Creativity in team science:  Using design thinking to foster early-stage research ideation

*Note: A recording for this session is unavailable. If you would like to know more, please contact the workshop presenters.

Interdisciplinary collaboration is widely considered essential to addressing complex scientific and societal problems. Funding agencies are increasingly seeking team-based approaches to tackling research questions; unfortunately, when funding opportunities are released, faculty often hastily assemble "marriages of convenience" that are rarely competitive, or they do not pursue the call because they lack the appropriate collaborators. In order to truly accelerate the production of novel research ideas, and to enable faculty to solve problems more creatively, we need to ignite interdisciplinary conversations at the earliest stages of team formation. We have tackled this problem by using design thinking approaches to create structured, yet engaging, activities that can help loosely formed, or brand new, research teams identify wicked problems and create plans to address them.

During this workshop, we will discuss the concept of fuzzy goals and how we can use divergent and convergent thinking processes to collectively explore ideas and ultimately reach group consensus. This interactive workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to engage in an ideation simulation as well as work together to create their own ideation workshops using mock team scenarios. We will also share facilitation tips and equip participants with the tools to navigate ambiguous conversations. This workshop will benefit the SciTS community by instilling participants with the knowledge and experience to help teams create shared visions and advance their partnerships.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Provide an overview of fuzzy goals as well as divergent and convergent thinking processes
  • Participate in an ideation and consensus building workshop simulation
  • Work in small groups to develop an ideation and consensus building workshop using mock team scenarios and example activities
  • Educate participants about design thinking and the ideation process
  • Experience an ideation and consensus building workshop simulation
  • Practice developing an ideation and consensus building workshop

Expected Workshop Outcomes include (1) understanding of ways to support new and loosely formed teams in developing shared visions and action plans and (2) foundational knowledge for developing an ideation and consensus building workshop.

Target Audience: This workshop will be appropriate for participants who want to learn more about how to foster the appropriate environment and activities for early-stage teams to create, reflect, and make decisions.

Workshop Format, Activities, and Schedule

  • 5 mins: Introduction
  • 15 mins: Overview of fuzzy goals and design thinking
  • 25 mins: Creating engaging activities, theory, and examples
  • 75 mins: An ideation and consensus building workshop in action
  • 60 mins: Build your own workshop



Beth LaPensee, Ph.D., is the Director of Research Initiatives for the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR) at the University of Michigan. In her role with the Research Initiatives team, Beth provides leadership to numerous programs, including Research Development, Interdisciplinary Research, Pilot Grants, Biostatistics, and Project Management. Beth contributes to the vision and direction of these programs, particularly as they relate to helping faculty achieve research and funding success. Beth has almost a decade of experience in strategic research advancement, proposal development and coordination of science teams. Most recently, Beth developed a portfolio of services to assist faculty in developing competitive grants for large, complex, team-based efforts. In order to drive team science initiatives from conceptualization to implementation, Beth’s team is creating comprehensive services that foster creative ideation, advance collaborative research agendas, and facilitate effective team functioning. Contact info: [email protected] 

 Aalap Doshi, MSI, is the Director of Design and Innovation for the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR) at the University of Michigan. A multi-faceted designer, over the past decade Aalap has employed empathetic, people-focused, participatory, and interdisciplinary design to solve complex and fuzzy problems in health research. Aalap has led the design and implementation of various human-centered innovations across Michigan Medicine. While most proficient in designing complex large-scale digital experiences, Aalap has led teams through the design of physical spaces, augmented reality experiences, services, business models, new employee on-boarding experiences, and books. By engaging appropriate co-creators, establishing open channels of bi-directional communication, seeking out and actively listening to issues raised, he has coaxed ideas from faculty, staff, administrative leads, and other stakeholders towards meaningful impact. Contact info: [email protected]