Idea tree: A tool for brainstorming ideas in cross-disciplinary teams

By Dan Stokols, Maritza Salazar, Gary M. Olson, and Judith S. Olson

1. Dan Stokols (biography)
2. Maritza Salazar (biography)
3. Gary M. Olson (biography)
4. Judith S. Olson (biography)

How can cross-disciplinary research teams increase their capacity for generating and integrating novel research ideas and conceptual frameworks?

A key challenge faced by research teams is harnessing the intellectual synergy that can occur when individuals from different disciplines join together to create novel ideas and conceptual frameworks. Studies of creativity suggest that atypical (and often serendipitous) combinations of dissimilar perspectives can spur novel insights and advances in knowledge. Yet, many cross-disciplinary teams fail to achieve intellectual synergy because they allot insufficient effort to generating new ideas. Here we describe a brainstorming tool that can be used to generate new ideas in cross-disciplinary teams.

The idea tree exercise

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