Thinking Beyond Disciplines: Why We Need it
November 23, 2011 4 Comments
What is Transdisciplinarity?
The Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute list transdisciplinarity as #7 in a list of skills critical for Workforce 2020. They define it as “understanding concepts across multiple disciplines.”
Why is it Important?
Why is it increasingly important to understand concepts across multiple disciplines?
- The problems we are trying to solve are increasingly complex.
- The view from within any one discipline can be too narrow to provide a clear solution to a complex problem
- Looking beyond the boundaries of knowledge that define a discipline can help us solve problems and understand complex information in a new way, using a broader view.
Transdisciplinarity connotes a research strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach.
Transdisciplinarity at Wikipedia.org
How Does Thinking More Broadly Help Us Lead Responsibly?
Broadening our thinking is particularly helpful in understanding concepts like “ethical leadership” which involves leading within multiple interrelated systems and meeting the needs of multiple constituents responsibly.
Sometimes looking at a problem from a single perspective may cause us to overlook important systems that are not completely within the scope of that one perspective.
Systems don’t stop where the boundaries of a discipline stop. That means that we need to broaden our view to avoid missing important pieces of the problem we’re trying to solve or the responsibility we’re trying to fulfill.
Looking at the research and information across disciplines helps us understand complex, connected systems and problems in a broader context. That broader level of thinking is the level that we’ll need to use to solve today’s complex, connected problems.
Transdisciplinarity and Ethics
Transdisciplinary ethics seeks to describe ethics in ways that transcend any particular discipline or profession.
“Transdisciplinary Studies are an area of research and education that addresses contemporary issues that cannot be solved by one or even a few points-of-view. It brings together academic experts, field practitioners, community members, research scientists, political leaders, and business owners among others to solve some of the pressing problems facing the world, from the local to the global.”
“The values embedded in the transdisciplinary vision are basic: sharing, respect, and resolve.” “It is a distinctly postmodern point-of-view, calling on women and men, on “transdisciplinary-minded persons of all countries” to join in bringing this vision into reality, into “everyday life.” It is a bold vision; some might even say an impossible one, filled with a zeal for justice, equality, inclusion, and true democratic decision-making.”
“As the prefix trans indicates, transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across different disciplines, and beyond all discipline.” – Basarab Nicolecsu, 2002 quoted by the Woodbury Institute of Transdiciplinary Studies
When solving difficult problems, consider looking across disciplines for clues. Stepping back far enough to look across disciplines may lead you to an elegant solution.
These articles discuss the broad values and value of interdisciplinary research, thinking and ethics.
Overview of Transdisciplinarity as Methodology McGregor Consulting Group
Unity of Knowledge From Transdisciplinary Research on Sustainability by G. Hirsch Hadorn
From Inter-Disciplinary Ethics to Trans-Disciplinary Ethics NCBI, Pubmed.gov
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