Polyphonic Imagination: Understanding Idea Generation in Multidisciplinary Groups as a Multivoiced Stimulation of Fantasy
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The primary objective of this paper is to offer a new way of understanding the creative processes of multidisciplinary groups, whose work is to generate innovative ideas. The paper reports from a project focused on organizational creativity at the group level, investigating what characterized such creative processes in that context. This project used ethnography as a qualitative method including participant observation, focus group interviews, and individual qualitative interviews. Furthermore, an inductive approach was used to analyze the data. Findings showed that when group members from different disciplines collaborated on innovative idea generation, the creative processes were characterized by a multivoiced stimulation of fantasy. In the paper, we first discuss how imagination involved new ways of combining knowledge and ideas based on one’s own and others experiences, including the use of technological tools. Secondly, we discuss how imagination was ignited by diversity and tension. Thirdly, we elaborate on the importance of emotion and support for the drive and stimulation of imagination in groups. Finally, we sum up the discussion by presenting a model based on the concept of Polyphonic Imagination, in order to visualize the characteristics of the creative processes. We propose this concept of Polyphonic Imagination, derived from the empirical data, to designate the ways in which different perspectives in the groups created tensions that fed into the group members´ imagination whenever these perspectives acknowledged each other.