Do you find you’re now working on something you never thought you would when you were planning your career? The variety of experience that you accumulate might allow for creativity; playful combinations create new ideas (Mednick, 1962). Working across disciplines allows you to bring ideas from one experience to another. You’re being a boundary creature (Adams, 2013).
As a research associate, it’s wonderful to be working with other people instead of isolated on a PhD. A PhD should be a research apprenticeship, but an apprentice learns sitting next to Nellie, not in isolation. Now I learn from the others around me, work in a team with people who have experience in other disciplines, and share my scribbles with peers not just supervisors. Now, I see project management in action having been exposed to the vagaries and wonders of electronic portals such as Glasscubes and Box.com.
Interdisciplinarity becomes important now. My PhD was under the auspices of the business school, proposed from my business experience but I worked in business IT; I can program and analyse, which is why I now tutor so many technical and computing courses, and I’ve achieved my aim – to be a hybrid. However, in moving between disciplines, I realise that I don’t know how to access some papers, such as the ACM conference papers, which are very important in my new fields. Indeed, I don’t know the fields well enough to realise when a pair of words represent an important concept, not just a piece of management speak. For instance, an EU deliverable requires identification and specification of “orchestration factors”. For four days, I meandered around the wrong literature looking for “orchestration”. Thank goodness for team work – a colleague said, “Dillenbourg” and I was immediately into the right realm.
Interdisciplinarity then comes with advantages and disadvantages, pitfalls and pleasures. Enjoy the pleasures
Pat Thomson blogs on interdisciplinarity http://patthomson.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/why-it-is-helpful-to-read-out-of-your-area/
Adams, A., Fitzgerald, E. & Priestnall, G. (2013) Of catwalk technologies and boundary creatures, ACM Transactions of Computer-Human Interaction (In Press).
Dillenbourg, P., Sharples, M., Fischer, F., Kollar, I., Tchounikine, P., Dimitriadis, Y., Pablo Prieto, L., Igancio Asienso, J., Roschelle, J., Looi, C.-K., Nussbaum, M. & Diaz, A. (2011) Trends in Orchestration: Second Research & Technology Scouting Report. STELLAR Consortium
Mednick, S. (1962) The associative basis of the creative process, Psychological Review, 69, 220-232.