Long Version: Playing Well with Others in a Creative Era
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Long Version: Playing Well with Others in a Creative Era

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Full-length talk about need for, obstacles to, and ways of improving interdisciplinary work. Presented April 2009 at U. Nottingham.

Full-length talk about need for, obstacles to, and ways of improving interdisciplinary work. Presented April 2009 at U. Nottingham.

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  • 1. Playing Well with Others in a Creative Era David E. Goldberg Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 [email_address]
  • 2. The World is Flat & All That
    • Widely asserted that world is flat and returns to creativity are increasing.
    • For example:
      • Tom Friedman, The World is Flat.
      • Richard Florida, Rise of the Creative Class.
      • Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind.
    • But universities haven’t undergone upgrade in a while.
  • 3. Roadmap
    • Creative era as motive for playing well with others.
    • Conceptual barriers to playing well: envy, namecalling, and a paradigm.
    • Organizational/Institutional understanding & mechanisms aids to playing well: meso-level dot-connectors & pairwork.
    • Role for information technology in facilitating organizational change.
    • Examples of playing well: ETSI, WPE, iFoundry & OIP.
  • 4. Cold War Mindset in an Internet World?
    • In final days of the Vannevar Bush era.
    • Headed US wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development.
    • Report, The Endless Frontier, set stage for NSF and ongoing funding of scientific research.
    • Curriculum, funding, P&T, and institution adapted to this change.
    • Hierarchical specialized industrial organizations.
    • Universities follow suit with departments & isolated, specialized disciplines.
    Vannevar Bush (1890-1974)
  • 5. The Missed Revolutions
    • Changes adopted in industry.
    • Largely missed in the academy.
    • We teach, but do not practice what we preach.
    • Missed revolutions since WW2:
      • Quality revolution (teamwork).
      • Entrepreneurial revolution (startups).
      • IT revolution (innovation at a distance).
    • Teach the “revolutions,” but do not integrate lessons into academy or curriculum.
  • 6. The Technoeconomics of Now
    • From cold war to creative era. How’d we get here?
    • Technoeconomic effects:
      • Transport and communication improvements.
      • Network effects.
      • Transaction costs.
    • Small agile firms connected by communication/transportation networks.
    Karl Marx (1818-1883)
  • 7. Implications for Creative Era
    • Smaller organizations, sticking to knitting, interacting easily with others at a distance.
    • Easily find/connect with others at distance.
    • A recipe for creative action.
    • Koestler’s term: bisociation.
    • Creativity at the intersection of disparate disciplines.
    • But all is not well.
  • 8. Dueling Departments/Disciplines
    • Missed revolutions & power of departments/disciplines.
    • Most universities as Italian renaissance experience.
    • Warring factions in Venice, Rome & Florence.
    • Fighting for treasure, loyalty, allegiance.
    • Machiavelli would have been at home.
    Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)
  • 9. Conceptual Barriers to Interdisciplinarity
    • What makes it hard to cross disciplines?
    • Misconceptions of “the other” one key.
    • Will do an analysis of engineering vs.
      • Science & math
      • Humanities & social science
    • “ Engineering” in large sense as social practice of creating complex technological artifacts for others.
    • This includes computer science and all “applied” sciences.
  • 10. Consider Applied versus Basic Science
    • What is engineering relationship to math & science?
    • NAS meeting: Some say “engineering is merely applied science.”
    • Engineering academics are concerned with “rigor” and “the basics” (math, sci, eng sci).
    • But engineering is so much more.
    • Myth: radar and bomb won WW2.
    • Engineering envious of math/science.
    • Especially in the academy.
  • 11. Relation to Humanities, Arts & SS
    • Humanities, arts & social sciences (HASS) increasingly important to engineering.
    • Yet, engineering academics use strange words.
    • Call HASS “soft” as contrasted to “rigorous.”
    • View engineering as superior to HASS.
    • We envy scientist/mathematicians and consider ourselves superior to HASS.
    • A epistemological classism.
    • A totem pole in engineering minds.
  • 12. Trapped in Cold War Paradigm
    • “ Paradigm” traces to Kuhn’s, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962.
    • Engineering is stuck in cold war paradigm.
    • Defending “rigorous” curriculum is not an argument.
    • Offending HASS as “soft” is namecalling.
    • “ The basics” include science, but belief in “the basics” not itself scientific.
    Thomas S. Kuhn (1922-1996)
  • 13. Overcoming Conceptual Barriers
    • Emphasize common heritage & toolkit.
    • Model thought with unifying construct.
    • Recognize that discipline is convenient organizational grouping, not tribe or religion.
    • Start linguistically to bridge understanding.
  • 14. Emphasize Common Toolkit & Heritage
    • Missing basics of engineering ties all disciplines.
    • Traditional curriculum to senior design, they
      • Can’t ask questions (Socrates 101).
      • Can’t label things (Aristotle 101).
      • Can’t model qualitatively (Aristotle 102, Hume 101).
      • Can’t decompose problems (Descartes 101).
      • Can’t experimen t or measure (Locke 101).
      • Can’t visualize/ideate (daVinci/Monge 101).
      • Can’t communicate (Newman 101).
    • Gifts to civilization dating back ~2500 years .
    Socrates (470-399 BCE)
  • 15. Consider Unifying Mental Construct
    • 1958 book was called “anti-philosophy” book.
    • Used by many as “model” of argumentation.
    • Jurisprudential view.
    • If-then rules with backing, qualification, & exceptions.
  • 16. Discipline is not Clan, Religion, or Tribe
    • Many disciplines privilege their perspectives and methods.
    • Science wars as example.
    • But smart people in all organized disciplines probably doing something right.
    • First step: toleration of disciplinary difference.
    • Actively seeking interpretations that make sense.
    • Easy to say, but hard to do.
    • Start with language.
    • Toward discipline of interdisciplinarity.
  • 17. Overcoming Linguistic Naiveté
    • Tolerance first step, but language is still a barrier.
    • Linguistic naiveté: (LN): belief that words have single, fixed meaning.
    • Disciplines become disciplines by defining words in specific ways; encourage LN.
    • Must understand ways same word can be used in different disciplines.
  • 18. Organizational Obstacles & Solutions
    • Not much new under the sun: Universities ancient, departments merely old.
    • Why stuff everything into one vesicle?
    • Handy’s gods are at the University.
    • An analysis of functions, space & time.
    • Meso-level dot connectors.
    • Pairwork then network.
    • The credit assignment problem.
  • 19. Universities Ancient, Departments Old
    • Universities date back to middle ages.
    • University of Constantinople, 425 AD.
    • Modern departments date to 18 th and 19 th centuries in French & German models.
    • Research journals in 18 th century.
    • Can we sustain activities today on innovations of two centuries ago?
    Theodosius II
  • 20. Why Put Everything in Departments?
    • Department centered resources: money, people, space.
    • Department-centered functions:
      • Identity
      • Space allocation
      • Communications
      • Clerical support
      • Budget allocation
      • Teaching assignment
      • Research evaluation
      • Hiring, P&T.
    • Louisiana Tech, Ruston
      • Separate admin functions from academic.
      • Academic directors: Administrative leaders, hiring, budget, not necessarily in discipline.
      • Program directors: curriculum & advising, usually in discipline.
    http://www.slideshare.net/jamesdnelson/innovative-administration-supports-innovative-education
  • 21. Analyzing Functions, Space, Money & Time
    • Inertial analogy. Activities light versus heavy.
      • Light activities easy to change.
      • Heavy activities difficult to change.
      • Hiring, promotion & tenure are heavy.
      • Space & budget assignment are heavy.
      • Coordination, innovation, and decision making are light.
    • Time: Some activities recur, some are one off.
    • Space: Some activities benefit from collocation, others less dependent.
  • 22. Analyzing Activities Culturally
    • Charles Handy, Gods of Management:
      • Zeus, club culture
      • Apollo, role culture
      • Athena, task culture
      • Dionysus, existential hero culture
    • Universities: All is role culture, but not everything a role.
    Charles Handy (b. 1932)
  • 23. Aligning Cultures, Activities & Resources
    • Different types of institutions will value different activities.
    • Highest priority activities should receive heavy resources.
    • Central institutions should be aligned with those activities.
    • Lighter activities can be placed in the whitespace.
    • Example: Research institution versus liberal arts college.
    • Create named entities, for fixed periods, w/ temporary space, budget.
  • 24. Create Meso-Level Dot Connectors
    • Heavy resources remain in departments.
    • Getting different groups to play requires some work.
    • Dot Connector: Meso-level organizational structure
    • Gather people intellectually, virtually, and physically.
    • Buying lunch an effective bribe.
    • Sustaining networks easier in world of digital and social media.
    • Examples: ETSI, iFoundry, APIE2.
    • May benefit from pairwork.
  • 25. Example: Evolution of ETSI & iFoundry
    • ETSI = Engineering & Technology Studies at Illinois. http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/ETSI
    • Started as lecture series & website in 2006 following blog post.
    • Grew to grassroots network of faculty in engineering, arts, SS, and humanities.
    • Evolved into iFoundry, Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education.
  • 26. From Pairwork to Network
    • Went from solo to teamwork in the quality revolution. Skipped pairwork.
    • Georges Harik, early Google employee: pairs 20x more productive than singletons.
    • Get
      • Large opportunity for complementary skills.
      • Low coordination costs.
      • Maximal opportunity for marginal creativity.
      • Effective emotional leveling.
    • Great pairwork yields great networks.
    Wilbur Wright Orville Wright
  • 27. Credit Assignment
    • How do research, teaching dollars flow to different units?
    • Same problem in computer science: credit assignment problem of machine learning.
    • How do you set up triple jump in checkers?
    • Reinforcement learning (Q-learning) solves problem as iterative approximation to dynamic programming.
    • Notion of state critical.
    • Contributions to state:
      • Who hired.
      • Who invested in startup.
      • Who provides office.
      • External reputation.
  • 28. Lessons from/for the IT Landscape
    • Human networks trump electronic networks.
    • IT does help overcome space & time.
    • Some inobvious lessons:
      • E-mail is dead.
      • Facebook rules & wikis drool.
      • Mining, learning, & the future of active collaboration.
      • Overcoming NIH disease.
  • 29. E-mail is Dead
    • You’re a postmodern. You use e-mail.
    • Your kids don’t.
    • Sharethis did study of twentysomethings & there’s demographic wave moving through.
    • Computer usage:
      • AIM box
      • Facebook page
      • Give e-mail password to parents to check.
    • What they seek: Immediacy, publc/private persona, relationships & sharing as primary values.
    • IT lesson: E-mail is commodity service & not central to creativity-interdisciplinary enhancement.
  • 30. Why Facebook Rules & Wikis Drool
    • Social networking (SN) & Facebook exploded onto scene.
    • Wiki usage in industry and academy hit and miss (4 dreaded words: “We have a wiki.”).
    • Key differences:
      • Facebook offers rooted public/private identity to individuals & groups emerge from individual interactions.
      • Wikis offer largely private group identity & groups are often primary centralized focus.
      • Facebook powered enthusiastically by participants (Linkedin, too) & Wikis die when creator loses interest.
      • Wikis exhibit tragedy of the commons.
    • IT lesson. Model future IT after SN model
  • 31. DISCUS & Active Collaborative Systems
    • DISCUS project between Illinois Genetic Algorithms Lab and Automated Learning Group at NCSA.
    • Distributed innovation and scalable collaboration in uncertain settings.
    • Use text mining, social network analysis, and genetic algorithms to model semantics & networks.
    Semantic Visualization w/ KeyGraph
  • 32. Overcoming NIH Disease
    • NIH = not invented here.
    • Universities are secretive, prideful entities.
    • Seek competitive advantage by “owning” systems, content, IP, curricula, etc.
    • Leads to closed systems & reduction in influence.
    • Internet is open world. OCW, open-source software, and commercial sharing sites.
    • Offer advantages in traffic, convenience & influence.
    • IT lesson. Move toward openness on multiple fronts, including use of commercial systems.
  • 33. Bottom Line
    • Have considered
      • Framework for understanding change.
      • Human dimensions of creative interdisciplinarity.
      • Lessons from and for IT landscape.
    • Times demand greater support of interdisciplinary research, education, and service.
    • Organizational (human) problem comes first.
    • IT has supporting role for creating mesolevel support of dot-connectors.
    • Universities that “get it” will prosper, and those that don’t risk falling in stature to those that do.
  • 34. Playing Well with Others in a Creative Era David E. Goldberg Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 [email_address]