Every type of science has a robust language of its own, rife with acronyms and jargon that make for efficient communication amongst peers within the field but can be confusing, misleading or off-putting to people from other disciplines. This raises our attention to the fact of how much we rely on language to convey meaning, and that if we don’t have a shared understanding, it’s harder to work together and collaborate creatively.
Where you meet sets the mood for your meeting, which is why the space matters. Put people in the same old meeting room and the chances of getting the same old output are pretty good. If it’s a big open room with an inviting seating plan around round tables, with long walls of white paper ready to receive hundreds of ideas, it sets an entirely different tone. If you want to make room for innovation, you have to make the room the kind of place that will invite it.
Science is a subject available to both genders and yet women, if not directly discouraged, haven’t been as encouraged to pursue it as a field of study. Girls are steered toward languages and the liberal arts, implying that maths and sciences are better left to the boys. It’s a stereotype that’s been torn down and yet the gender imbalance is still apparent in the field of scientific research and academics.
Deviance has an important place in the innovative process. We don’t challenge norms without a little (or a lot) of deviant thinking. And the single best way to discourage inventive, out-of-the-box deviance is to prohibit disagreement and probing questions. We need a little clarifying, critical judgment now and then. The trick is to cultivate a culture of occasional and appropriate contrariness that is productive.
The playful gizmos and gadgets we bring along help make the conference room look less sterile and corporate, but the toys are not just for show. If you’re a tactile person, being able to squeeze a rubber ball, or twist the beads of a wooden wand, fumble with a Rubik’s cube or stack tiny colored magnets into small mountains can actually aide the fluidity of your thinking. While your hands are fidgeting, new things can pop into your mind.