Interdisciplinary studies in academia are pretty “hot” these days. Surrounded by specialists as we are, it is nevertheless true that in between the disciplines is where new knowledge is being created today. The spaces and cracks in between today’s silos are where innovation is taking place. Marshall McLuhan syas that amongst painters, physicists, poets, communicators and educators, today, there has been a shift away from “specialized segments of attention,” to the idea of the “total field . . . a sense of the whole pattern, of form and function as a unity.”
In the past it was true too, that the biggest discoveries arose when there was a synthesis across several professions. It was just easier to master a whole bunch of disciplines within one lifetime. Leonardo daVinci probably had coffee whenever he liked with the leading lights of his era, on any specialization at all, and was of course himself master of many professions.
Why do we need to constantly borrow ideas from other bodies of knowledge?
- To fully understand our own areas of expertise
- To innovate further
- To be responsible within our professions
Here are some examples of ongoing interdisciplinary efforts:
- Governments and citizens grappling with ethics around genetic technologies – a mix of scientists, computer scientists, ethicists, politicians, and regulators
- Global account teams selling a variety of products and services to a variety of customer types in different cultures – a mix of product managers, salespeople, technologists just to start
- Different government departments (eg a fisheries department and an environment department) with intersecting scope and different collections of similar professionals
We need ways to facilitate the conversations between experts that help uncover tacit knowledge and lead to the most responsible, complete, and innovative outcomes. We need space where different knowledge and expertise can be combined and translated into action. We need to stitch together the silos.
It is our belief that a systems view of teams and relationships is an excellent approach for this undertaking.