Home > blogging, Collaboration and learning > Why is it so difficult to be a multidiscipline knowledge worker?

Why is it so difficult to be a multidiscipline knowledge worker?

Back when I was in junior high my biology teacher asked us , what is a better or more efficient  approach for the body to be made of : single type of cells who might be able to function several generic tasks and mostly (can build blood vessels but cannot develop and arm or a heart) or specialized cells who have a specialty and function (build an arm, develop a liver etc.). The obvious or test answer was of course specialized cells. Me being the one who question everything asked “well how about cells who can modify their functions based on the needs of the body?” – The answer was very quick in the manner of “there is not such a thing as morphing in cells”. Well either my teacher didn’t know much biology at the time (which might explain why she was teaching us biology instead of doing some genes research), or she know about stem cells but that didn’t qualify as the right answer in our text books as required by the ministry of education.

I raise this childhood memory because I face the same narrow minded approach these days while I’m job hunting. We all know that stem cells are able to multiple to other stem cells or differentiate themselves to specialized cells, latest research found that some stem cells are Pluripotency in which generally mean “having more than one potential outcome”,  so a blood stem cell can naturally become any blood cell (red, white etc.) or it can become a nerve cell!!.

Me , I have the ability to learn very quick things and adopt to new environments , this is how I came out to be knowledgeable , skilled and with experience in 4 disciplines: IT Architecture, Business processes, Change and learning management and Project / Program management. I’m what HR recruiters usually refer to as a generalist (which in a way is like the first type of general cells)  , but in different from that definition I can actually act as a specialist in any one of those disciplines (which is like the 2nd type of cells). The thing is I’m actually a multi discipline specialist, I consider myself to be like a Stem Cell with the ability to continue learning and improving , in my job history I had my own company and was able to do business development , while also acting as a learning and development professional, later I became more of a project manager and managed to set up departments and run effective and efficient projects both in the enterprise technology infrastructure and also in organizational effectiveness and process redesign. I was able to be more of a specialist when my organizational environment required me to, but I kept the flexibility to move from one discipline to the other and work in different industries.

Don’t get me wrong I do appreciate and respect specialists as I like working with them and relay on their unique abilities and knowledge, and they should be referred as subject matter experts (SME), but in today’s global and changing business environment I think the ability to access knowledge and flexibility to move between industries and disciplines is much more impotent for success then the ability to hold a lot of specialist knowledge.  – Which is the reason I think I would be a perfect potential employee!!!

But the reality is that most of the recruiters hold some kind of a “check list” with scoring system, where the specialist gain more points for some jobs and generalist for others but the  multidiscipline specialists are causing a “system Error” and been rejected by those gatekeepers on the spot as they “do not compute”.

This is like a conscious decision to reject any potential stem cell injection to the sick body and keep looking for those perfect specialist cells, and wonder why we cannot cure the “cancer”. Multidiscipline knowledge employees usually have more leadership qualities and are able to connect between business units that face communication difficulties (because they are specialist in their field and have their own mindset), they are the ones who can turn around difficult situations and are not shy to do some hands on work to support the team.

It’s a shame that different HR Gate keepers and some business leads are more like my biology teacher, either they are not aware of the possibilities or that its easy for them just to go on their check list and score it instead of recognizing the add value and higher potential of the multi discipline candidates to perform much better in today’s environment and economic reality then the specialists.


The job hunt continue 🙂

  1. June 20, 2009 at 5:08 am

    I love your analogy. Knowing you I’m sure this is frustrating – trying to explain a clueless recruiter that you can do pretty much everything in the job description even if you haven’t done this your entire professional life.

    For me to make the switch from Windows to Linux in my career I had to wait to a period where they would pretty much hire everyone who was looking for a job, even though I had 7 years of programming experience (like programming on Linux is _that_ much different.)

    Keep writing! I expect a new post every time you post a new Facebook status 🙂

    And good luck with the job hunt, of course.

  2. Anna Bugaj
    July 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Adi – absolutely brilliant.. as always 🙂

  3. July 12, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Adi Hi.
    As you know, I’m myself multi disciplines specialist (Emergency Manager, Chemical Engineer, Organization Development Consulter, Behaviors Management Specialist, HR and Change and learning management, Business and Family Coacher, Education Management and learning developing specialist).
    I think that the organizations you’ve tried to be recruited are from the “first level” of thinking, and their solutions are like “more of the same”, while you’re a person of “second level” of thinking with the solutions of “let’s do it in other way”.
    For the “first level” organizations, you’re a threat and a chaos, and sure they have to reject you asp.
    You’ve to look for young and flexible organization (a “go-go” in the Adig’es terminology), and may be a start-up.
    Any way also yourself organization that can get benefit from your multi disciplines specialist knowledge.
    Think positive and believe in what you’re doing.

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