Opposites attract

Posted on February 10, 2012 by


This might not only be true for the choice of partner, but for many other areas in life. For example in business: in this post I would like to examine the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork and connect it to start-up businesses.

Interdisciplinary work, interdisciplinary studies, interdisciplinary learning,… Those terms and definitions are not new to us. Especially “interdisciplinary learning” became popular in the context of the imposition of “Jül” (Jahrgangsübergreifendes Lernen) in many German schools over the last years. This reform puts pupils of different ages together to enable individual learning effects and encourage the older pupils to help the younger ones and thereby improve their social skills. This concept of interdisciplinary teams is also becoming more and more popular and important for businesses. Why is that?

Why interdisciplinary teamwork is more successful

In his analysis “The social origins of good ideas” Ronald Burt of the Chicago University puts it that way:

 “People whose networks span structural holes have early access to diverse, often contradictory, information and interpretations which gives them a competitive advantage in delivering good ideas.”

He argues that it is a normal phenomenon that we specialize in certain methods, theories and topics and that it is impossible to keen up with developments in all specialties, which would not even be efficient.

Already in 1848, John Stuart Mill stated that it is hardly possible to overrate the value (…) of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. According to him such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, on of the “primary sources of progress”.

These positive effects of combining the knowledge of different fields can also be seen in the fields of bionics very concrete, where procedures in the nature are used as models for new (technical) innovations.

Must-haves for successful start-ups

In recent posts we already blogged about factors that can determine the success of a start-up, as for example in Larissas posts about start-up mentality or leadership or Emily’s and my post about how work in a start-up is like.

Summing up we can say that creativity and a good idea are one of the most important factors and indispensable for a successful start-up. It becomes clear that interdisciplinary work is especially important for newly founded businesses that need to find lots of creative solutions in order to solve all of the initial problems that arise.

Interdisciplinary research today

Nowadays there are several online platforms, where specialists of different fields can share knowledge in order to promote and facilitate interdisciplinary business research. One example is sibresearch.org (Society of Interdisciplinary Business Research) who also publish working papers contributed by their members and organize workshops, seminars and international conferences on that topic.

Also interdisciplinary studies are on the rise and enable graduates to work in basically every field later on, as claimed on the website oft the Franklin University, which is only one of many offering this kind of program.

Personal Experiences

In our Business Applications class we realized that feedback to our work from people we normally don’t talk to that much offered new perspectives and gave us something to think about that we probably wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.

In our blogging groups we experienced that everyone added value in bringing their different skills and competencies and therefore achieving a more comprehensive analysis of contents and problems than if everyone would have worked on their own.

In general we can say that according to the success that was proven in many researches the implementation of interdisciplinary teams gained more popularity and will become increasingly important in all areas, including the business world and especially including the start-up world.