Looking at the needs and importance of interdisciplinary working methods within design with other practices in creating positive changes towards a more environmentally sustainable future.
Summary (Stage 2 = max 1000 words, Stage 3 = 1500)
Environmental sustainability is arguably the most difficult, largest and important problem we face in the world today. Sustainability and environmental issues are often sketchy terms many people do not fully understand. Sustainability is defined as ‘the capacity to endure’, environmental sustainability therefore being the up keeping of the environment for today and future generations, which currently we are
not succeeding in maintaining. Many professionals argue the key problems that cause our reluctance to change are behaviour and economy; Moore (2010) argues the key problems are down to behaviour and economy. We know we have to change, but we need to make people want to. These changes need to be huge to combat the effects of global warming, ultimately to sustain our environment. Sustainability is categorized into three main headings- ecology, equity and economy (Braugart, McDonough, 2010), all of which need to be addressed. But who are to blame and who can help influence the most successfully?
Miller and Moore (1994) argue the government has to make the first steps towards an environmentally sustainable future but due to it being such a huge, broad issue, help is required throughout professionals fields to work together to create successful solutions. Jansen and Weaver (2004) believe ‘each field of expertise’ ‘will necessarily introduce its own subjectivity relating to the artificial boundaries used to frame the problem and to the theories and methods used to analyse the problem’ which highlights how each discipline, whether it be design, architecture, engineering, law, science or business, have important roles to play in the encouraging of environmental sustainability. This is due to each having different knowledge, ways of working and of thinking. For example, the creative mind of a designer differs greatly to the practical, to-the-point ways of thinking of business professionals. The ways in which various disciplines are educated and work in practice differ from research to final outcome, with different businesses having different priorities. The fundamental reason businesses are reluctant to work environmentally friendly is due the worry of loss of profit. Braugart and McDonough believe working practices need to strive for ‘good growth, not just economic’ which in today’s society, is most important.
Each person has his or her own view on environmental sustainability. Many have to be changed. Communication, education, influence from professionals all have the potential to do this together, especially through team working and networking in working practices. With each discipline having different perspectives, strengths and abilities, each has great potential. For example, designers are noticed as good communicators, Heller and Vienne (3003) calling them ‘social commentators’ whereas business and law professionals are said to be more successful at getting to practical conclusions within the given time frame that designers often struggle at. Communication and the final outcome, amongst other points, are necessities to provide a successful practice, which proves how working together can be beneficial.
Another aspect that differs between disciplines are research methods and research is arguably the most important part of the design process as it is where facts and statistics can be found (fundamental for environmentally sustainable practice). Designers
use brainstorming during research whereas other fields may focus on final solution from the beginning. Murray and Welsh (2003) describe a research project where disciplines work together whilst being analyzed to examine their effectiveness. Conclusions were formed that researching together encouraged more broad, creative thinking which resulted in more in-depth results were new perspectives were formed, resulting in advances were made beyond what would have occurred in specific disciplines (Murray and Welsh, 2003).
Interdisciplinary practice is becoming more popular and is believed it will continue to grow in the future. It is predicted in the future we will work in more than one profession at any one time, working between different fields (Kirby and Macmillan, 2001). Already in education, interdisciplinary courses are becoming more popular, with institutions like Cambridge University having a degree focusing on it. These ideas prove how effective it can be.
Collaboration and networking, aswell as interdisciplinary working between fields is therefore fundamental in the progress towards an environmental sustainable future. Scientists and ecologists have in-depth information that designers need to be fully successful in creating an environmentally friendly solution they need to know the ins and out of what they are attempting to do. In the past designers existed to create products and services etc to improve social values of people, whereas nowadays design is to satisfy our huge consumer culture (Heller and Vienne, 2003). The need is to create things not just for selling devices, but for the social, environmental needs of people and to do this we need the help from various perspectives.
There are different ways in which to work together. This includes the working environment, management and roles of employees, communication and relationships within the working environment. For example, working in different offices from other disciplines within the same company may be described as interdisciplinary working but is not as effective as working alongside each other in the same room (Kirby, ed., Macmillan, ed., Spence, ed., 2001). Also the relationships within the practice are fundamental to providing a positive environment to encourage change. This includes working together with each person being listened to and acknowledged for his or her unique knowledge within their field. Where this already applies in practice there has been significant outcomes such as engineers coming up with new
design ideas the designer has not considered (Jansen and Weaver, 2004),).
Effective interdisciplinary team working is made up of communication, coordinative approach to working and friendliness’ whilst having the same common purpose (environmental sustainability) (Busseri and Palmer, 2000). A good working team results in more successful outcomes. Ways to promote good team working include creating a team identity, understanding team dynamics and assessment throughout process (Busseri, M., Palmer, 2000). Experiments proved that when team researching, groups that take a break to reflect and communicate form better conclusions.
Communication, behaviour and the working practice of professionals with each other and other disciplines, professionals and clients are fundamental in encouraging environmentally sustainable attitudes and practicing which will result in creating a more environmentally sustainable future. Due to the problem being so diverse, interdisciplinary working practicing has great potential to influence change within not just one society, but that can spread throughout the world.
Aims: Why are you doing this? (max 100 words)
I hope my research development and study can highlight new ways/approaches to how interdisciplinary working practicing can encourage environmental sustainability e.g. details of specific disciplines approaches can be used to everyone’s advances to improve working systems. This could improve my design practice and others as it is interdisciplinary practice is becoming more popular and is fundamental to succeeding in environmental sustainability so is important to highlight new ways in which we can make change. This is mainly beneficial for academics from various disciplines but depending the direction, could also benefit anyone interested in interdisciplinary working/teamwork.
Objectives: What will you produce? (max 100 words)
Reviewing relevant literature from a wide range of angles, including teamwork to sustainability will be fundamental and how these correlate together. It will be important to hold a focus group/experiment to survey how people from different disciplines work together, maybe an experiment comparing they’re working methods to a group of people from the same discipline. Talking and interviewing people working in interdisciplinary environments will highlight issues/opinions so going into practices will be necessary to compile a realistic conclusion. The more opinions will provide a fairer conclusion, maybe in comparison to opinions from people working in one-discipline practices.
Keywords (min 5 and max 10)
- · Communication within practices
- · Innovation in sustainability and interdisciplinary working
- · Research
- · Client affects
- · Professional roles and responsiblities
- · Team working
- · Working environments
- · Developing worlds influence (culture, expansion, technologies)
- · Education of interdisciplinary working and sustainability.
- · Networking
Expanded Bibliography (min of 24 books, articles, websites)
Braugart, M., McDonough, M. , (2009), Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the way we make things, Vintage Publishers: London.
This famous book has become fundamental reading for students, teachers and professions in the past few years. Written in a more tongue and cheek way, Cradle to Cradle states we need a major rethink to how we tackle sustainability to ‘shape our future’. It goes on to describes eco-efficiency and eco-effectiveness and how there are various aspects that are important, e.g. culture, commercial and ecological. Sustainability is put into three categories that are highlighted as main points for change – ecology, equity and economy. These are important as various disciplines have more knowledge within these specific fields, which suggests how interdisciplinary working can incorporate these three topics together successfully. Different professions positives and negatives are highlighted, for example businesses having biases about the environment, having more interest in commerce in this ‘social marketing economy’. This proves the to create positive changes people with such attitudes need others to influence their attitudes. Working practices need to strive for ‘good growth, not just economic’.
Brauman, K., et al. (2010), Thinking about knowing: conceptual foundations for interdisciplinary environmental research, Environmental Conservation 37, Vol. 4, Pg. 338-397.
The journal focuses on interdisciplinary research and how it offers ‘the exciting promise of conceptual and practice advances resulting from the synergy of different perspectives and contributions’. Furthermore, it goes on to explain the importance of research, therefore the importance of communication. It characterizes people into it’s own type of person and how they research, which in turn determines results. Some of these points are interesting for further research into how they are evident in different disciplines and how the variety of thinking can be effective in interdisciplinary practice.
Buhman, C, Kakre, S, Singhal, J, (2005), Interdisciplinary and Inter-organizational Research: Establishing the Science of Enterprise Networks, Production and Operations Management, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 000-000.
This journal provides details on how interdisciplinary companies function through different thinkers working together. Looking into networks, globally and between businesses, small or large, the source describes how these new connections provide innovation and benefits to all. It describes how this improves ‘quality and enhance flexibility’ within the companies, whilst having a beneficial affect on management, organizational design, development of sustainable ideas and ultimately improve economically. These points are all useful in proving how important interdisciplinary working methods are successful but also how relationships and networks between other businesses can further the development of ideas for pro environmental sustainability. This suggests the need for these connections alongside single working practices and how each discipline can work together through networking and teamwork.
Busseri, M., Palmer, J. M., (2000), Improving teamwork: the effect of self-assessment on construction design, Design Studies, Vol. 21, No.3.
This source investigates teamwork and collaborative work, specifically in the design working environment. It proves how teamwork is becoming more popular and can prove more successful.. Teamwork is described as ‘a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable’ aswell as friendliness, communication and coordinated approach to working (all points beneficial for further research). The source highlights the objectives of interdisciplinary teams and how these are used in practice. The source describes how ways improve interdisciplinary practice, including creating a team identity, understanding team dynamics, assessment throughout process. The argument that team process affects team results is proven in an experiment using interdisciplinary people together with a design brief. Also the team that was assessed and paused during the task had better outcomes. This suggests ways in how interdisciplinary practices can be used for things such as positive sustainable attitudes.
Heller, S., Vienne, V., (2003), Citizen Designer, New York: Allworth Press.
Citizen Designer looks at the responsibility of a designer in society within business, clients, culture and politic and ways in which the designer has skills to create change. It talks of the designer as a ‘social commentator’ able to communicate better than others. Designers realize the power to communicate and develop multitasking practices.
It also highlights the past and how designers used to design for social implications, such as the Industrial Revolution etc to try to create a utopian future, and now we design for a selling device. This is important as shows to me the past was important, and ideas will help the future. We need to create things not just for selling devices, but for the social, environmental needs of people.
Jansen, L., Weaver, P. M., (2004), Defining and Evaluating Science for Sustainability, International Conference on Sustainability Engineering and Science.
This source was extremely useful as it argues the case that we need to work in collaboration to create change and ways in which to do this on several fronts. It states ‘each field of expertise, while bringing to bear important insights to the problem, will necessarily introduce its own subjectivity relating to the artificial boundaries used to frame the problem and to the theories and methods used to analyse the problem’, going onto to describe specific details each can contribute. We need to incorporate system interactions, communications with stakeholders and decision makers, multi-objective, broad participation and research, multi-criteria methods and tools for analysis into working practices to improve. Problems such as ‘grey areas’ between disciplines and lack of communication from fields such as science and policy makers are talked about, and the answer being highlighted as trandisciplinary working practicing.
Kirby, P. ed., Macmillan, S. ed., Spence, R. ed., (2001), Interdisciplinary design in practice. London: Thomas Telford Publishing.
This book has provided the most in-depth and useful information so far in my research as it looks at many aspects of interdisciplinary design and the needs we have for it at the same time the issues there are concerned but ways to overcome this. Companies, relationship with client/consumer and education are discussed in relation to interdisciplinary possesses. The needs for change are described including our changing culture, globalization, new technologies and problems of global warming. More importantly than the needs, answers are suggested in areas of education, working environments (office space, booths etc), working processes of researching and innovation and collaboration and also the psychology and behaviour of design thinkers. Holism thinking is said to be the core ambition of interdisciplinary methods. The need is to combine competing social, environmental, technical, economic and aesthetic demands for a
sustainable future and this book explains ways in which interdisciplinary practicing is fundamental to doing this.
Miller, A., Moore, C., (1994), Green Gold, Boston: Beacon Press Books.
Green Gold is quite useful as it shows a view from different perspectives. It talks about various countries and the race for environmental technology. Although not being design specific it references the production of products, materials and the need for sustainability. The view looks at government perspectives and economy, saying the government has to make the first steps towards an environmentally sustainable future. This is because it is so much down to money which is also evident in the design field, and all businesses. This is maybe where designers can contribute their knowledge to change these negative feelings. There is specific countries that are ahead in the game, being Germany and Japan and it talks of what they have done, ideas I can research and adopt.
Murray, D. L., Welsh, A, (2003), The Ecollaborative: Teaching Sustainability Through Critical Pedagory, Journal of Management Education, Vol. 27, No. 220.
This journal describes an interdisciplinary project they have been developing, that includes various people from various backgrounds forming a collaborative business and creates an environmentally friendly business. It brings together engineers, designers, business and law people together working together which had positive outcomes. It talks of how the business people began to think more creativity as a result of working with designers, beginning to brain storm in more open ways, and research became much more in-depth. Using each others positive points of mind and new perspectives meant advances were made beyond what would have occur in specific disciplines. This is interesting to me as it suggests the designers’ role and influence they can have on other disciplines. This project uses mutual appreciation and interdependence that is becoming more popular so it will be interesting to see what potential this has for the future to encourage sustainable practice.