Building An Interdisciplinary Team That Can Handle Any Project

by Amy Bridgewater

Have you led an interdisciplinary team in your organization?

It’s a little more difficult than leading a team. It requires slightly different skills, a different perspective, and the way you do things.

If you get the opportunity to lead an interdisciplinary team, you’ll get to learn how to find a balance between keeping people accountable and carrying out their actions within the framework of managerial responsibility. 

But now you have another team that is not directly responsible. Now that’s the matrix of the environment. M-m-m-matrix? Leadership in a matrix environment is ten times more difficult, and these teams, the cross-departmental teams, represent matrix-style leadership opportunities. 

Here are the guidelines I used myself, and they really worked, and I am sharing them here:

Selecting Members and Identifying Teams

How would you approach others willing to collaborate in an effective interdisciplinary team? This is an important milestone in developing your career as an interdisciplinary associate and includes networking through conferences at meetings, individual proposals from agents, and testing new partners in more modest joint ventures before coming down the road. 

Similarly, with a coordinated effort, you may tend to hang out with people you know for sure, but it can be productive to face the issue of educated “fresh blood”. Great interdisciplinary partners are willing to benefit from receptive and diverse teachers, research methods, and communities across disciplines. 


Distributing Responsibilities 

Building bridges between disciplines may require strong leadership. It is important to contribute, develop a systematic framework and agree on a common point. A good interdisciplinary project is goal-oriented and demonstrates collaboration between methods and disciplines, but interdisciplinary projects may require development and modification progress. This requires some flexibility and the research team as well.

You need to be more reflective, discussing project evolution more often. The approach is more reflective than what is required for single-discipline projects. For large-scale interdisciplinary research projects and for interdisciplinary research programs or centers, designated coordination, distribution and knowledge-sharing responsibility can be a valuable addition to a research team.

 When assigning team responsibilities, project managers should:

  • Identify and appropriately assign tasks and resources
  • Be open to new methods.
  • Think about how your analysis can be structured to incorporate different types of results. 
  • Recognize that team responsibilities may go beyond standard/traditional areas in expertise.
  • Consider the roles and contributions of “users” or other stakeholders on the team.


Make Small Strides First 

No wonder project managers are eager to get started on projects at their earliest. However, when working with cross-functional teams, it can be counterproductive. It’s best to first allow interdisciplinary teams to interact in a “psychologically safe environment”. Team members only show themselves when they are comfortable. So teamwork, problem-solving games, etc. can go a long way in building relationships between team members. 


Overcome communication barriers

To promote successful teamwork in an interdisciplinary team, it is important to make sure your business program includes meetings and networking events. Especially at the beginning of the project and at certain stages of the project where a solution is needed. You can help by combining these activities with social activities, according to the nature of the joint development strategy project. Communication within the team may include:

  •  Regular video conferencing to address the geographic separation of team members located in another institution.
  •   Joint fieldwork
  • Social events.
  • Find ways to apply rewards and incentives to teams, not individuals.
  • Frequent face-to-face meetings/ networking events.


What makes interdisciplinary teamwork?

Ten characteristics have been identified that underlie effective interdisciplinary teamwork. These include positive qualities of leadership and management, communication strategy and structure, personal reward, training and development, appropriate resources and procedures, appropriate skill sets, and a favorable team atmosphere.



In short, that’s all. Sometimes this process is very easy and sometimes very messy. It is important for leaders in any organization to remember that it is the people within the organization that are their most valuable resource. These are the people who will become an interdisciplinary team, a team that comes up with amazing ideas to solve problems of an organization. 


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