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VCU's da Vinci Center Sparks Innovation

Last month, Dr. Kenneth B. Kahn, Professor of Marketing and Director of the da Vinci Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, spoke at C3's Breakfast Club about integrating the disciplines of art, engineering and business to create a unique learning environment.

The da Vinci Center has been spurring creativity using a cross-discipline approach since 2007.  The center is a collaboration between the VCU Schools of the Arts, Business, Engineering and College of Humanities and Sciences.  

Kahn explained research has found cross-disciplinary thinking has the potential to foster an environment in which innovation can thrive.  He says innovation occurs at the intersection of multiple disciplines rather than isolated within them.

Starting the morning with a group exercise to reinvent the number 2 pencil, he demonstrated how our best ideas do not thrive alone.  He also asked the audience to define the word “margin” to show our differences in communication based on our perception: 

Edges, cushion, business profits.

“When we design together and work together, how do we define what we do?  What language are we speaking?  How are we communicating?” he asked.

The challenge in marketing, engineering and art, he says, is each discipline celebrates its own language.  With a program like the da Vinci Center, students from different academic backgrounds are taught to see new perspectives and how to communicate across disciplines.

The center uses a T-shaped model to teach students how to stretch their mindset.

Discipline B ——————— Discipline C
                                  |
                                  |     
                                  |
                                 A
                   (Main Discipline)  


The center offers an under graduation certificate and a masters program.  Its approach is making waves on campus with a design center coming this summer and an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community on the way.  

Find more information on the da Vinci Center here.

Kevin Clay