Why Solving Big Problems Requires an Interdisciplinary View

Adriane Randolph, executive director of BrainLab and associate professor of information systems at Kennesaw State University Coles College of Business, shares why society's biggest problems need multiple disciplines to reach solutions.


Adriane Randolph: [00:25] It's first to appreciate that there are so many different users out there, and so many different employees, and having appreciation that there's not one type of employee or one type of worker.

[00:33] Someone who is "locked in," to explain a bit further, is completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but their brains are completely intact. They need an outlet to proactively communicate and control their environment. That's where a brain computer interface enters in.

[00:48] They can use EEG to be able to spell or to make selections. Now, the power is in the interface. To be able to look at that level of problem and design, it takes a systems view. It takes a broader integrated view.

[01:05] Many folks who are working within the field might be focused on the medical implications or the clinical side of things but not seeing the real world applications for brain computer interfacing. That's where being placed within a business setting helps broaden that view and those applications.

[01:25] Even thinking about training of the caregivers, and how is this technology being presented, that's a different perspective that our marketing and management students can provide. Being able to go into a home and say, "These are our other applications," that level of work in the field and compassion, that's something that everyone can benefit from.

[01:47] To be able to bring that new perspective to students has been really enriching. It's wonderful to say that we're able to contribute back when most people are in their own lane, "This is the hammer, this is the brain signal that I work with, and that's all I'm going to do," and appreciating, "How do we better match individuals to the appropriate technology?" That's how we can impact neuroscience.

[02:11] This is a signal that's being used, but there are a number of different signals from the brain that are being integrated into these systems while everyone is not equally good at controlling those signals. Why is that? That "why" component is what we're bringing to the scene.

[02:31] We have to look broader. We have to have a more interdisciplinary view to be able to solve big problems.

[02:40] Within the BrainLab, we are spanning not just different disciplines within the college, so our marketing, our management, our information systems, but we are also expanding across colleges, so bringing in engineering, psychology, and the sciences to be able to say, "Here's the technology. Here's a broad look at how it can be integrated and used," whether it's understanding how our students are responding in different classroom situations. That's across the university.

[03:11] We all have students, and they're all trying to consume material. Whether it is progressing our sales students to be novices to experts with our curriculum, or it is biochemistry students progressing according to different models being presented, by using neurophysiological tools, we have a deeper understanding of how they're digesting that material and at what point.

[03:36] It's not just, end of the semester, ask the students, "How did you feel about that? How did the professor communicate that material?" That's an aggregate, recency effect, and all these different things. We've forgotten a lot, or we don't know at what point and time in the semester we had that "aha" moment.

[03:56] If we're able to use these tools, we can see when that happens. We have better resolution, and then, ultimately, better control of making changes.

Filmed April 2017 on site at AACSB's International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in Houston, Texas, USA.