The value of a multidisciplinary team

By / April 15, 2013

Bridgeable Multidisciplinary Team

One could look at multidisciplinary teams, or diversity with a negative lens, that is, differences causing disagreements and/or tensions within a group. This is why it is important to understand who your co-workers are, and always approach tasks and decisions with an open mind.

At Bridgeable, we avoid this downfall by being open about our interests and differences. Our multidisciplinary team is varied as ever; among our multidisciplinary mix, there are biologists, computer scientists, financial experts, fashion designers, industrial designers, graphic designers, ethnographers, engineers, documentary producers, and more. In fact, we are not simply multidisciplinary across team members, but also multidisciplinary as individuals. To use myself as an example, I used to work in an academic laboratory that did genetic research related to human birth defects. I was able to combine my background in biology with my interest in art and design, thanks to the Biomedical Communications MSc program at the University of Toronto. Now my primary role at Bridgeable is the communication of complex concepts (biomedical content and beyond) through visualization. Despite our differences, we are all glued together by the fundamental value of being human-centred and empathizing with the people we are designing for.


“You have to find an engine for change. And that’s what collaborative work does. Whatever we do together will make us different.”

Philip Glass


We do our best to understand each others’ strengths and weaknesses to ensure that team members are best positioned to complete tasks that play to their strengths. What are some new and fun ways to articulate and learn about each team members’ unique qualities?

Multidisciplinary team with different perceptions of the world

Bridgeable’s Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) results, visualized by Michelle McCune.

One night over dinner, we discovered each others’ respective spirit animals!

A multidisciplinary zoo of animals with different personalities!

What would your spirit animal be?


Getting to know your multidisciplinary team

Other structured ways to do this include having each team member sort through a set of Superpower cards and/or taking various quizes/tests, such as the Strength Deployment Inventory test. In addition to those, we do several things at Bridgeable:

  • Monday morning scrum: we gather around the lunch table to talk about how our weekend went. This allows us to have a quick glance into what’s going on in every person’s life and also peek at what sort of interests we have beyond the office.
    Every Monday morning, we share our weekend

    Every Monday morning, we share our weekend events.

  • Tuesday Improv class: an improv coach from The Second City comes in to guide us in being spontaneous in a comfortable, low-risk space. Improv is important because it gives us all the opportunity to “YES and…” each other. There is no room for rejecting ideas or putting on the black hat in improv. The randomness that occurs in classes leaves all of us laughing and smiling!
  • Friday Lunch and Learn: we eat good food and listen to a talk by a fellow Bridgeable team member. This gives us an opportunity to learn something new, or provide feedback on ideas, concepts, and works in progress.
  • Extracurricular events: we go out and do activities that build our team outside of the office setting. Our most recent outing included trampoline dodgeball and we will be participating in the Becel Heart&Stroke Ride for Heart early June.

What differences really make a difference? The major benefit of working with people with different perspectives and backgrounds is the fact that they look at the world with a different lens –  fresh eyes and minds to perceive, approach, and solve a problem. Like ethnography, accepting different ways of thinking and linking it to perception and behaviour is absolutely invaluable.

Engaging in problem solving and design with other individuals allows a solution to be more well rounded because the problem/solution pair has passed through the filters of many different and great minds. With a multidisciplinary team, you can guarantee that solutions will be more accurate, authentic, and relatable to a larger crowd. There is always something new to learn when you get to interact with someone very different from you.

Whenever I have to work with physical designs, I know that there is more than one expert in the office to turn to for advice!

Multidiscipinary team of many different types of designers!

True story: Michelle (Industrial & Service Designer) accidentally teaches Bea and I (Biomedical Communicators) something (probably pretty obvious) about how the bases of cups affect their tipping properties.

 The most important thing is to have open communication and respect for each individual’s differences.