Maybe the Real Superpower Was the Slideshow We Made Along the Way: A Case Study in Teamwork


Have you ever set out to draft a bit on power mimicry in the Marvel Universe as an intro to discussing the benefits of interdisciplinary research teams, discovered that

  1. the superhero known for borrowing another superhero’s power is not in fact called Power Man (Power Man is in fact an alias of Luke Cage),
  2. many Marvel characters have power mimicry,
  3. the first of these listed on is The Mimic (which sounds like a great cool name to stick in an opening bit),
  4. The Mimic’s plainclothes name is Calvin Rankin (which is nothing),
  5. Norman Osburn gained the power mimicry of some rando called the Super-Adaptoid following an operation performed by Monica Rappaccini,
  6. Rogue apparently has power mimicry even though I’m pretty sure in the movies she just turned people into raisins,
  7. and all of this nonsense has been filed under the endearingly stuffy title “Pluripotent Echopraxia”

only to realize that the idea of individuals broadening their access to skills, resources, and expertise via teamwork has been rather thoroughly hashed out in previous publications without the need for comic book allusion?

If you haven’t, believe me, it’s a let down.

Thankfully, I can’t say the same of my Ideathon team. Everybody pulled together to deliver our proposal entitled “Remote Possibilities: Factors the Influence Access to Remote Higher Education.” The title was my biggest contribution – I couldn’t believe that STEM folks were missing out on the “Quirky Title: A Post-Colon Buzzword Guide to the Pun We Just Made” article formula. As the lone social sciences student in our group of seven, you’d think that I’d have a lot to contribute. It’s not as though Political Science is irrelevant to analysis of access in higher education. Nevertheless, by the time we’d developed our pitch angle and divvied up presentation slides, I wound up talking about Sociology and Psychology, in which I’ve taken a combined total of one class.

While the short pitch presentation didn’t cater specifically to my fields of interest, it did offer me the opportunity to listen in on the interests of others. If you listen to the video you’ll hear Rhea Verma explaining the Mental Models approach and Katelyn Meyer leveraging GIS data. Both of these team members directly apply tactics from their independent projects to our interdisciplinary proposal. 

Our team’s Ideathon Proposal

Despite our disparate fields, our team never lacked a common understanding of the task at hand. We owe that to another one of interdisciplinary teamwork’s superpowers – one which labels “Projective Omnilingualism.” In the face of a common goal, we adopted a common language. It helps that the factors which connected our group’s members vastly outnumbered those which divided them. With my Political Science background, I might use Social Identity Theory to explain how the proposal deadline made salient our supra-disciplinary team identity, thereby creating pressure to maximize intra-group commonalities and minimize intra-group differences. One of my STEM-minded teammates might put it differently. It just goes to show that teamwork lets us glimpse, for however brief a moment, into the workings of another’s mind. 

In the end, isn’t that what Pluripotent Echopraxia is all about?

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