Why being an inter-disciplinarian is the ultimate career superpower.


Reality check, the career world is changing. Real reality check, the career and professional world has already changed. Your ability to not only survive, but to thrive, is based on the range and depth of the problems you can solve. Because that is the true purpose of demand, to solve a problem or a perceived need.

Yes, you no longer base your marketability on the job you currently have or want, or even what you want to be when you grow up. Rather, you base it on your ability to solve a problem or identify a need and, if you are amazing, to bring awareness AND solve that need.

I am a corporate platypus. Part accountant, part HR, part entrepreneur, part executive, part leadership coach, part writer, part business developer, part social leader, part nuts but fully able to bring a wide range and depth of perspectives to business strategies and challenges…..which I will boldly say is both extremely fulfilling and very rewarding. Most Entrepreneurs are interdiciplinarians as they have to address and understand many facets within their business. In the corporate world they are ubiquitous unicorns.

It has been hard work and countless hours of continued education and experience following a path of organic growth which has led to a very successful career. This was not for the faint of heart. In attending a lot of niche or industry specific workshops and conferences and reading blogs or business advice columns I can see that most of them address issues with a one-sided lens, at least more often than not.

In the age of constant innovation and change, is mastery of a single subject a luxury? is it a strength or a weakness? In the information age – where the sheer amount of knowledge doubles every six to nine months and up to a third of it becomes obsolete every year – the reality is that after five years without continued investment in personal skills improvement or development, you are left with a small fraction of marketable current knowledge.

Interdiciplinarians are golden within leadership and within any organization, at any level. Advanced organizations understand that fomenting an environment of continued learning will ensure that their level of innovation as a whole allows them to build an infrastructure of leadership throughout.

Organizations that half get it will provide a learning stipend or tuition reimbursement upon successful completion of training that is directly linked to the employee’s position. After all, how can cooking lessons possibly help Tom become a better programmer? Truth is, they do. Not only does learning anything whatsoever new produce additional neuron connections within the brain that help all learning, it provides an intellectual stress release and a fulfillment of expression of different dimensions within an individual.

Organizations that think they cannot afford to help their employees continue to progress in learning mode for budgetary reasons would be just as bizarre as cutting back on electricity or internet access to save money. You will begin to tread water and lose competitive advantage before you know it.

Simply put, people’s ability to learn new things comes in handy when introducing new technology, new processes, new strategies or for that matter, any change. Learning is learning is learning. The same neuron brain activity at a chemical level ignites whether you are learning calculus or a new routine to your step class.

As for leadership, when you spot that perpetual student always wanting to learn make sure you cultivate that learning spirit and encourage creative, visionary ways to apply cross discipline models and solutions to everyday and emerging challenges.


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