Multidisciplinary Research – A Challenge and An Opportunity?

Today I will facilitate a research round table at Webster University Geneva. Over the past couple of years a team of researchers has been developing coming from different fields (management, economics, sociology, psychology, etc.) and disciplines (HRM, marketing, accounting, finance, etc.). Bringing together such a diverse group is a challenge. However, with the continued call for science to engage in research and theory building at the intersection of disciplines and fields this challenge becomes an interesting opportunity (albeit still challenging).

Zahra and Newey provide an interesting perspective on the impact of multidisciplinary research (see picture).


Multidisciplinary research has impact on:

  1. Theory Development (impact one or more pre-existing theories);
  2. Field Development (think about aggregated areas of study: e.g divisions of the Academy of Management: organization theory, HRM, strategy, cognition, entrepreneurship, technology, etc.);
  3. Discipline Development (for example: Development of the organisation studies discipline, which includes organisational behaviour, HRM, marketing, accounting, and strategy among others.);
  4. Researcher Development (Theories, fields and disciplines realize their potential through the efforts of capable researchers); and
  5. Stakeholder Development (Development of theories, fields and disciplines coevolves with key external constituents).

Furthermore, according to Zahra and Newey there are three modes of multidisciplinary research moving from commonly used to quite rare:

  • Mode 1: Borrowing and Replicating (importing theory from other fields for enrichment and extension);
  • Mode 2: Borrowing and Extending (intersection one field/discipline and another – example: using the Resource-Based View o explain entrepreneurial outcomes); and
  • Mode 3: Transforming the Core (using intersection as a new domain to develop new theory – example: social entrepreneurship = Corporate social responsibility + entrepreneurship).

What are your experiences with multidisciplinary research?

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