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Cultivate a Cross-disciplinary Curiosity

Humanity has experienced an extraordinary burst of evolutionary change, driven by good old fashion Darwinian natural selection. But it is the selection among ideas, not among genes that matter right now.

What an interesting observation and a good way of introducing a mindset that has inspired and (so far) led me to adopt a hybrid of methodologies to deliver stimulating responses to diverse challenges in various sectors.

Responses that evolved from cross-disciplinary combinations of processes between the built environment and peacebuilding (Iraq), business and design thinking (Singapore) the re-use of buildings and social cohesion (Norway, Belgium, UK and Holland), smart city approaches and Climate Change adaptation (Mexico City) Medicine and Architecture (Belgium and India). An exploration that amplifies the notion that developing an idea of substance relies on cross-discipline curiosity.

In Singapore, I could explore the potential of creating synergy between unconnected or unfamiliar business sectors. During my time as chair of the creative industries group within The British Chamber of Commerce Singapore, I spent time introducing and linking business sector (Oil and Gas, Shipping, Finance, IT, Media, Health, Food and Beverage) approach to problem-solving to great effect.

It is a privilege to build opportunities from which to see organisations share talent, innovation, research and methodology with a wide variety of disciplines, it isn’t easy though. There are pitfalls of stereotyping, complacency, impatience, bias, opportunism, traditional hierarchies and a lack of trust.

However, within all business environments, authentic idea generation and problem-solving skills are critical in a global market context where innovation wins, therefore organisations need to stay current, creative and curious. It is imperative to develop versatile connections and explore collaborations based on trust and tenacity.

Cross-discipline work and the ideas which may follow is difficult to value when there is no immediate quantifiable dividend. They are expensive to explore and the risk of failure is a worry.

Yet, everyone is encouraged to strive to create valuable dynamics from which to underpin and facilitate expressions of innovative, competitive and contemporary practice.

I am under no illusions about the practicalities and cost of idea exploration, many think they need to employ professional idea people that work for the legions of shinny organisations that charge an arm and leg for so-called ‘ideation, blue-sky thinking or thinking out of the box type methodologies’. (I don’t think you need them really, we are naturally curious as humans :)

This often slippery process, profession and the unpredictability of exploring ideas might be the reason why so many organisations shy away from reaching out and exploring new formulas to old problems with unfamiliar partners. It may also be the reason why it's so uncomfortable to break from traditional and familiar boundaries to build cross-discipline activity in answer to tenders, contracts or any other challenge.

Despite the uncertainty, I wholeheartedly encourage you to reach out and explore the potential in cross-discipline curiosity. Regardless of the scale of your participation, I assure you that the effort will bring dividends. And whilst on your journey to build an alternative response, solution or idea, stay observant as the process often results in a selection of related and valuable avenues of opportunity during which the fragments of other ideas meet and recombine in new and unexpected ways.

“To create is to recombine” Molecular biologist Francois Jacob

Article image Photograph: Masato Nakagawa 1948


Workshop Slides may help stimulate the progress:


Medical & Arch

Building DNA



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