Elin Børrud, the leader of SITRAP and in charge of leading this talk opened with the opportunities around this talk. That it is possible to change the study program, change the regulations and budget models in order to break down disciplinary limitations and siloes. The purpose of this talk is to explore what collaboration and interdisciplinary is, in both academia and practice. For this occasion, we invited success stories in collaborative setting, such as Håvard Vasshaug (design technology expert) and Anne Beate Hovind (project leader on various commercial, cultural and art projects) as outsiders with extensive experience in complex project management and interdisciplinary teams. From the NMBU side we invited Jonas Wettre Thorsen (BA at NORAGRIC), Heidi Jensseter (MA in urban and regional planning), and Andrea Thorsnes (MA in entrepreneurship at the School of Economics and Business).
Coveted characteristics in teamwork
Do projects such as the Government Building Complex, and Gardemoen Airport ring any bells? Both Vasshaug and Hovind has both partaken in complex collaborative teams on projects such as these, with core expertise such as BIM to broader strokes such interpersonal relations. These projects require that the team members involved function well together on a high level, and through interdisciplinarity push the disciplinary boundaries on challenging issues. Some of the coveted characteristics in a team member that both pointed out were not the stuff of rocket science or straight A-students, but simple things such as easy-going people that can communicate and are open with their own and other people’s ideas. Trust between leadership and those under them, as Hovind firmly states; you can’t govern with fear! It is important to like each other.
How does one acquire a core expertise in such an interdisciplinary team?
Hovind which has a social science background before becoming an esteemed project leader, accredits much of her success to being fundamentally curious. She says by being able to understand your team members and absorb what they can do, you are also more able to utilise skillsets in a better manner. It is not about addressing the differences in an interdisciplinary team, but to create a good working environment through understanding the common ground between each other. Vasshaug says each member of the team must inhibit interdisciplinary characteristics and of course chemistry to work well. He is himself a civil engineer and knows too well the nature of their work IS to sit alone and solve their challenges on their own.
What importance is there in process management and leadership?
The students point out that group work, but also working with problem-based subjects can be quite painful at times, even more so across different fields. Yet they point something crucial that might help; process management. To be able to reflect upon the team and was sorely missed during studies and in the subjects undertaken by the students. A better framework on processes and leadership should be further developed and redefined. Sometimes, democratic teams also require a team leader to function well.
Understanding the common goal behind the challenge to guide the teamwork
Vasshaug points out another aspect of importance in teamwork; that all the team members fully understand the product or what the challenge is, before embarking on a collaborative. He used a coffee pot as a metaphor; each part must be solved differently, but they have the same goal of containing warm coffee at will. How would it be possible from different professional fields to work towards the same goal, if the team members are not on the same page from day one? Then the question is rather; what are the different needs to answer a common product? This is somehow an efficient way of streamlining the commonalities through working with the differences, the focus needs to be on the bigger picture.
Hakket Bedre! (translation: Slightly Better!), is a series of lectures initiated by SITRAP that will take place once every semester, exploring the preparations necessary among students towards a more integrated and transdisciplinary education.