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Innovative Workplace:

The Benefits of Multidisciplinary Teams

By | Jennifer Hahn Masterson 

The concept of multidisciplinary teams comes from the health industry and denotes a group of health employees of various medical disciplines who all provide a specific service to the patient by coordinating them and working together to achieve a set of goals.

This concept easily translates into business as well in situations when companies need to cultivate an inclusive culture by forming teams of people with various skill, backgrounds and experiences. These multidisciplinary teams surpass the culture and enhance innovation in the workplace. These differences are the fuel that propels a company towards success as diversity becomes its main asset. The following points reveal the main benefits of having multidisciplinary teams in your company.

Characteristics of a multidisciplinary team

A multidisciplinary team functions on the basis of shared principles as the team members all have common denominators as well as individual skills. When they work together, they benefit from learning from each other as much as they have their unique set of skills to offer to the team.

Members of a multidisciplinary team have the need to become many things and deal with many things and their interests typically move and shift in stages. This might sometimes make them seem superficial or uninterested, but their specific strengths bring a competitive edge to their field of business. As their expertise spans multiple disciplines, they bring more freshness, insight and depth into their work.

In a multidisciplinary team, collaboration and co-creation are very important so that all the different skill sets can complement each other. To make all this possible, the working environment needs to be favourable and stimulating to keep productivity levels high. The past ideas of a typical office layout that included cubicles, bland colours and neon lights has been abandoned in the favour of a more inspiring design that involves an open layout, movable furniture, designated spots and nooks for various needs, large windows and tons of natural light and carefully chosen details, such as plants, paintings and wall colours.

Benefits of a multidisciplinary team for an organisation

Multidisciplinary teams are quite self-sufficient as, together, they possess a variety of talents and skills needed to tackle most problems. Great things happen when different minds unite and contrasting worlds come together. It may make communication challenging but collaboration is still possible provided the team members practise empathy and active listening when different points of view are shared. If this is achieved, communication flows unhindered, ideas get developed and problems solved.

In these types of teams, creativity bears great potential because every person is able to give a creative contribution backed with expert knowledge on the subject. When these are combined, knowledge becomes even more powerful and can inspire the entire team to see the bigger picture. As an innovative master’s degree in interaction design puts it, employees should have the skillset and mindset to challenge the status quo and be able to work across disciplinary, geographical and cultural boundaries to come up with solutions addressing future individual, societal and business needs by nurturing curiosity, experimentation and critical thinking, as well as technical, empathic and collaborative skills.

For instance, how can an automotive industry and origami have anything in common? Great collaborative minds see that origami principles come in handy when assembling and installing car airbags. These need to work quickly and efficiently and can’t get stuck in case of an accident which may cause them to fail to inflate. However, when engineering principles get combined with origami principles, car designers can come up with a way to have the 3D airbag fold into a flat 2D object which can be easily fitted into a tiny car airbag compartment. And it’s done in such a way that the airbag is inflated in a fraction of a second in case the car hits something.

Another benefit of working in a multidisciplinary team is having the opportunity to work with inspiring people that can teach you a lot. That in itself is a great motivator because the team members feel equally inspired and challenged by their peers so they continue to improve themselves. This also helps people to empathise with one another and value their uniqueness,

Importance of empathy for innovation

Empathy is essential for innovation because a team of people have to be able to understand completely the ones who will use that innovation. Any type of technology, as ingenious as the science behind it may be, that isn’t hard-wired in its functionalities and doesn’t add any value to users’ lives, can’t be thought of as innovative. Innovation doesn’t exist without empathy.

Innovation pushes and inspires people to find solutions that add value to lives and with a multidisciplinary team where there’s good communication, cooperation, learning and empathy, work isn’t only efficient and enjoyable, but it’s also a potent catalyst for innovation.

In modern times, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary is the way to go. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp how the previous generations ever managed to get things done as we understand that life isn’t just one thing and one side but rather a complex concept with many facets and layers. So, it’s safe to say that life, as people, are multidisciplinary by nature and just as life, business follows. All the problems we face in business are complex and require multidisciplinary solutions, and once the companies adapt and adopt this practice, success is sure to follow.

Author bio: Jennifer Hahn Masterson is a senior business strategist, holding an MA degree in business communication. She is always doing her best to help her clients find their place in the ever so competitive business arena. You can check her out on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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