The Advantages of a Multidisciplinary Team Approach for Problem-Solving
Some of the best problem-solving and innovation comes from efforts by groups of people from different departments and with diverse knowledge skill sets. When a team is assembled that has people from various backgrounds and disciplines, ideas flow more freely and fully. These unique teams are known as multidisciplinary teams, or MDTs. While I first encountered MDTs as a prosecutor, I knew that they were well-rooted in the medical field.
Multidisciplinary teams are now occurring throughout the corporate world. The diversity of knowledge that these teams bring together is gaining more traction and recognition in today’s professional world.
In the next two posts, I will explore the effectiveness of these teams and their ability to produce results that exceed expectations.
Then, the bad news. After going through the positives, I will share a seven post series on the disadvantages of multidisciplinary teams. Of course, when I say “disadvantages” I mean hurdles that management must navigate for their teams to be successful.
This introduction is necessary as it is an understanding that will support subsequent articles on the benefits of multidisciplinary people in leadership positions.
How Diversity in Experience and Expertise Leads to More Effective Solutions
The way that businesses and organizations approach problem-solving is changing. With the introduction of cross-disciplinary teams, more and more organizations are seeking to benefit from the added value that comes with hybrid skills. Cross-disciplinary, or multidisciplinary, teams bring together experts from different fields. This results in a wider range of knowledge and expertise that can be applied to a given problem or project.
A More Diverse Range of Knowledge and Expertise
By assembling a team comprised of members from diverse backgrounds and various fields of expertise, businesses leverage a wider range of knowledge and skills to address problems or projects more effectively. This diversity of knowledge and experience provides the opportunity to generate new and innovative solutions that may not have otherwise been identified, thereby improving the quality of the outcome.
The value of multidisciplinary teams cannot be understated. With experts from different disciplines combining forces, a greater range of knowledge and expertise is applied to problems. By pooling knowledge and experience, teams are more likely to come up with creative solutions that one individual may not think of on their own. Additionally, each and every discipline has its own comfort zone. Someone from another discipline is more likely to push the boundaries in a neighboring discipline as they are more likely to have their boundaries pushed by their neighbor.
Furthermore, the presence of people from different backgrounds and disciplines provides a unique opportunity to analyze issues from multiple perspectives, thus enriching the conversation. Working together, teams make better-informed decisions and deliver superior results than if any of the members worked independently.
A Broader Perspective
This melding together of multiple disciplines allows problems to be tackled by multiple people from multiple angles and perspectives. Often, what is clear to one person is not so clear to others. Progress is a very common result.
The ability of a multidisciplinary team to approach problems from multiple angles and perspectives often leads to more effective problem-solving. Combining the diverse skills and viewpoints of each team member gives the team an advantage when seeking new and innovative solutions. Moreover, being able to challenge assumptions and ideas allows the team to make a more thorough examination of issues.
By bringing experts from different fields together, multidisciplinary teams are able to provide a comprehensive view of a problem or project. This is due to the distinct perspective that each team member offers, providing an array of different ideas and insights to get a clear image of the challenge. Additionally, the lack of bias in the team’s outlook gives them the chance to be more creative and think of novel solutions that a single individual could not.
When I was a prosecutor in the 90s, we assembled a multidisciplinary team attack on Medicaid fraud and white-collar investigations. This collection of people, from various prosecutorial and financial fields, and government agencies, allowed us to create a very effective approach to investigating what, in the 1990s, was a newly formed area of prosecution. Prior to our multidisciplinary team beginning to process and coordinate our unified attack on the white-collar crime–stealing millions of taxpayers money–we were individual agencies moving in multiple directions. The broader perspective provided by the unity of our multidisciplinary team allowed us all to move in one direction much more effectively.