Multidisciplinary skill sets can work wonders in everyone's career
The need for an inter-disciplinary approach is something that has been stressed upon since ages particularly when it comes to work, research and education. However, amid major happenings across the world like the Covid-19 crisis and large-scale economic and political instabilities, now is the time to also emphasize another necessity— multi-disciplinarity.
To be clear conceptually, while interdisciplinarity employs the links and possible connections between different disciplines, multidisciplinarity involves full blown engagement with multiple disciplines. The two do not have to be separated, as multidisciplinarity-knowledge of multiple disciplines can catalyze interdisciplinary approaches to achieve results that matter. However, the reason to focus on multidisciplinarity stems gains relevance from the recent events.
A report by The Hindu Business Line in 2020 read, during the first wave of the pandemic, teachers working in higher educational institutions are trying to become "consultants", "researchers", "trainers", "fund mobilisers", and "marketers" to generate new sources of revenue along with a mandate of achieving national (NIRF) and international (QS-World) rankings. due to Covid-19, […] companies are eager to recruit multi-talented human capital under tight budgets to attain cost-efficiencies. The digital transformations in the field of finance are occurring at a much faster pace than in the pre-Covid period. Now, finance and accounting professionals are upskilling in various technologies such as MS Excel, Power BI, SAP-ERP, SQL Database, Virtual Audits and Data Analytics software Python, etc. Similarly, IT professionals are keen on learning finance and banking basics to provide fin-tech solutions in emerging areas like P2P lending, open banking, block-chain and financial research."
As the report demonstrates, versatility indeed becomes crucial during turbulence. Even today, as we are coming off the crisis, we are in favour of individuals donning multiple hats, a new kind of multi-faceted aura where we don't seek a bridge from our discipline to other domains but acquire training in numerous areas to be of optimum benefit to the organizations and the people we serve. Having a multidisciplinary skill set is also a certain career booster and can take us to coveted places.
However, the push for multidisciplinarity is not just something that is better for our individual careers and overall impact but also an acknowledgment that work itself is multifaceted and requires to be dealt in a multidisciplinary way.
Asher Ben Ariah, whose nonprofit deals with child maltreatment, outlines this proposition with clarity in Forbes
According to him, "My nonprofit has been working to train professionals and engage in research in order to cope with child abuse and neglect. Our mission was in front of our eyes, but like many nonprofits, we had to choose our strategy and focus. […] This phenomenon has legal, medical, educational and social aspects to it. Should we focus on one aspect or reach out to all professions at once? How can we provide the information and tools needed to all the different disciplines? The quest to answering these questions led us to a clear answer. We needed to work as a multidisciplinary team in order to be truly relevant and to create a multi-professional language that would allow all services working with abused and neglected children to work in cohesion."
Multidisciplinarity will not simply enable us to deal with the complexity of work and the services to be provided but also equip individuals with skills that enable better collaboration. For instance, a company might have graduates from sciences and the humanities, but if they are proficient with technology, they can work as equal partners in tandem. Similarly, if all employees have been trained to be critical thinkers and effective communicators, the discussions in the company can be improved by leaps and bounds with people connecting on the same plane while bringing their respective ideas to the table.
So, it's time to start imparting multidisciplinary skill sets and bolster all regimes of training. This will require widespread change in educational systems as well as work cultures, but can be rewarding when it comes to dealing with complex, many-sided situations and problems. As our recent experiences teach us, the more skills we have in our armoury, the better we can deal with the unexpected and also go the extra mile to achieve set goals. For a future of greater productivity, collaboration and empowering transformation, multidisciplinarity is indeed the way forward.
(The author is Founder and CEO Upsurge Global and Adjunct Professor and Advisor EThames College)