KNOWLEDGE-CREATES MORE INSIGHT
Interdisciplinary Research with Dr Karim Fathi
Background story: From passionate nerd to enthusiastic social scientist and organisational consultant
When I was at school, I never thought I would become a passionate nerd. With fire and flame, I plunged into socio-economic studies at the Hamburg University of Economics and Politics to fathom the big social science and humanities questions and thus also myself and my life. In the process, I not only loved going into the depths of the individual, sometimes very different subjects of study – I was even more enthusiastic about the numerous cross-connections between them and how this gave me a view of overarching connections. But it was not until 2005, when I started the Master’s programme “Peace and Conflict Studies” at the Philipps University of Marburg after my diploma, that I was to have a key experience that has influenced my academic and advisory career to this day.
At the time, I was taking a course in which we students were to be familiarised with the most important theories using the analysis of the Cyprus conflict as an example. In the process, the class was divided into groups and each group was assigned a different theory with which to conduct the conflict analysis. The groups were to present the analysis carried out from the point of view of their theory to the other groups. And defend their point of view against the representatives of the other theories. I was irritated by this task, as it quickly became clear to me that the different views did not contradict each other, but complemented each other.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to enter into a dialogue in which the different knowledge of the groups would be brought together instead of a debate in which one-sided representations would be defended against each other? To what extent can different professional perspectives be integrated theoretically and practically at all? What strategies arise in dealing with problems that cannot be fully known due to their multi-dimensionality and unpredictability? How can communication processes between the representatives of different disciplines be designed in such a way that they lead to a higher collective intelligence and result in a more adequate handling of complex phenomena (such as the Cyprus conflict)
Today, the questions raised above seem more relevant than ever. Whether in research groups, think tanks, product development or project management, knowledge and decision makers from different backgrounds come together in a variety of contexts and work on complex challenges together. To master these, a cross-disciplinary approach is needed. But this is a multiple challenge – both in theory building and in practical implementation and therefore still largely untapped to this day.
In my doctoral thesis (title: “Integrated Conflict Transformation in Dialogue”), which I completed summa cum laude in 2011, I outline basic features of a cross-disciplinary approach to the study and management of conflicts. In my current research, I am investigating how to improve communication in cross-disciplinary groups (such as research groups, think tanks, performance teams) in order to arrive at better problem solving and decision-making.
Since 2019, I have been accompanying the Foresight process as a member of the Future Circle of the BMBF. The focus is on a cross-disciplinary analysis of what possible developments in science and innovation can be expected in society and the economy and how the Federal Republic can prepare for them.