The next wave of value creation will increasingly occur at the intersection of disciplines.
Such convergence is the foundation of many “new” industries – the child of a marriage of equals. A classic example is in the area of technology, where IT and telecommunications have joined forces to form the “ICT” domain. Another flourishing union is that between medicine and statistics, leveraging the vast amounts of data becoming available to health professionals working on disease diagnosis and treatment. An evolution is also forthcoming in the energy sector, as technology allows it to borrow more concepts and applications from operations research.
What could this mean to industries, organizations and individuals?
Much has been said about industry disruption from quantum leaps in productivity, technology and the like. While cross-pollination of disciplines could have similar impact, the extent of convergence in some industries may lead into their total redefinition. The music industry, for instance, will never be the same after loudly colliding with advanced consumer devices and new distribution models. Industries with ample access to resources and a diverse ecosystem are best positioned to discover new frontiers – with energy and pharmaceuticals among the key candidates.
Organizational inertia is perhaps the biggest roadblock to moving closer to the intersection of disciplines. Convergence demands information sharing among business units and functions, and close attention to transformational efforts in adjacent industries. Furthermore, it mandates agile processes and rapid prototyping capabilities – although the inner workings can be much more complicated. In airlines, for instance, which company is likely to gain the most from discipline convergence: Lufthansa or Easyjet?
Lastly, individuals can benefit immensely from the forces of confluence – being members of the society at large, but also being employed in a particular discipline. New opportunities arise from the additional degrees of freedom, and those with diversity in their personal genetic code, as well as in their social and professional groups, can both drive change and benefit from it. After all, convergence is a gradual process, and a critical mass of individuals can become the catalyst which will solidify the bond between those different disciplines.