Multidisciplined Individuals: Defining the Genre
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Much of literature is predicated upon the assumption that learning occurring inside the workplace is related to developing expertise associated with the tasks for which the individual is employed and has a background in. This research investigates those individuals who acquire expertise in other disciplines and how the application of that additional expertise changes and enhances the individual and the organisation. By combining perspectives across the disciplinary boundaries and developing multidisciplinary expertise, these individuals demonstrate better methods of achieving business objectives, leading to faster, more imaginative solutions, more frequently, and with significantly less effort.
The literature review commenced with defining “multidisciplinary” before addressing communities that cluster around disciplines such as professional societies and Communities of Practice, Aspects of organisational, team and “learning by participation” (Ashton, 2004) literature were also considered. The study took an inductive approach using an ethnographical perspective to data collection and analysis to achieve its aim of determining the existence of multidisciplined individuals and how they acquire additional disciplines. The study used interviewing as its primary method yielding both qualitative and quantitative data from a cross sectional sample set inside a medium sized oil and gas consultancy offering technical and management advice.
The disciplines inside the case organisation were mapped to ascertain boundaries where the richest learning opportunities lie. Measuring learning across the disciplines confirmed the existence of multidisciplined individuals with evidence pointing towards the integrated multidisciplined team being the ideal learning environment. The study was able to use Threshold Concepts (Meyer and Land, 2003) to demonstrate the multidisciplinary individual development process. Moreover, having examined the social interaction learning processes the potential negative impacts of Communities of Practice in encouraging this type of multidiscipline approach was highlighted.
The study concluded that developing multidisciplined individuals was worthwhile but required organisations to be willing to provide the appropriate platform for such learning by more adventurous individuals who held the appropriate underlying abilities required by the additional discipline (s).
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