M. van Hout, G. Gootjes

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (NETHERLANDS)
As a result of the rising complexity of problems, industry demands for highly specialized professionals that have the ability to apply their knowledge in broader contexts and fields, also referred to as ‘T’ shaped professionals. T-shape type skills (in relation to 21st Century Skills) include collaborative working, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. These skills go beyond a single discipline, and could be learned through multidisciplinary team- and project-based education. Main advantages of multidisciplinary courses are: 1) they model authentic working environments more closely, and 2) they introduce students to the capabilities and limitations of other disciplines. Main challenges are: the communication and collaboration amongst team members and the complexity of decision-making, which affect both team performance and output. Agile work methods such as SCRUM can be introduced to improve performance, collaboration and decision-making. Nevertheless, using SCRUM creates tensions between the more rigid ‘getting things done’ mentality that characterizes this work method and the creativity in the design process that complex challenges demand.

This paper introduces an approach aiming to foster the main benefits of SCRUM to empower team members and improve performance, warrant creativity, and highlight (and benefit from) the team's multidisciplinary character. In this paper, this approach is introduced as the SCreaM approach (Scrum, Creativity, Multidisciplinarity).

A case is presented of an existing Amsterdam based lab in higher education, where during 20 weeks students work full time in a multidisciplinary, agile project team to research and design solutions to challenges formulated with academic and industry partners. The lab has been testing and evaluating different approaches to improve both the team’s performance and the output's quality. In response to these evaluations, SCRUM was added to improve motivation, learning, transfer and increase (team and individual) control. An additional evaluation showed that the rigid structure of SCRUM was affecting the parts of the project that demanded creativity and openness. Students also found it hard to plan research and translate results into valuable insights (and requirements) for the solution. In order to resolve these issues, additional, tailored rituals and artifacts were added to the existing ones in SCRUM, turning it into the SCreaM approach.

In specific moments in the SCRUM process, so called translate sessions were introduced (based on peer-based or researcher/ expert feedback), in which collected research data was presented and translated into valuable insights to make design decisions. Furthermore, a tailored design method toolkit in combination with a plan board was used to support creative ideation, research, and testing. The toolkit consists of the best suited design and research methods, With the plan board students were able to plan and break down research into specific tasks.

The SCreaM approach has been implemented in the course of a year, in nine different projects by nine different multidisciplinary design teams (consisting of 45 students, coaches and researchers). First results show improved team performance and skills, creating a suitable environment for educating T-shaped professionals. Final evaluations are currently being performed and results will be reported in the paper.