tR AnSdISCIPLInARIt y
DEFiNiTioN: literacy in and ability to understand concepts
across multiple disciplines
Many of today's global problems are just too complex to be
solved by one specialized discipline (think global warming or
overpopulation). These multifaceted problems require trans-
disciplinary solutions. While throughout the 20th century,
ever-greater specialization was encouraged, the next cen-
tury will see transdisciplinary approaches take center stage.
We are already seeing this in the emergence of new areas of
study, such as nanotechnology, which blends molecular bi-
ology, biochemistry, protein chemistry, and other specialties.
This shift has major implications for the skill set that
knowledge workers will need to bring to organizations.
According to Howard Rheingold, a prominent forecaster and
author, "transdisciplinarity goes beyond bringing together
researchers from different disciplines to work in multidis-
ciplinary teams. It means educating researchers who can
speak languages of multiple disciplines--biologists who have
understanding of mathematics, mathematicians who under-
The ideal worker of the next decade is "T-shaped"--they
bring deep understanding of at least one field, but have the
capacity to converse in the language of a broader range of
disciplines. This requires a sense of curiosity and a willing-
ness to go on learning far beyond the years of formal edu-
cation. As extended lifespans promote multiple careers and
exposure to more industries and disciplines, it will be particu-
larly important for workers to develop this T-shaped quality.
deSIGn MIndSe t
DEFiNiTioN: ability to represent and develop tasks
and work processes for desired outcomes
The sensors, communication tools and processing power of
the computational world will bring with them new opportuni-
ties to take a design approach to our work. We will be able
to plan our environments so that they are conducive to the
outcomes that we are most interested in. Discoveries from
neuroscience are highlighting how profoundly our physical
environments shape cognition. As Fred Gage, a neurobio-
logist who studies and designs environments for neuro-
genesis (the creation of new neurons), argues, "change the
environment, change the brain, change the behavior."
One recent study found that ceiling height has a consistent
impact on the nature of participants' thinking.
in the study were asked to rate their current body state or
feeling. Those who were in the room with higher ceilings re-
sponded more favorably to words associated with freedom,
such as "unrestricted" or "open". Those in the lower-ceiling
room tended to describe themselves with words associated
with confinement. This impact on mood was directly trans-
ferred to mental processes; those in the high-ceiling group
were more effective at relational thinking, creating connec-
tions and the free recall of facts.
Workers of the future will need to become adept at rec-
ognizing the kind of thinking that different tasks require,
and making adjustments to their work environments that
enhance their ability to accomplish these tasks.
The California institute for
(Calit2) at the University
of California's San Diego
campus brings together
researchers from STEM fields
of science and engineering
with art, design, and myriad
other disciplines to tackle
large scale societal problems.
Ceiling height can encourage
open, expansive thinking.
rise of smart machines and systems
new media ecology
globally connected world