misunderstood, and the term is inappropriately misused to refer to things that are not co-creation. For this reason, I want to clarify a few issues related to the process. So, here's a cool picture of how collaboration can happen—whether it makes sense or not!

Multi-disciplinarity refers to situations where there are individuals from multiple fields of expertise present within an organization, which makes it possible to use them as a resource in issues they are familiar with. Even though multi-disciplinarity within an organization enables collaboration across different fields, in many cases the administrative boundaries along with physical separation create barriers between field-specific organizational units. The result is siloing, reducing the chance of interaction between individuals from different fields. When a task can benefit from the expertise of another field, a suitable expert can be found from another unit and invited to contribute to the project. In this case, cross-disciplinary experts are used to applying their skills to an issue within another field. For example, if a cognitive psychologist is consulted to solve a problem related to the interface of a remote controller, or when a production engineer makes changes to the layout of cash registers in a supermarket, they are both applying their expertise to a situation in a different domain. Since they are working within another field, their contribution is cross-disciplinary.

In some cases, the need for a certain type of expertise from another field becomes so common that it produces a need for trans-disciplinary expertise—expertise that integrates strengths from several traditional fields. The talented professionals produced by trans-disciplinary educational programs tend to dilute the borders between two or more disciplines. This creates expertise that is typically wider than in the traditional fields but doesn’t need to reach very deep into the domains. For example, Design Psychology and Industrial Economics are trans-disciplinary fields that combine characteristics from two complementary domains to educate trans-disciplinary professionals.

When the complexity of a task or situation demands for something more than just a simple application of expertise, there might be a need for a joint team effort. Interdisciplinary tasks require simultaneous utilization of expertise from several fields. Common examples of this type of collaboration would be a design team creating a new product concept by experts of marketing, engineering, and sociology, or a task force creating an organization development program by combining the expertise from the human resources department, from their health service provider, and their management team. Co-creation is most often interdisciplinary collaboration, but we shift to other forms as needed.


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