Interdisciplinary thinking: when does it happen?

The creation process has to pass through four main stages. These are: research, concept, evaluation and implementation. Obviously this process (especially the first three stages) is not linear but cyclical, going backwards and forwards as many times as necessary to reach the desired outcome.1

Still, there are important differences between the different phases and also a different approach to interdisciplinarity.

In the last stage, the implementation, it does not make much sense to speak about interdisciplinarity. It is in this stage when the specific knowledge of the different disciplines is required to develop the different components of the outcome. Although still well organized they can work more independently.2

The evaluation stage has always been a multi-disciplinary task. Before the project can be implemented, it is necessary to take in account all the possible limitations such us social and cultural factors, technical feasibility and economical viability.3

Therefore, interdisciplinary thinking is to be applied at the beginning of the process on the two first steps – research and concept – where innovation is born. It is in these two stages where new ideas are generated, and the different points of view acquire more value.4

This graphic is based on the hypothesis that the creation process is formed by four main stages: research, concept, evaluation and implementation. It represents three different models of its execution depending on its approach to interdisciplinarity.

In the first case both research and ideas come from the independent work of specific disciplines. This model can present problems at the evaluation stage trying to merge the conclusions reached by the various fields.

The second and third models are based on the collaboration during the problem solving. The second one would happen when experts from different fields are brought together to find solutions. Whereas the third one also the research would be done collectively.



1. Alvarez, V., 2006. Proyectos, 12707 Ingeniería Industrial. Universidad de Oviedo, unpublished.

2.  Buchanan, D., Huczynski, A., Organizational behaviour , an introductory text. Milan: Prenice Hall Europe, 1997, pp. 1-14

Hollins, G & B. TOTAL DESIGN _ Managing the design process in the service sector. London: Pitman Publishing, 1991, pp. 137

3. TEDGlobal, 2009, Tim Brown urges designers to think big,   2009, Available at <; [Accesed 14 June 2010]

4. “Research studies (Surowiecki, J., 2005) suggest that the product of group creation can often be better than that of an individual with specialist knowledge in a particular area. This is due, in part to the provision of new, unadulterated concepts from individuals within the group with little or no knowledge of the subject planting provocative statements, which spawn and encourage enhanced, creatve thought.”

Griffiths, R. Wilgeroth, P., Who’s degree is it anyway?” [from the book] Rodgers, P. Brodhurst, L. Hepburn, D., Crossing Design Boundaries. London: Taylor and Francis Group plc, 2005, pp. 231


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