The collaboration of people with different professions or training directions can - if used in a targeted manner - release creative energies. In order for interdisciplinary cooperation to be successful, however, some basic principles must be observed.
Today more than ever, projects require the collaboration of people with different knowledge and skills, who look at complex problems from an interdisciplinary perspective and break new ground. Interdisciplinary cooperation is particularly important for the development of new technical achievements (e.g. electric cars, health technologies, learning media). Ideally, interdisciplinary cooperation combines “the best of all disciplines”, but the reality is often different: A lack of knowledge about the skills of people from other disciplines as well as different “languages” and “cultures” lead to solutions being found that are based on perspective of all parties involved are acceptable, but not optimal. Interdisciplinary cooperation is a challenge that has high potential for conflict, but also brings with it many opportunities.
What does “real” interdisciplinary cooperation look like?
- Common goal
- Novel activities
In contrast to projects where people from different disciplines work on different areas, i.e. have different individual goals, people in interdisciplinary teams have goals that they can only achieve together. Interdisciplinarity therefore means mutual dependence of the disciplines. In order to achieve common goals, procedures, methods etc. have to be "negotiated" between the disciplines. If this succeeds without conflict, it can lead to existing methods being improved or even new types of activities emerging.
It is important that the team members are aware that goals are to be achieved together that the individual disciplines could not achieve. People from other disciplines have to be given skills, and “other opinions” have to be taken seriously. All those involved must be aware of their role in the team and in the organization, have respect for other disciplines, and see the common goal as their own goal. New processes require flexibility from the people involved: What is “state of the art” in one's own discipline may have to be reconsidered, supplemented or even discarded. Because the change in work practice is breaking new ground, regular reflection and (self) evaluation of the work process is necessary. Interdisciplinary cooperation requires a certain degree of professional autonomy (e.g. the team can choose the methods themselves), as well as time for discussion and spatial and structural opportunities for exchange. Of course, the history of cooperation also has an impact on the success of future projects: Positive and negative experiences from previous interdisciplinary projects have a strong influence on the quality of teamwork in future projects.
Framework conditions for interdisciplinary cooperation
- Personality: openness to new things, tolerance
- Clear understanding of roles, corporate goal
- Quality assurance, reflection
- Autonomy, time for collaboration
- Work through the history of the collaboration
Successful interdisciplinary cooperation cannot be taken for granted. It requires respect for “differently ticking” colleagues, a clear awareness of strengths and weaknesses, as well as open, respectful communication and reflection on the processes and results. The effort is worthwhile, however, if new innovative solutions for complex challenges can be found by combining the strengths of all those involved
References: Bronstein, L.R. (2003). A Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Social Work, 48 (3), 297-306.
Quote as:Kump, B. (2011). I can do something you can't: Synergies in interdisciplinary teams. knowledge.blitz (48). https://wissensdialoge.de/Interdisziplinaer