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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | International Design Business Management (IDBM) | 2014
Thesis number: 13749
Multidisciplinary education - Impact on working career, case IDBM
Author: Sihvola, Pekka
Title: Multidisciplinary education - Impact on working career, case IDBM
Year: 2014  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: International Design Business Management (IDBM)
Index terms: liiketalous; business economics; johtaminen; management; koulutus; training; kasvatus; educational systems; tyƶ; work; urakehitys; career development
Pages: 123
Full text:
» hse_ethesis_13749.pdf pdf  size:12 MB (11959245)
Key terms: IDBM; multidisciplinarity; interdisciplinarity; cross-functional team; T-Shaped competence
The complex and widely-spread problems that occur in the current business world need multiply skilled employees to solve them. Solving complicated problems also requires scholars and researchers to collaborate with colleagues outside of their own discipline. Hence, educational institutions are constantly striving to develop study programs that aim to combine, integrate, mix or join disciplines in a successful way. These programs are often called interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary programs. The case program, International Design Business Management (IDBM) is such a program. In the business world the term cross-functional is often used to describe similar kinds of methods of bringing people from distinct expertise to work together toward a common goal. Such programs, or cross-functional working, are generally considered to be beneficial. However, the empirical evidence of the advantages is somewhat limited. This research provides better understanding of the issue.

After the introduction chapter the case program is introduced, which is followed by a comprehensive literature research. In the literature review it is explored how disciplines have evolved from knowledge, the taxonomy of disciplinarities is introduced, "the best practices" in interdisciplinary education are explored, and the general advantages and challenges of interdisciplinarity are discussed. The chapter suggests that to solve complex problems of the current business world and to succeed in working life, a graduate should acquire a T-shaped competence from his or her studies. This implies deep knowledge and expertise in a single field or discipline (the vertical bar of the T) but also skills to integrate and combine other disciplines, as well as the understanding of how a single field interacts with other disciplines (the horizontal bar of the T). From all the literature findings the theoretical framework is constructed and it is tested in the empirical part of the research.

The empirical part was conducted by using methodology from exploratory research. The research paradigm of the thesis can be positioned between the two extremes; hence the data was analyzed by utilizing mixed (quantitative and qualitative) methods. The target group of the thesis was the IDBM minor business student graduates (n=182) who completed the program between 1995 and 2010. A questionnaire concerning their studies and working lives was conducted for the students. The results were compared quantitatively to the control group (all business student graduates 2000-2010) from two reference studies: SEFE's "Annual Questionnaire for Recent Graduates" and the "Career and Employment Survey" conducted by Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD). In addition four in-depth interviews were executed to IDBM graduates to explore more precisely what was behind the questionnaire findings.

The findings of the research show that the T-shaped competence and multidisciplinary skills can be considered beneficial in the business world. The multidisciplinary teams can not only bring significant extra monetary value to the business but the cross-functionality also improves the innovation work. The empirical findings show that at some level the IDBM program provides the needed skills, knowledge and competence to benefit from multidisciplinarity in the business world. An IDBM graduate has been able to apply the skills, learned during the university studies, into practice in working life more often than a regular business student graduate. Cross-functional team work in the business world can generate significant positive synergy, which often creates a better outcome. The IDBM program graduate often has the T-shaped competence to work as a successful project manager in such a cross-functional team. The program is also perceived to be very motivating, and the quality of the education was considered to be particularly high. Despite being a management program, the IDBM minor program does not educate relatively more managers than all the business programs. Even though the thesis indicates some sort of correlation between success and multidisciplinary education, the phenomenon should be further investigated to gain more reliable evidence about the correlation.
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