Interdisciplinary Collaboration

better-integrationEarly in my career, I worked in many roles where I was the lone expert on a given topic.  As a result, I became interested in how to collaborate effectively across disciplinary boundaries.  This curiosity led to me to form anthrodesign (more on that below).

One of the early academic inspirations in my work was the writing of Diana Forsythe. She was trained both as an anthropologist and as a Human Computer Interaction (HCI) expert.  Her writings (which I’ve documented in a bibliography) were extremely influential in helping me understand the challenges that co-workers face in communicating effectively across their domains of expertise.

As I focused more deeply on User Experience, I became interested in the way that research and design methods need to be thoughtfully selected in response to changing business direction and emergent stakeholder requirements – and how really effective teams work together to make that happen.

And now as the leader of an organization, I am especially interested in helping customers, executive stakeholders, and my peers in other functional areas (such as Engineering and Product Management) understand the benefits of User-Centered Design (UCD) and User Experience consulting services in a way that resonates for them.

Over the years, I have also made a conscious effort to learn and write about other business practices such as lean and agile, so that I could ensure my team and I were engaging effectively with our colleagues.

Anthrodesign

anthrodesign-cropped

In 2002, I founded a listserv called anthrodesign, which I formed to facilitate dialogue between social scientists and designers of all kinds.  Members are interested in the role of applied anthropology in the corporate, public sector, and medical contexts.  Not all participants are anthropologists, but all share the common interest of applying ethnographic techniques and social sciences theory to industrial, software, and other types of product and organizational design.

Since its inception, the list has grown into an online community of over 3000 people from all over the world, and from a wide variety of disciplines, experiences, and interests.  Members meet face-to-face periodically at conferences and member-organized dinners in cities all over the world.  Please visit the anthrodesign site to learn more.

To celebrate the 15 year anniversary of the list, I wrote a blog post describing my reasons for creating it, and what the future might hold.  In short, I feel as though the list has done a wonderful job fostering dialogue with social scientists working in business.  That was a huge and necessary gap that needed to be filled, and I’m so glad I had a chance to be a part of it.  However, I feel like we haven’t made as much progress working across disciplinary boundaries as I would have hoped.