Scroll down this page for a dialog around design, creativity and innovation as if talking to Dr. Roger Malina. His participation is not necessary as I make the argument for the value of right-brain thinking in a predominately left-brain world. Initially, I will imagine Malina's response from past conversations and correspondences over the past year. In time, I hope to formulate a compelling discourse that will engage Malina. Dr. Malina is the ideal partner in this discussion as he is a formally trained scientist with a father who practiced, promoted and lived from a design perspective. His son is a strong advocate and community organizer for Design Thinking. From my experience, Malina is firmly entrenched in a left-brain perspective with a strong appreciation and understanding of the creative, abstractions of right-brain thinking.  
   
My thesis: There is a collision between idealism and practicality. The difference between a left and right brain approach to life and the challenge of navigating the world from a whole-brain perspective. My objective is to argue that creativity and innovation are given a nod of recognition and appreciation, but practically speaking, misunderstood and not given the appropriate place at the table where decisions are made and organizations run. The question that best frames this discussion: What is the reason that the school of engineering, school of management, or computer science would ask for an ATEC student to be at the table? If the answer is to design an environment, draw a logo, or create a web page, they're missing the point. I will argue that the ATEC program doesn't know why they should be invited to the table and the predominant left-brain disciplines are not capable of recognizing the value of these students at this point. It is our job to show them!  
To read the book, "Right: A New Design Perspective for Business Innovation," I've written on this subject visit this web site for a free digital download copy.
 
         
Why Roger? Because there is no one more qualified or influential in this discussion.        

Arts and Technology Distinguished Chair Roger Malina is a physicist, astronomer and executive editor of the Leonardo publications at MIT Press, with dual appointments as a professor of arts and technology and a professor of physics at UT Dallas.
He is a former director of the Observatoire Astronomique de Marseille Provence (OAMP) in Marseille, and member of its observational cosmology group, which performs investigations on the nature of dark matter and dark energy. He is also a member of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Study (Institut Méditerranéen de Recherches Avancées, IMERA), an institute he helped to organize.
Malina was also a member of the jury for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2011, which awards a prize to those who create strategies with potential to “solve humanity's most pressing problems.” Malina's specialty is space instrumentation. He was the principal investigator for the NASA Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer satellite at the University of California, Berkeley. The satellite was the first orbiting observatory to map the sky in the extreme ultraviolet band.
For 25 years, Malina has been involved with the Leonardo organizations, which his father founded in San Francisco and Paris. The organizations strive to promote work that explores the interactions between the arts and sciences, as well as between the arts and new technologies.
Malina earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972, and his doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley in 1979. (The bio of Dr. Malina copied from the UTD, ATEC page.)

     
TRENT
Roger Malina
Contact
Leonardo
UTD - ATEC
Blog
 
Roger Malina, Ph.D.
   
  It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of Roger Malina. His resume is three-times what most individuals accomplish in a lifetime. Yet, his CV is not his most impressive attribute. It is the sphere of individuals who have influenced, mentored, partnered and collaborated with him. It began with his father, Frank Malina: A scientist, artist and entrepreneur. From everything I have read about Frank Malina, he was a true intellectual giant. Roger’s father was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) at NASA.
 
         
Why me? As an artist, academic, entrepreneur, facilitator and consultant, I believe I have a unique perspective.        

My mother was an amateur artist, my father an electrical engineer. The two saw the world from very different perspectives and lived life at opposite extremes. I credit my mother for nurturing a strong desire to explore the creative aspects of everything in me and attribute my practical, black and white views to my father. This household also afforded me an early introduction to not being understood or fully appreciated as an artist.

I have been an entrepreneur my entire adult life, creating businesses in such diverse fields as apparel manufacturing, retail, promotions industry, and rental properties. I have developed businesses in corporate training, leadership consulting, and experiential facilitation. Creative businesses include web design, graphic design, and a T-shirt design and silk screening business for nine years. I have pursued a fine arts career as a metal sculptor since 2000. (View art HERE) I received my Ph.D. in emerging media and communications from the university of Texas at Dallas in 2011. My dissertation explored the idea of Design utilizing digital media to facilitate collaboration.

 
   
     
     
     
     
     
Genesis of this discussion  
Scott Trent, Ph.D.
   
SEAD Network for Sciences, Engineering, Arts and Design announces a call for White Papers on issues facing the international community seeking to enhance transdisciplinary collaboration. I submitted a paper. Sample document.        
SEAD OBJECTIVE: We are seeking to survey concerns, roadblocks and opportunities, and solicit proposed actions for enhancing collaboration between sciences and engineering with practitioners in arts and design. These position papers will be submitted as part of a report to NSF and the community from the SEAD network in the summer of 2013. With grateful appreciation for US funding, we recognize that activity connecting the sciences, engineering, to arts and design is international and, furthermore, that global involvements are essential in today’s economy. Therefore we are interested both in what US collaborators can learn from experiences in other countries, and vice versa, institution or region specific issues, and also in how to foster collaborations that bridge beyond regions to nations. Cultural cross-fertilization via the SEAD network – whether from disciplinary, organizational or ethnic perspectives – is a vital component of our purpose and goals. Chair, Roger Malina, Leonardo/ISAST Chair Emeritus, IMERA Art Science Co Chair, Distinguished Professor of Art and Technology at the University of Texas, Dallas Co-Chair, Carol Strohecker, Director, Center for Design Innovation, University of North Carolina system; Professor, Winston-Salem State University; Chief Research Officer & Instructor, UNC School of the Arts; SEAD Co-PI  
Dr. Malina's response: I guess i still don't understand how you would go from lessons learned from your own practice to suggested actions/recommendations on how to enable more productive.interesting collaboration between Science/Engineering and Arts/Design/Humanities. You state "The foundation of my work is to introduce a different perspective on > creativity and innovation. > The call to action is expand the conversation to include the artist’s > perspective." Yes- so ? as you know there is an international creativity and innovation 'industry' with a whole variety of approaches being tried- what new conclusions are you drawing ? I guess one thing is that the SEAD discussion focuses on research in science and engineering- new developments- that are usually carried out outside of a cultural or societal context- as you know there are hundreds if not thousands of artists residency programs in a variety of modes- the artists perspective is being included- but what new problems and obstacles are arising- for instance in the area of bio technology, or nano science, or networked communication engineering etc i don't think this will work within the SEAD context- but its a particular slice of life and there are many others thanks for your interest. roger  
         
Trent's response: This response is NOT a challenge that my submission was worthy of acceptance, it's a deep belief that we're not engaging in the right conversation; which, begins with asking the right questions. My inspiration comes from personal experience and not research or studies. I hope to continue the dialog within an academic environment.  

 

       

The premise of my argument is different disciplines are seeking the wrong solution when asking for ways to collaborate. Dr. Malina has pointed to many projects where artists have successfully collaborated with other disciplines and a vast array of papers published documenting these projects. I fully accept the idea that there are projects where collaboration occurs, but see many more examples held up as collaboration where they were less collaborative and more cooperative. I understand the value of a facilitated process and strongly believe a dedicated effort to facilitate such a collaborative project is necessary for success. I make this statement knowing how diverse and contrary the different disciplines operate from each other.

My position is directed to who leads in a collaborative effort and who ultimately defines the vision. I’m sure there are creative processes by committee, but my preference is to have one visionary, one author, one designer or one creator in the original idea that forms based on the input of many. This complements many processes and allows the coordination of diverse perspectives, but does not require the shortcomings of a conventional collaborative effort.

The explicit call to action for my thesis is to identify the fundamental attributes of each discipline, Science, Engineering, Management, Art and Design. And to emphasize innovation as opposed to collaboration as the larger objective. The proposed shift allows each field of study their unique approach to creativity; but recognizes that Creative provides a valuable aptitude not fluent in other innovation fields. As opposed to seeking a universal language of design, creativity or arts; I propose we redirect our efforts from attempting to collaborate which is counter-productive, to emphasizing the innovation process and bringing each discipline in as a unique endeavor within a designated stage of the innovation process. I identify collaboration as a wicked problem and distraction from the objective to innovate.

A peripheral question is when talking about introducing the “A” for art back into the STEM curriculum, what “A” are we talking about? Which leads to the bigger question, how is Art being defined and what does it mean? I would argue until we can empirically describe the value of art to the sciences, it will continue to be excluded from the core subjects taught at all levels of education.

To illustrate the different roles and subtle aspects of creation within the different disciplines, imagine a movie that is completed and an artist decides to contribute to the finished presentation. In this case, the artist adds an elephant to the scene and the elephant steps on the protagonist’s toe. The resolution of the movie does not change; the file size does not expand, or the length of the film increase. In all practical applications, the movie does not change, but interest, relevance, a connection to the viewer, entertainment value, and narrative can change dramatically. Twitter was conceived from an engineering, practical foundation with the 144 character limitation, but it is the poet that has made it relevant.

 
         
         
Themes to explore:        
1. Righ brain thinking        
2. It is not about collaborating or co-creating, but who leads the innovation process.        
3. stem to steAm (What "Arts" are we talking about?)        
4. Idealism vs Practicality        
5. What innovation is being discussed?        
6. If mistakes lead to new discoveries, and innovation, how do we create environments to encourage mistakes?        
7. How does the artist's view present unique perspectives that benefit society?        
8. What is the advantages of a developed imagination?        
9. Who is leading the creative conversations?        
10. The innovative process can be formalized and learned!        
11. Common mistakes: 100 to 1 ideas, fear of failure, collaboration is a wicked problem, heuristic process, the challenge of disruptive ideas to sustaining ideas.
12. The legitimacy of right-brain thinking in a left-brain world.        
13. Design Thinking is the answer: defined by a creative.        
14. Wicked Problems        
         
Right-left brain metaphor   PDF document    
 

Addressing the right-left brain metaphor. It is important to note that I am fully aware that most academics discount the right-left brain metaphor. They direct the conversation to neuroscience research which claims the whole brain forms any given thought and the brain function cannot be explained by the separation of two independently functioning brain hemispheres. The most recent research I’ve read made this point and then slid back to preferential influences from each hemisphere. In this study, the researcher used a gradient scale of specificity as opposed to a clearly delineated line of separation by the corpus callosum. I fully understand the complexity of the brain, and the primary reason I am dubious as academia moves to a position more reliant on MRI research and certainty in their latest map of the brain. The very fact of new research and a closer examination of the glial cells reinforces my inclination to focus on the spaces between the cells and less on the firing of neurons.

I would not argue with my fellow scholar’s new understanding of the human brain, but point to the fact that our new understanding of the brain function does not negate the work of Nobel Laureate Roger Sperry’s work of dual modalities of thought within the brain. Although, his work was conducted in the sixties, his exploration of split brain symptoms is the ideal metaphor to a psychological phenomenon explored by Dr. Betty Edwards and Dr. Jerre Levy in the eighties. It’s not an idea of old science, but an ideal metaphor that describes a perspective that affects our thinking, actions and decisions how we approach life.

There are disciplines that benefit from a certain perspective and approach to life. In the extreme, the artist accesses the abstractions of life and articulates this vision in a fashion that is consumed with the senses; while, the engineer is firmly grounded in the discipline of science and expresses themselves in practical applications. This requires two completely different disciplines of thought. For an even more extreme scenario, I have overlaid the artist’s approach to life to the business person’s need for efficiency, organization, structure and profits. The two perspectives are far apart; yet, the business community talks about the need for innovation. The issue is artists innovate as if breathing, but suffocate in the structured environment of a business. The business person prospers in the delineated lines of an organization and flounders in the abstractions of innovation. The two perspectives can co-exist, but never fully integrate or collaborate.

From personal experiences and empirical evidence, I see dominant traits which influences the way people interact with the world. Since the focus of my work is creativity and innovation, I have identified the traits that embrace, practice and promote creativity, and those that do not. The shorthand that best serves my purpose is the term right and left brain thinking. The individual who accesses and utilizes a “whole brain” approach is practicing Design Thinking, which I will address at a later time.

My request: Do not use the science of the brain, to be confused with the exploration of the mind, and a distraction from the conversation of creativity. As the physicist David Bohm once lamented, disassembling the watch will not help one understand time. I believe our efforts to observe the firing of neurons as we map the brain, does not provide insights into the abstractions of creativity which occurs between the cells.

1.
 
 
 
 
         
Why the artist?        
7.

The artist endeavors to create, navigate and negotiate a world not observed or experienced by others. It is their perspective that is unique and can provide value to the fields of science, math and engineering. The artist in the act of creating finds answers in the ambiguous, seeks meaning in the unexplainable, and derives inspiration in ideals. They see patterns where others see chaos. They dedicate a life to expressing these interpretations and rely on a perspective that can bring value to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines.

Design is to Art as Innovation is to Creativity. One is built on the foundation of the other, but does not represent the same approach to a common process or consistently deliver similar results; within the separate disciplines, intention, expression, and purpose can all be extremely different. But, you could not have one without the other and the terms, roles and process are commonly confused and interchanged. Design is a process that is suited to addressing wicked problems. Artists possess a perspective that embraces creativity. Innovation is the result of the creative process facilitated by a Designer. I argue that the artist has an innate aptitude that is valuable to the disciplines of math, science and engineering.

         
Wicked Problems        
14. Horst Rittel, a design-theorist, coined the term, “wicked problems” in 1973. He was describing the challenge of dealing with problems of social policy. His claim was that, because social problems could not be defined objectively and therefore could have no “’solutions’ in the sense of definitive and objective answers”, a scientific basis for confronting such problems made no sense. Design was introduced as a process to address these seemingly unsolvable and complex issues. The argument for innovation NOT collaboration is built on the premise that collaboration is a wicked problem. The act of emphasizing collaboration is de-emphasizing the greater objective of achieving a measureable outcome. wicked problems  
         
         
 
   
TRENT 2013