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Breaking the Shackles of Time
41 minutes | Oct 8, 2020
Peter Drucker’s Unique Approach to Management
In this episode, Bernard Jaworski, the Drucker Chair in Management and the Liberal Arts at CGU, visits the podcast to discuss the discipline of management as well as some of the key ideas of Peter Drucker. We discuss what makes the Drucker School of Management unique in its approach to business education and the role of business in social change, amongst other topics. Episode Transctipt: Marcus Weakley: Welcome to Episode Six of Breaking the Shackles of Time. I’m Marcus Weakley, the host of the podcast. I’m joined today by Bernie Jaworski, the Drucker Chair in Management and the Liberal Arts at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. This position, this chair is named in honor of Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management. It is awarded to an internationally recognized scholar who carries on the Drucker legacy of tempering sound business practices with a commitment to social responsibility. Marcus Weakley: Jaworski comes to the Drucker School from the Switzerland-based IMD. Prior to that, he spent a decade as a senior partner of the Monitor Group, a global management consulting firm. During his Monitor career, he co-founded and co-lead two of the global practice areas, the e-commerce practice and the executive education unit. In addition, he served as a tenured full professor of marketing at the University of Southern California, faculty at the University of Arizona and a visiting professor at Harvard Business. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m very happy that you’ve agreed to jump into the podcast and talk about management with us here today. Bernie Jaworski: Very excited to be here, Marcus. Thank you very much for the invite. I’m always happy to talk about the work of Peter Drucker, right? I’ve consumed the Kool-Aid, if you will. So, I’m very happy to be the vessel that explain some of his basic ideas to a broader audience. So, thank you for my inviting me. Marcus Weakley: Nice. Great. Well, let’s start even one step further back and then we’ll hone in on Peter Drucker, but what I’m interested in is for folks who don’t really have an idea about why you would go to school to study management, instead of just maybe just running a business type of thing, what exactly does it mean to study management? What are some of the major methods and approaches of the field? Why does one get an MBA? Bernie Jaworski: Yeah, that’s a great question. As I thought about that question, there’s two ways to answer. One is around a philosophy. The second is around tools and methods. So, from a philosophy perspective, I tend to think of management as having three different orientations, three different schools of thought, much like you’d find a school of thought in psychology or sociology. So, the schools of thought that I think exists near management are one is taking a shareholder-only perspective that it’s all about profit. It’s all about economics. It’s all about supply and demand, let free markets operate. That’s coming from what’s called the Chicago School of Economics, and Milton Friedman being probably the most important person in that space. Bernie Jaworski: The second school of thought is purpose-, values-led companies. You see a lot of this in the last 20 years with people, particularly young folks in their 20s, want to join a company that has a purpose that has values as orientation. They’re buying into the overall mission and purpose of that company. Now, they obviously want to make money. They want to make good economic returns, but in addition, they think their mission is broader than that. Bernie Jaworski: And then this third school of thought, which is the Drucker school of thought is that all the reason we’re doing all of this management is not simply to allow your organization to function well and produce economic returns. You want to have an impact on society in general. That your belief is that in order for society to function, all the organizations need to function well, for profit, nonprofit, and government. In that sense, Drucker’s view is the broadest view. It’s really fundamentally saying, since organizations are largely comprising society. Contrast to 20 years ago, we can have a bunch of agrarian farm-led communities. Here, we’re basically a society of organization. So, it’s the organization’s responsibility to help society function. It’s a very, very different perspective, very, very broad. Bernie Jaworski: Now, sitting on top of that, though, is that there’s another thing that when you said, “Getting management education, why would you do that?” Being more narrow now, I tend to think of it as what we oftentimes termed as hard skills and soft skills. The hard skills are things that you’d expect to be there, accounting, finance, supply chain, operations. These are things where they’re known frameworks. There’s standard procedures to do it. There’s ways to solve the problems that are well known. You follow standard accounting procedures, and so forth. You need to know those, those skill sets are baseline foundation. Bernie Jaworski: But in addition, the Drucker school, like many other schools, teaches soft skills. How do you have a productive conversation? How do you lead a team? How do you lead and manage yourself? How do you manage time? How do you coordinate the activities of others? So, these are the combination of things that any business school would do, soft skills and hard skills, but under the context of these alternative philosophies. Bernie Jaworski: So, you can imagine the Drucker school puts a lot of emphasis around function of society. It doesn’t mean we don’t do hard skills and soft skills. We do, but there’s an orientation philosophy you have to buy into. I’d be shocked that the Chicago School of Economics or Business School teaches stuff that we teach around functioning society. Now, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a course here and there, but it’s not the umbrella under which they guide curriculum development. Marcus Weakley: Yeah. So, is the Chicago School still known for what it became so famous for in the ’70s? Bernie Jaworski: I would say this, there is the Chicago Business School, Booth School and then there’s Chicago Economics Department. I’d say the Chicago Economics Department is the same as the Friedman’s view, doesn’t mean they have a couple different outliers here and there. But on the Business School side, they’re a much broader perspective, but still very economics oriented, very driving around shareholder value. Marcus Weakley: Got you. So, I think that’s a really helpful way to frame it for folks that there is a philosophical even paradigmatic view that there are different ways to approach the system that goes into running a business and engaging with broader society, the economic systems as well as other social systems. I think it’s really helpful to frame Drucker… I mean, I didn’t know that that he wanted to take a step back to look at maybe organization as a whole, right? Which is going to include things like government and nonprofits and how do all of those interact to form and shape society. Bernie Jaworski: Well, it’s funny to say that, because most people don’t understand that’s where Drucker’s coming from. Most people think of Drucker as the father of modern management. That’s what he’s known as. Marcus Weakley: That’s the phrase. Bernie Jaworski: He backed into that. It wasn’t his foreground issue, study management, solve management problems. That was not his issue. His issue was coming out of post-war Germany and watching Hitler rise in Germany and escaping Germany going to London. His view was, “Man, society has to function well. That’s what has to happen. How do we get that to happen? Well, we have large organizations. Okay, we have large organizations. Man, these guys really need to function well, and help not only contribute to society, but also contribute to the welfare of individuals inside of it. So, therefore, they need management. Here’s what management looks like.” Bernie Jaworski: So, in other words, in a sense, I want to say he backed into the study of management, but that was not the foreground issue. The foreground issue is, “How does society function well?” All along the way, I guess, we have to learn management and understand the practice of management. Most people don’t get that. Most people think of him as he was a management guy. Half his books were actually in functioning society and half his books around management. Marcus Weakley: Got you. Did he see something special in the role of the business manager and being able to- Bernie Jaworski: He did. Marcus Weakley: … shape society and play a part in this broader well-functioning? Bernie Jaworski: He did, he really did. That’s just mind blowing. I can refer you actually to one of his most important books, it was called the Practice of Management 1954. He took people through the journey of what it means to be a manager. It’s the very first book that looked at the whole field of management and integrated into one common framework. What he did is he built up. The book goes from, “What is the purpose of the business? What are they trying to achieve?” But then he went into, “What does it mean to structure activities and organize the organization to be productive and efficient?” Then he took it into the level of individual leaders and what they need to do. Then he took it into areas of management and management and the worker interface between them. Bernie Jaworski: He ended the book with the responsibilities of management. The responsibilities of management were things we’re talking about right now, which is they have a moral and ethical responsibility to allow people to develop and have social status within the organization. They got to get back to the communities they live in, because fundamentally, that is the community, the organizations are the community. The aggregated set of organizations are the community. Man, organizations have to step up. Bernie Jaworski: Now, importantly, he wasn’t saying this to be, “Geez, I want to be really nice guy to everybody.” He said, “At the end of the day, the first responsibility management’s economic performance.” So, you got to hit your performance targets. But if you do that, then everything else takes care of itself. Let me add one other point to that, not make it too fine a point. What he said was, “Fundamentally, if you deeply, deeply understand customers and what they fundamentally care about in profound ways and profound liberal art ways to understand everything they care about looking for their wants, their desires, their beliefs, you’re going to have products that are going to be in high demand. Bernie Jaworski: As a result of having products that are high in demand, you can then charge premium prices. As a result of premium prices, you get this enormous economic performance. As a result of economic performance, you can take care of the workers. You can take care of the communities you live in.” So, at the end of the day, very pragmatic, but the starting point was deeply, deeply focused on customers. If you do that, then this whole perpetual motion machine around higher economic performance, higher returns, take care of the workers, develop workers, develop society, help the community. So, the perpetual motion machine kicks off with a customer-centered view, a deep, deep understanding of what customers are looking for. Marcus Weakley: Got you. Cool, very cool idea. Could we touch on the last part in that chain a little bit? I would love to have a better sense and to provide a better sense for the listeners of what it looks like to give back through a Drucker view? You mentioned taking care of the employees and giving back to the community. So, the first part seems relatively straightforward. You pay good wages, you take care of your employees. Otherwise, here in the United States, obviously, like providing good health care and those other sorts of elements that are important. But what does it look like for a business through the Drucker philosophy to connect with and to give back to the community? Bernie Jaworski: Yeah, so this is a really important point. So, one of the things that’s happened, Marcus, over the last 10 to 15 years has been something called corporate social responsibility. This is going to sound terrible, but I hope it doesn’t. Generally speaking, people put together a corporate responsibility department. They have somebody in charge of corporate responsibility. That includes everything from philanthropy to community service to getting employees to contribute, a way in around their willingness to contribute to various causes, that the organization is sponsoring. All that is great. You can’t disagree with that. That’s all really good outcomes. Bernie Jaworski: But Drucker’s view is everything that organization does touches society, everything. So, sometimes you need to departmentalize thing and put in department, it feels like that. I’m over here in accounting. I’m over here in finance. I’m over here in supply chain. Thank God I don’t have to worry about that stuff. I can just keep my head down and focus on what I need to do. But from Drucker’s perspective, no, no, no, everybody has to contribute. Everybody touches society. Everybody does something. So, it’s a broader perspective than we have a foundation that gives money back to the homeless or we do a number of community things related to building houses and things like that. But that’s not it. It’s everything we do. Bernie Jaworski: So, just to go on a complete tangent for a second, Edward Jones is one of the most Drucker like organizations in the world. They have their values as being one of the key things is impacting the communities they live in. It’s a value of Jones. Drucker consulted with Jones for 20 or 30 years, became very intimately tied into the organization. These guys believe very, very deeply in their souls that everybody in the organization is out in the community impact the community in some way, shape, or form. Each individual is in the community. Bernie Jaworski: So, sure, Edward Jones has a bunch of stuff they do as an organization, but the idea that everybody takes that as a responsibility is quite profound. I can speak with some authority around this topic, because every year, we run a program for Edward Jones Drucker School. They invite 30 or 40 of their high performing people, and they come in for a three-day program at the Drucker School. When we raise this issue, the other fact when I raised the issue, that you can just tell these people are deeply committed to this. This is their fabric. They buy into this concept. It’s not something you do on the side. It’s enmeshed in everything that they do. That’s a profound restatement of you’re just having a department that does that type of orientation. Marcus Weakley: Yeah, that’s amazing. Because the department, as you rightly said, that’s a really great step, but it could also at times fall into window dressing or it seems like, right? There’s a tendency with institutionalizing these sorts of things that you just do the minimum for perception’s sake even at times. It’s very different to do it from the inside out. Cool. So, I would like to lead that in when you said you do a three-day training with the top 30 or 40 folks from Edward Jones. I’m interested when Drucker went to start a school to translate a lot of his philosophy and his ideas into management education, what were some of the founding elements that you think that the school at CGU really embodies and continues from when Drucker founded it that helps shape students in this unique trajectory and philosophy? Bernie Jaworski: Marcus, that’s a dangerous question to ask if you want to listen to the next six hours of me what that looks like, I’d say, as a professor, that’s like- Marcus Weakley: How about 20 minutes? Bernie Jaworski: Yeah. Okay. 20 minutes. Marcus Weakley: At most. Bernie Jaworski: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s exactly right question. So, let me mention three or four things related to Drucker’s philosophy. The very first thing is its humanistic. Meaning it’s very much centered on the employee. There’s a great phrase of Drucker around helping the common person, a common man right back in the ’60s, but helping the common person do uncommon things. When an organization is properly structured, you unleash talent inside of that organization directed towards its purpose. So, this is related to the idea that not only did he want people to live in a society where they have social status and function, very, very important, you can argue there’s a lot of things going on, which like the United States economy, where that’s not happening, right? So, first thing is social status. Bernie Jaworski: Second thing is he had a lot of faith in people that people could… He had this term called contribution. So, Drucker introduced this phrase ‘management by objectives’. That was Drucker’s phrase. When people hear that phrase, they think it sounds like management sets the objectives and then they manage them. That’s not what he said. Bernie Jaworski: What he said was, “The best form of unleashing talent is to have the employee figure out the purpose of the organization, the purpose of their division, the purpose of their unit, the purpose of their manager’s role, understand all of that, and then say, ‘What are my strengths? What can I contribute?’ And then I have a conversation with the manager saying, ‘Given the purpose, given the organization, given the unit, given what you need to achieve, I think I can do three things this year.'” Bernie Jaworski: So, it’s not job description based. It’s based on this individual who’s thinking deeply about what the organization needs and taking my strengths and applying them against. That’s step one. Then they have a conversation that goes back and forth to myself and my manager eventually agree. It’s not those three objectives. It’s objective one, two, and four. Three, we’ll hold off on next year. We’ll do one, two and four. Then he said, “The second thing related to that is self-control.” The best thing you can do is allow workers who are very close to the problem to take ownership for the work and to actually direct the work. Bernie Jaworski: So, don’t put a lot of shackles on that person, give them freedom within a framework to be able to deliver against those objectives. So, humanistic in the sense that… By the way, what’s also happening on the way there is that person’s learning, because they’re not giving the responsibility to their manager. They’re learning and adjusting, sensing and responding. So, they’re developing themselves along the way. So, point number one is humanistic. Bernie Jaworski: Point number two is purpose and mission-led that is that for Drucker, you had to identify the purpose. You had to identify the vision of where the organization was going in order to really direct the overall organization towards that particular business purpose. Actually, in this context too, the other part was you also need to specify the end game. So, for Drucker, the vision. “What does it look like when we’re done?” was very, very important, specifying what’s going on. But all of this is sort of giving a direction, a North Star. Another element of Drucker’s work… I’ll mention two others and then we’ll go from there. … is he always believed in values-led organization. Bernie Jaworski: He has this phrase that as people need vitamins, organizations need values. I was just reading an article this morning around the McDonald’s CEO who was dismissed this past year after having relationships with employees. What the new CEO said was, “That’s not consistent with our values. Forget whether it’s right or wrong. It’s not consistent with the values of McDonald’s to do that.” So, values-led organizations allows people to say, “I fit those values, I fit that mission purpose, I understand where we’re going. I opt in to be part of that organization.” So that’s another component part of how he thinks about this. Bernie Jaworski: The last thing that’s very, very important for Drucker is he uses the phrase ‘continuity and change’ all the time, because organizations compete over multiple time periods. Organizations disappear, Blockbuster. So, the problem for organizations is they have to manage it to time periods. They have to optimize and run the machine they’re currently running as well as they possibly can. And then they have to allocate 20% of the time to the future and figure out, “What’s the future look like?” and then migrate the company to the future. Bernie Jaworski: Netflix has undergone about seven of these transformations in the last 20 years, all the way from way back to when they first migrated the DVDs, DVDs was 0.05% of the world economy in terms of the ways people watch video, but Reed Hastings at the time said, “The future is DVD.” The organization looked at him and said, “That’s the dumbest thing ever heard.” But they had to move away from DVD then to move to stream, and they had to move away from streaming to content. It’s very hard for organizations to make this leap, but Drucker called it, “continuity and change”. You’ve got to manage continuity and keep focused on running the machine we currently have that’s making the money. Bernie Jaworski: But at the same time, environments change, and we need to adjust our business to fit that new environment. Somebody’s got to do that. That takes a lot of time and effort. That’s something you do on weekends. So, you got to manage this issue, I call it managing through time periods. I think he said exactly the same thing in 1954, but it morphed into managing continuity and change. So, those are a little bit of a flavor of the work. Obviously, he wrote 36 books. I know what you want me to do, podcast to review all 36 of them, but that just gives you some flavor of the orientation that he had from individual worker up to mission-driven, purpose-driven. Marcus Weakley: Got you. I can see how those could really guide and shape, especially the soft skills that you were talking about before, that are a key element of an education in management. You probably have a lot of options and which ones to teach which way and what’s driving those, right? So, it sounds like all three of those, the humanistic approach, the value approach, and the last one you were talking about, about continuity and change, I think all of those really probably inform, the soft skills- Bernie Jaworski: [inaudible 00:21:15]. Marcus Weakley: … the school teachers. Yeah. Great. Well, if you wouldn’t mind maybe shifting gears a bit, one of your areas of expertise is in e-commerce. You mentioned Netflix, which is a great example, because I definitely remember subscribing and getting… I mean, it’s going to age me a bit, but getting DVDs delivered to my home. So, that’s what like Netflix was for a long time for me. And then now it’s something so dramatically different. I think it’s a good example, but it also speaks to in a certain way, what e-commerce began as and now, the dominating force that it is. I would love to hear a bit about maybe an intersection or how you see Drucker’s philosophy informing this new now massive arena of eCommerce and what some of the connections are there? Bernie Jaworski: Well, I’ll answer the question at two levels. At the first level, so one of the things I do when I teach Drucker’s philosophy, all MBA students have to take me whether they want to learn or not about Drucker’s philosophy, and I would say, “What I do is I teach his philosophy.” And then I’ve written a number of contemporary cases of firms that are competing right now. From a company like Becton Dickinson to a company like ResMed, do some sleep apnea, to a company like SMA, which is a management consulting company that just moved all their business onto a digital platform. They’ve made all their consultants available to the… Bernie Jaworski: So, the client can log into the site and mix and match the consultants they want for the project needs they have, incredible transparency, incredible transparency. That’s never happened before. So, what I do is I take Drucker’s theories, and I apply them to contemporary issues that are unfolding right now. In this case, I just finished about a week ago. So, I’ll invite the CEO in to talk to the class, Zoom, I should say, Zoom into the class at the end of August. Bernie Jaworski: Point number one, Drucker’s purpose philosophy applies to today’s organizations, it just does. It fits perfectly. In fact, in some ways, it fits as well if not better than he was writing back in the 1950s. Because this notion of being purpose-led, this notion of being driven by values, the notion that we have to make society function well and contribute better, if you think about what’s going on today’s markets, those are all themes that are just so profound and so much in front of us. So, point number one. Bernie Jaworski: Point number two is the interesting thing about the eCommerce world it’s feels to me and this is just my armchair observation is that it’s bifurcated into two different groups. The giants that are out there, the Facebooks, the Googles, the Amazons of the world, Microsoft, the so-called FANGs. That group operates a particular way, but the issue there, which will be concerning to Drucker is monopolistic competition. Are there certain things that are happening out there that it’s actually not society’s benefit to have them do certain activities? Bernie Jaworski: Now, I would argue, I think Drucker would look at some of these things and say, “Management needs to step in a little bit more aggressively in some situations. We can talk about specific situations, but Facebook issues right now that we’re all aware of, I think Docker look at that with some sense of concern around what they’re doing. So, I think there is a legitimate issue there. That’s point number one. Bernie Jaworski: Point number two is related to perhaps this monopolistic competition is then I see there’s everybody else. Everybody else would benefit from Drucker’s thinking. In particular, I think the most interesting issues, going back to managing two time periods, the reason firms disappear is because they do very well in one time period. But even though they see the second time period coming and what the future looks like, so they see the migration of DVD over to streaming, they can’t get out of their way. So, they’re stuck in that world. They just can’t get out of the way. Marcus Weakley: Yeah, we’re seeing that interesting stories, too. Bernie Jaworski: Yeah. Well, Blockbuster CEO said on one earnings call about 10 years ago, somebody just asked about Netflix. This is again 10 years ago, maybe 15. I can’t remember exactly when. The Blockbuster said, “Listen, guys, Netflix is 0.03% of the market, I could care less about Netflix. They’re not even a player.” He’s on the record of saying this. Okay, well, I guess he didn’t see the future, but equally important is ignoring it. I think it’s great for the small businessperson or the medium businessperson sized company would be asking themselves this question, “Am I allocating enough time to future? How do I get there?” Bernie Jaworski: Now, the other thing interesting enough of what Drucker said was it’s the next level down in management, that below the office of the CEO that should be doing it and worrying about it and thinking about it really deeply, because they’re the ones that are often going to be running that enterprise in five to seven years. So, he had some very practical suggestions on how to make that happen. Marcus Weakley: That’s cool. I wouldn’t have initially thought that, but that makes sense too. That’s looking to the future as well. Yeah. Actually, I don’t really know. I’m just assuming that things seem to be moving even more quickly now. So, that ideas like this specific idea of looking to the future, especially with e-commerce and the rapid turnover of technology, that this is probably even more important to any business working in that area. Bernie Jaworski: Yeah, so let me say a few words about that. Drucker called that the theory of the business. For Drucker, what he meant was if the macro economic conditions change, the macro environment changes, there are fundamental things that are shifting in customer behavior or in technology that you have to revisit the purpose of mission. Therefore, you have to revisit where you’re going. So, the theory of the business changes, you’ve got to do things differently, right? So that’s first thing he said, which is absolutely central to what we’re talking about. Environmental speed is more important, where things are changing more rapidly, you got to revisit that theory of the business much more frequently. That’s the first observation. Bernie Jaworski: The second observation, which is a really mind blowing one, that people never really saw from the work of Drucker. But if you read his work very carefully, you can see this is Drucker believes that the actions of organizations shaped the evolution of macroeconomic forces. So, in other words, it wasn’t as simple as, “Let me see where the environment’s going, the economic environment’s going, where my industry is going. I’m going to see where it’s all going. Oh, I’m passive recipient to that. I have to adjust my business strategy to fit. The industry is moving to streaming. Oh, geez, I guess I have to do that.” Instead, what Drucker said was great managers practice creative destruction. They actually see, “Here’s what the future looks like.” They try to shift the economic forces in a way that actually benefit them. Bernie Jaworski: So, the easiest way to describe this would be something like regulatory policy. If I can shift regulatory policy here in this way, then all of a sudden, I have more opportunity than I had before. So, Drucker did not see the broad economic or industry level conditions as setting constraints on the organization. Great managers shape the economic and industry conditions in which they operate, which is a mind-blowing idea, but it’s exactly right. It’s very Schumpeterian in terms of practicing creative destruction. You’re trying to not only get to the future, you’re trying to manage the context in which you operate inside it. So, that means managing potentially and shaping customer behavior, shaping and managing customer behavior. Bernie Jaworski: There’s a good illustration. If you said binge watching 20 years ago, people had no idea what the hell you’re talking about. No, they didn’t even want to imagine what that look like, but the idea now that you’ve binge watched 10 episodes of Netflix back to back, when it comes down, five, four, three, two, one. Yeah, why not? What the hell. It’s changed how we operate our customer behavior, but any action of firm takes can change competitive forces, can change technology evolution. Bernie Jaworski: You can buy new technology and shut it down. You can buy new technology and accelerate it. These are all economic forces that impinge upon the business, but great managers see them and ‘manage’ them. They influence them, they shape them. That’s one of the Drucker’s most profound ideas, even though it’s lost in the context of 4,000 other grandiose ideas. Marcus Weakley: I think that binge watching example is a great one. I mean, I’ve thought about it at times, where we probably wouldn’t even agree to do that same behavior in other contexts, right? We want to watch three movies back to back or something along those lines, right? Socially, we don’t really accept in the same way, let’s say, playing video games or something for eight hours. But the context has been shifted for customer behavior specifically for streaming TV shows or hour length about shows. It seems like a good example of that. In a more micro sense, it sounded like he was also talking about the more macro sense. Marcus Weakley: So, let’s say, you use streaming as an example in general, too. So, I mean, that’s something that Netflix from a Drucker philosophy, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, he would more or less say that Netflix helped create that shift in social behavior by seeing the technology was there and then reshaping their business around it and making a strong push for it, type thing? Bernie Jaworski: That’s exactly right. By the way, great firms, when they do that, other people in the industry line up behind them. They say, “I guess that’s where it’s going, we should probably do it too.” But if you’re the lead guy and the other people are following you, you have time in your hands, because you figured things out a bit ahead of everybody, right? So, it’s perfectly fine for anybody else to follow. Bernie Jaworski: You’d say, “Oh, no, I wish nobody followed me into streaming.” No, no, no, you want Amazon, you want everybody else to follow you, because that then becomes the industry’s standard of which you now by virtue of being three or six or a year ahead of everybody, you have the ability then to understand what users are doing and then shape user behavior once again, because you’re ahead of everybody else. So, you want people to follow in your way. Yeah, yeah. So, that’s exactly right. Marcus Weakley: Makes perfect sense. I think that Netflix is a great example of that. No one’s doing it better than them still. So, the one other area of expertise that you have is in leadership, right? Engaging with what we’ve been talking about, with Drucker’s philosophy now and how you feel that it applies maybe even better now to when he initially was writing about it, how does that transfer into leadership? What are some of the most important characteristics do you think of a 21st century or contemporary business leader? Bernie Jaworski: So, Drucker and his phrase, “The only source of lasting competitive advantage is the people that you have.” So, people tend to think of competitive advantages in different ways. You position your firm in the marketplace to gain some sort of economic performance, but the reality is that if it all starts with people, then figuring out who to hire, how to bring them in. Drucker was a massive proponent of developing people. He felt organizations either develop people or they stunted them. So, organizations need to develop people. He felt also people were the asset the firms have that depreciate the quickest and the ones that were least invested in. Bernie Jaworski: So, management development, treating people right, giving them learning opportunities, advancement opportunities are all central to [inaudible 00:33:42]. Yeah, so I think on leadership side, if I’m going to give advice for leaders today, one is going to be that same notion of people oriented is absolutely critical to making sure that you function well as an organization. But that’s correlated with the second point, which is that we know with diversity, inclusion and all things that are happening today, the ability to have different views in our organization, we know there’s been a history of working management on having divergent views, different views of playing devil’s advocate, all those are really critical to getting a better decision. Bernie Jaworski: So, Drucker would be a big advocate for diversity, inclusiveness, and getting different voices into looking at problems. People have different orientations, different backgrounds, all that will be incredibly central. I think that’s a center of gravity issue for leaders today. Bernie Jaworski: I think third is technology. I mean, for better or for worse, you have to be on top of contemporary technology and what’s unfolding and the ability to understand where everyone’s going. Obviously, the one big trend that’s happening right now is around mobility. Everybody’s concerned about mobility. What does it mean to have everything running off your mobile phone? What does that look like? So, the ability to embrace technology, not fear, but embrace it and try and stay as best you can either on top that are very fast follower I think is really important. But some of the fundamentals around things that we teach, role modeling behavior, the ability to be agile, the ability to be customer-focused as the orientation to the business, a lot of these things are ones that are building strong teams. A lot of these are timeless. Bernie Jaworski: So, I think in addition to the timeless ones, you probably have two or three things that reflect the speed of change that’s unfolding. This notion of continuity and changes is Sears and Roebuck back in the ’50s and ’60s, you couldn’t go slow around continuity and change. In the world of graphics chips, the overall product life cycles last time was in that industry. Product life cycles would be three months. By the time you launch it, by the time that’s shipped, game’s over, so to speak. So, three months, right? So, it’s just mind boggling, the speed at which certain things operates. I do think speed’s there. I think technology’s there, but I think people-centeredness and diversity is actually very, very important to be front and center to be thinking about today. Marcus Weakley: Nice, has this pandemic changed… I mean, it’s starting to feel like it’s quickened to move towards a shift in using technology with organizations. Do you feel like this might shift things a bit in terms of remote working and not relying on a physical space as much for conducting business? I mean, apart from the e-commerce side, using a website to do business in some way, but just also the behind the scenes running of a business, do you think there might be a broader social shift afoot because of what’s been required by this that might change some business practices in the future? Bernie Jaworski: There’s no doubt about it. Everything I’ve been reading suggests that productivity is going up on the part of the workforce rather than down. Again, these are knowledge work positions. So, this is not necessarily fast-food running. But everything I’ve been reading suggests productivity is going up, A, and B, people are enjoying it more. So, what’s interesting about this, as a general rule, social interaction there is certainly missing. But as a general rule, the idea of working from home and doing things. Obviously, there’s complexity here. I would love to run the systems diagram analysis around what this looks like. So, you can imagine the chess match. Bernie Jaworski: Okay, so I’m working at home and being more productive. Okay, so what’s the good news? The good news from that is the environment’s better, because I’m not at my vehicle driving to work. I’m able to focus my energy on work-related issues, as opposed to other things that are around me. Bernie Jaworski: What’s the downside? Downside was my family and work, it all blended together. Am I spending more time with my family or less? What does it mean to manage kids that are doing the schooling that are 7 or 8, 9, 10 years old? We have that problem of okay, well, for these kids… I come from very wealthy families, they’re fine. But the kids that are coming from the poor, inner city neighborhoods, what do they do? And then by the way, play this out a little bit further. If all of a sudden people don’t need their corporate headquarter campus, which has a ton of resources allocated to it, what are we going to do with real estate? So, what’s going to happen to commercial real estate here? Bernie Jaworski: Here’s the most poignant example I think is WeWork. Who is going to go to a WeWork facility these days? As in fact, 6 months from now, 12 months from now, who’s going to use WeWork or how is WeWork going to reconfigure themselves to deal with that issue? WeWork, a year ago, I was like, “Oh, yeah, this is great. It’s a good [inaudible 00:39:05].” I meet a bunch of people, everyone shares the facilities. Now, what a disaster, right? So, I think we’re going to see some follow up, I don’t know. You’ve got X that leads to Y that leads to Z. If commercial real estate collapses, what does that then mean for residential housing? Maybe the price becomes much more reasonable, access to residential housing. So, I’d love to do that systems analysis there. Marcus Weakley: It’s a quite a systems diagram there. Bernie Jaworski: Yeah, that would be. Marcus Weakley: Feeds in really to the idea of the system’s thinking principle that those unintended consequences of the shift, right? You’re pointing towards a number of those, where changing this one factor might really change the number of things overall. Yeah. So, I guess we’ll have to see how this plays out. Bernie Jaworski: Yeah. Marcus Weakley: Thank you so much for joining me today. This has been a wonderful conversation. I think a great introduction to Peter Drucker’s ideas, also, what’s going on at the Drucker School at CGU, and then some of your own areas of expertise as well. So, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it. Bernie Jaworski: It was a lot of fun for me, Marcus. Thanks. I’d be happy to come back. If you need a second go round at some point, I’m happy to join you again. It was a lot of fun for me to share Drucker’s ideas. As I said, I’ve had a lot of the Drucker Kool-Aid. So, I’m happy to share it with everybody else at this point. Marcus Weakley: Well, I had a first sip, and it tastes pretty good, so. Bernie Jaworski: Good, good. If it was a 5:00 podcast, we’ll be having martinis at this point. But apparently it’s [crosstalk 00:40:39], we’ll stick with the Drucker Kool-Aid for now. Marcus Weakley: Sounds good. Well, once again, thank you so much. From Studio V3 at Claremont Graduate University, this is Breaking the Shackles of Time. Thank you so much for listening, and hope to have you come and listen again next time.
36 minutes | Sep 21, 2020
Critical Understandings of Culture
In this episode, Dr. Nadine Chan, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University, joins the podcast to discuss some of the key elements and methods of Cultural Studies. We also discuss her own projects on film as a colonial and counter-colonial object in Malaysia and Singapore, and the various ways of documenting environmental degradation in contemporary Southeast Asia. For a transcript of this episode, email cgupodcasts at gmail.com and include the episode title.
45 minutes | Jul 7, 2020
Studying Human Purpose through a Positive Psychology Lens
Dr. Kendall Cotton Bronk, associate professor of Psychology at Claremont Graduate University joins the podcast to discuss the unique approach Psychology and Positive Psychology take to research as well as some of the great work she is doing through her Adolescent Moral Development Lab on understanding and developing purpose in youths. For a transcript of this episode, email cgupodcasts at gmail.com and include the episode title.
40 minutes | Feb 4, 2020
Transdisciplinarity – Philosophy & Practice
In response to complex contemporary problems & the limitations of siloed specializations in solving them, a new boundary-crossing approach is actively being developed by researchers. Episode transcript: Marcus Weakley: This is Breaking the Shackles of Time. I have two wonderful guests with me. I am Marcus Weakley. The first guest, who has already introduced himself, is Dr. Andy Vosko. Would you like to say something about yourself? Dr. Andy Vosko: Sure. I am an associate provost, and I direct the transdisciplinary studies program at Claremont Graduate University. I come from a lot of different academic backgrounds, but I’d say that I studied East Asian language and literature and then went on to become a neuroscientist. So I liked to mix and match a lot of different perspectives into what I’m doing. Marcus Weakley: Great, welcome. Dr. Andy Vosko: Thank you. Marcus Weakley: And the other guest has been a guest before. Will you re-introduce yourself? Troy: Yeah, I’m Troy [McKanovich 00:00:46]. I’m a PhD student studying religion in American politics. Before that I was doing religion and social theory, and before that astrophysics. Marcus Weakley: Great. So we have two transdisciplinary folks in personal experience with us today. Marcus Weakley: One of the things that I wanted to do to kind of set a lay of the land for the audience a bit was to try to see if we could talk a bit and maybe figure out some of the problems and agreed-upon areas of what transdisciplinary is or how it’s defined let’s say, more specifically. So I jumped on Google. I Googled transdisciplinarity definition. I clicked on the top three results, and I’m going to read them okay for our audience. Marcus Weakley: Number one, our good friend, Wikipedia, transdisciplinarity, connotes, connotes, a research strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. It applies to research efforts focused on problems that cross the boundaries of two or more disciplines, such as research on effective information systems for biomedical research, and can refer to concepts or methods that were originally developed by one discipline but are now used by several others, such as ethnography, a field, research method, originally for anthropology now widely used. Marcus Weakley: Okay. So we have crosses disciplinary boundaries towards a holistic approach, focuses on problems across two or more disciplines, are taking something from one discipline and applying it to others. Marcus Weakley: Second was from Purdue university. It’s a blog. What is transdisciplinarity? I had to dig a bit on the second page. We’ve got, quoting someone named Petrie, “The notion of transdisciplinarity exemplifies one of the historically important driving forces in the area of interdisciplinarity, namely, the idea of the desirability of the integration of knowledge into some meaningful whole. The best example, perhaps, of the drive to transdisciplinarity might be the early discussions of general systems theory when it was being held forward as a grand synthesis of knowledge. Marxism, structuralism, and feminist theory,” as well other examples. “Essentially, this kind of interdisciplinarity represents the impetus to integrate knowledge, and, hence, is often characterized by a denigration and repudiation of the disciplines and disciplinary work as essentially fragmented and incomplete.” Marcus Weakley: So again, we have integration of knowledge into a meaningful whole, so that vibes off the holistic approach of the last one. But we have a strong definition here of it being a force, an impetus, of a desire or a push, right? It’s historical, and it’s a kind of interdisciplinarity. Marcus Weakley: And finally, we have the Harvard Transdisciplinary Research in Energetics and Cancer Center. Their definition is more straightforward. Transdisciplinary research, so it’s not transdisciplinarity, but it was still result number three, is defined as research efforts conducted by investigators from different disciplines, working jointly, to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem. Marcus Weakley: So like our first definition, problem-based for the most part. Strong focus on collaboration here, kind of present in the others, but not really. Are in the first, but not really. Clearly here talking about working together to create new innovations, be those conceptual, theoretical methodological, which seems most interesting to me. Marcus Weakley: Translation. Thoughts. Troy: Beautiful. Dr. Andy Vosko: You illustrated the parable of all of the blind individuals feeling different parts of an elephant and explaining what it was. Dr. Andy Vosko: There’s parts of it, each of those, that are true. I think it’s much simpler and much more inclusive than what any of them had actually explained. Marcus Weakley: Yeah, so when I hear you talk about it, when we chat, or when I hear you talking to others about it, and I hope I don’t misrepresent represent you here, so pushback, I hear you talk or say more than anything else about crossing boundaries. Dr. Andy Vosko: That is, you have to cross boundaries to do it. It comes down to a basic phrase, it’s not about the discipline. You have to understand that you’re using your discipline, and you got to acknowledge that as a starting point. It gives you a set of tools and perspectives that are really important, and those are inherent in you. But what you’re looking at isn’t about your discipline. So you’ve got to both separate yourself from that and include it at the same time. Dr. Andy Vosko: And that means to have the humility, to talk to other people who are not you or people that look or sound or were trained in a very different way from you, to recognize ways of knowing that are not yours because it’s not about your discipline. And it comes as a response to us creating a culture, a disciplinary culture, of where a bunch of disciplines are sitting together where we assume that each one of those is getting its own perspective on something, and some magical way of integration will happen to address a particular complex problem. Dr. Andy Vosko: That doesn’t happen when you get a bunch of people in the room. You don’t actually get this kind of effect that you get when you get a bunch of atoms together in a small space. You don’t get a bunch of mixing. Turns out, humans are really good at just kind of staying in their groups, or they create even more boundaried spaces around them. And this is an active response to what’s happened there to remind everyone that it’s not about your discipline. Dr. Andy Vosko: And I think we all understand that inherently. We don’t necessarily raise our families the way that we do our scholarship in our disciplinary areas. Why is that? If your discipline is so special in solving all of these important things, why don’t you treat your children as a microbiologist would treat viruses or bacteria? Because we know it doesn’t work that way. Dr. Andy Vosko: And I think it’s trying to formalize that concept. And that includes what was said. You have to be collaborative; you have to be self-reflexive, which was a piece that should have been included in there. You have to go into liminal spaces. You have to integrate; that’s really important. So what you had mentioned before, Troy, about understanding a bunch of different perspectives around something, is one of the big pitfalls around transdisciplinarity, is that people assume that taking a historical lens or an economics lens or all of the different lenses that are often used in ways of describing what scholarship, is really just interperspectivity. It’s this idea that I can stand from the left side now, and I can stand from the right side now. And because I’m standing from each of these sides, you’re going to get a 360 degree understanding of what’s going on. And that’s bunk because it’s all within your brain, and you’re assuming that your lens is not a part of this and that’s got its own very strong filters on it. Dr. Andy Vosko: What’s important is not that you can just take a side, but what does integration of those different lenses look like? And what does integration look like when you’ve got someone else there? It’s very hard. It’s an art; it’s not a science. And at that level, there are signs, see things about it, but at that level, how do you communicate the art of it? How do you celebrate the art of it? And because it’s hard to do, we often get some of these kind of utility-based definitions of what it’s doing, what it’s good for, and that sells it short. It’s not quite what it is. Marcus Weakley: So that takes us a bit back to the distinction between multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity, right? So that’s part of what transdisciplinarity is doing different, right? It’s a form of integration that you don’t have to do when you’re doing interdisciplinary work or multidisciplinary work. When you can just kind of take two disparate wholes, still be really focused on disciplinarity and bring those together in unique combinations. Instead of focusing on the process of the research together, the form of the research as being redefined through the process of collaboration and therefore taking those forms of, I guess it’s collaboration, but coming together further are the different type altogether. Is that part of what I’m understanding? What do you think? Troy: I think a little of what you’re talking about, and especially compared to the idea of these kinds of siloed disciplinary bites of the apple, is an emergent process, right? That where it, through collaboration, there is something that exists that wouldn’t just exist in doing three things in isolation from three different perspectives, one at a time. Right? But that the idea that my working with someone in a different discipline, looking at a shared phenomenon, shared problem, and between us trying to figure out, what does this kind of thing we’re looking at necessitate that we do to better understand it? That there’s something emergent there that doesn’t happen if each one of us tries to do the process on our own from our own perspective or tries to imagine what that process would look like in whole, without actually engaging with another person towards those same ends. Dr. Andy Vosko: And I do think that there’s space to do the self isolation, archival, deep dive into something. Disciplines are also… They’re models to give us tools to learn about the world in ways that are a little more established, and they allow a little more detailed search. So it’s important to have them. I really don’t… I often feel like I’m a threat, by being an ambassador for transdisciplinarity, to people who are embedded in disciplines. That’s absolutely not the case. You have to have dug deep in the disciplinary space. You have to be very well-grounded in the disciplinary space because that’s giving you a footing from which you can do other things. But from that space you also have to come out of that sometimes and realize the depth of knowledge you learn from that needs to be linked with other knowledges. Dr. Andy Vosko: And those knowledges could be learned from your kids.They could be learned from your siblings, or they could be learned from the person who’s working the other side of the window at a bank. Because everybody has something that you don’t and you can learn from. Actually, if you’re learning the essence of your discipline, the big questions, the threshold concepts of your discipline, then what you have understood, come to understand, about the world is relatable to any complex problem that anybody is experiencing. There is something relatable. And I think we often close that off and don’t have that kind of audacity to think that, “You know, studying soil science, I have nothing to say about homelessness.” Not true. You do. There are metaphors that you’ve come to understand through biology that you can actually apply to the complex problem of homelessness. And it’s a matter of you having the space to be imaginative and creative to start to understand what that looks like. Marcus Weakley: Yeah. Go ahead, Troy. Troy: I was going to ask… I think what you brought up there with the idea of metaphor, I think that gets to a lot of, I think, some of the questions that often surround transdisciplinarity. It’s like, of course you can, building on your own disciplinary knowledge or personal background biography, come up with metaphor for that. But does that turn the exercise of transdisciplinarity into just a rhetorical term? The idea of that, “Well, it helped us imagine.” So is transdisciplinarity, is it a problem-solving metric? As some of these folks have… You talked about the utilitarian push. Or is it a kind of a guiding star, this idea that, well, we all have the right metaphors to get there? Or is there a there there? Dr. Andy Vosko: So let me take it back from this theoretical space, and let’s talk about the reality of how these definitions have come to pass. When originally the term was coined, it was in the 70s from Jean Piaget, and he was speaking flowery and beautifully and said, “You know, we need to go beyond interdisciplinary study. We need to go into transdisciplinary study.” And I’m not sure to the level of which he was really choosing his words intentionally or not, but there were a couple French philosophers who took it and ran with it, and they turned it immediately into this space, and they were coming from a physics background, on it about there’s multiple truths, that there’s something about the space in between. And they wrote beautiful prose, sometimes hard to understand, about what the theories of transdisciplinarity were. I will say, honestly, there’s an essence of navel gazing that it can get into really quickly. Dr. Andy Vosko: What then happened was there was a Swiss group that had listened to this transdisciplinary dialogue. And they like, “You know, this could be much more applied based.” And so they turned, with the initial snippets of the philosophy, and made it very practical. And so it became an algorithm of what it worked. And there were two schools that emerged; there was the French philosophy school and then there was a Swiss applied research school, which really encompassed sustainability studies. From what they had figured out in sustainability study, they merged the philosophies of sustainability to go into that and created a list of seven things, or eight things, that transdisciplinary scholarship looks like. Now we’ve evolved to transdisciplinary pedagogy and what that looks like. Dr. Andy Vosko: Well, those two, that dichotomy, still exists. There are fewer people on the philosophical side of the argument. You get some papers as chapters every once in a while, refer back to it. Most of the time people are worried about, how does the output look on it? When people ask the definition, that itself is already a problem. I came from the field of sleep studies. When someone asked, what is the definition of sleep? That’s a tough one; this actually created a huge debate because it’s one of those things you know it when you see it. Now, there are definitions that have since come out. Dr. Andy Vosko: But in the transdisciplinary world, this is a young enough field, we’re still fighting over it of what it actually means. You go to a conference and people have come up with really simplified ways to do it. It means you have a non-academic actor as part of your research team. That’s like the simplest one that people have gone to. It’s anything collaborative. It’s blank. And you see people taking it on a different… It’s really just a form of interdisciplinarity. Dr. Andy Vosko: None of these things are by themselves, true, because none of them encompass the breadth of what this was, I think, trying to get. So when the question of what is transdisciplinarity, I would better say, what does transdisciplinarity look like in CGU or at your institution or in your society? In the U.S. transdisciplinarity almost always focuses on medical things, and it becomes what’s called team science. When you look at Europe, it’s all about sustainability, but they’re practiced by universities that are coming from very colonial spaces and for the first time are using these anthropological, self-reflexive kind of exercises in their research. So that they’re saying like, “Whoa, it turns out that continental philosophy wasn’t the only thing that should be dictating our approach to this problem.” Marcus Weakley: And the mind is blown. Dr. Andy Vosko: Every space you see it, it’s different still. It’s just different. And I think that… Marcus Weakley: So by narrowing the question you’re, in part, providing an answer more or less to the broader question of how is this defined. Dr. Andy Vosko: And here, I think that the future of this is to integrate the philosophy and the applied algorithmic utility-based approach. Marcus Weakley: To me the process seems difficult from what I’m hearing, even from the varying definitions or the varying applied realities of it in the world. And if you are going to make it not about the disciplines, while acknowledging that your entire life has been more or less formed by disciplinary education up until that point, and you kind of have to wrestle with that transform play on the liminal space of creativity and transformation to rewire your own thinking in order to resist the urge to simplify in order to solve, or define, but to try to break open and understand connections, complexity. It seems like a challenging mental process as well as a challenging research process, so how do you ensure that everybody’s doing that work well enough? What are some of the ways that we can, without pigeonholing transdisciplinarity and making it a discipline itself, which of course is going to be- Dr. Andy Vosko: Which has happened. Marcus Weakley: A tendency that’s through a definition, set methods, and approach this a certain way. Besides referring to it generally as being like, “Okay, people need a critical, reflective edge and to be able to understand their own disciplinarity to move beyond it” and things along those lines… That’s nice, but then some people reflect better than others and some have no idea how to do that. And then from a more open space and apply it to a problem, collaborating with others, collaboration is hard. Marcus Weakley: So what are some of the things that can be done, excuse me, to address these difficulties? Troy: Well, I think, kind of going back to the idea of the multiple definitions that we’re working with and the multiple, almost kind of prescriptive, elements of like, “This is what transdisciplinary ought to be.” I think a big part of almost the checking in on the project to transdisciplinarity that you’re talking about is desegregating its different projects, right, because so many of the definitions we’ve talked about… I don’t, I’m dumb, but I don’t see why they’re coherently linked, right? The purpose of community-based participatory research, of integrating communities that have otherwise been marginalized and targeted by the university for research fodder, that’s a noble pursuit. The idea of, we need to do something about kind of the vertical kind of hierarchy at the university. Dr. Andy Vosko: I think we overdo. Troy: Right, yeah. That’s a different project than saying, “Oh, wow. As an economist, I don’t understand all… I only understand the world as an economist,” right? Those two projects to me, they don’t have a coherent linkage beyond saying, “There’s something about the university as imagined in the modern space that needs to change.” And so I think a big part of it has to come from attacking this as something, not saying I’m working as in the service of transdisciplinarity, but in service to one of these many projects under the banner of transdisciplinarity. Dr. Andy Vosko: I think that’s how it often goes. But there are some of us who will take it to that further extreme and want to turn the university on its head because it goes back to what a mission of the university is. And sometimes when I think about it… It’s funny. You realize when you get into the complex system itself of a university, the mission was, was, to be pursuing knowledge. That is the mission, and it should be giving back to the people who are supporting it. Oftentimes we’ll see a university as a space that is supporting tenure and promotion or a space as promoting donorship or a space that’s promoting- Marcus Weakley: Itself Dr. Andy Vosko: Itself. I mean, the university is a complex system, which is what happens with complex systems, is they come up with their own intrinsic connections such that their survival is much more robust given all of the things thrown at it. And its main mission becomes its survival rather than the mission that was given it by its founders. And in a lot of ways universities have become that, so the universities are now intrinsic to our social system in the United States. Dr. Andy Vosko: We’re seeing some real problems with this. We’re seeing the student debt that comes out of it. We’re seeing the idea of an ivory tower that’s out of touch with the problems of the world. And we’re seeing an anti-intellectual movement that comes up. And I think, while on the conservative side, the complex problem base is a very safe way to apply transdisciplinarity because there’s nothing you’re going to lose at this point. Nothing else has worked. So why not try it? Let’s see what happens. Dr. Andy Vosko: But then this bigger conversation… I’ve been to transdisciplinary conferences where there’ve been people who’ve been around the block who are big in education will say, “This turns education on its head, and it’s something we need. It’s an exciting movement that the world is going to take on because what we’ve been doing… When you think about how long education has been around, it’s been a long time and we’re not really sure that we’ve changed it all that much. And we’re not really sure that we’ve been that successful in how we’ve changed it.” Dr. Andy Vosko: And so it can be very bold depending on what’s permissive of the space that one is working with. And of course you’re working in the complex system of a university or even a public K-12 kind of institution. It’s got its foundation. It’s there, it’s linked to so many things to ensure its survival, the way that it’s been set up. So the change is going to have to be one, if it’s going to be made, where it’s touch and go. We see if things are changing; we see how people are embracing it. Dr. Andy Vosko: And the world tells us if it’s working or not. If we do make a dent in climate change or in sustainability, then yeah, it’s a very powerful tool, a set of tools, to go through, and it will be a proof of concept. But we’re still so young in what we’re doing on this that there’s a lot of potential, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of mistrust and skepticism. We’re experiencing anything like it would be in its nascency, and I think that’s kind of fun and exciting. Marcus Weakley: I agree. Marcus Weakley: Shifting a bit. Question, the chemist who’s always viewed himself or herself as a chemist, does some transdisciplinary research. They get into it; they’ve done it for a while. Self-identification. What ends up happening? If things are flipped, I’m interested in this, in the identity part of it, what do things look like in the future then in this university or in this… I mean, I’m very supportive of these notions personally, right? Do you view yourself, still, as a chemist in that scenario, but you’ve redefined what it is to be a chemist or that has been redefined, there’s a different social agreement given the new dynamic of a university? Do you view yourself as a transdisciplinary researcher first and then chemist second? Does it matter? Marcus Weakley: I’m interested in how this… Because the perpetuation of the present system has happened through a process of self-identification where the disciplinary education and attitude has really consolidated around forms of self-identification as well, right? There’s something, and we’ve chatted about this too as well, Andy, where people will refer to, “Oh, in my discipline we do it this way.” There’s a sense of pride and self-identification and being something in viewing oneself as something that is set apart from others. Dr. Andy Vosko: Right. Marcus Weakley: And you’ve got your own neat little group. And then oftentimes there’s a hierarchy of value at different times in history, in different parts of the world. Does transdisciplinarity need to get to the top of that hierarchy because then it’s becoming its own discipline, right? Or is there some other way that… Is it an integrated through the existing disciplines and, therefore, people will view themselves as what they viewed themselves as before, but the process of doing that disciplinary work is inherently transdisciplinary? Therefore transdisciplinarity is not a discipline in and of itself. It’s through the existing disciplines. Marcus Weakley: Or, does it need to be that I’m a transdisciplinary researcher first and foremost. I identify as such; we’re the coolest right now. I’m a chemist second because, you know, that’s what I studied when I started. Does it matter? Would one perpetuate the existing need to have a certain consolidated set of power dynamics within an institution like a university? Are we trying to rewrite a fluidity of power dynamics altogether? More or less, that’s my question. Dr. Andy Vosko: It’s a lot in there. Marcus. Marcus Weakley: It’s a good question. Dr. Andy Vosko: Maybe. Troy: Give yourself that one. Dr. Andy Vosko: Yeah. Okay. I’m going to use a- Marcus Weakley: Questions are often more important than answers, but since the person asking the question- Troy: That’s what we say in discipline. Dr. Andy Vosko: That’s right. My disciplinary background says… Dr. Andy Vosko: Okay, metaphor. And I’m going to use my disciplinary background to give the metaphor because it has its uses. Troy: It better be it’s meta. Dr. Andy Vosko: It’s meta. So for a long time, when Hook had first identified cells themselves, the thing that everybody in biology was studying was cells. In fact, most people are still assuming the unit of interest in biology is a cell. You can go even deeper into the cell if you’re studying a nucleus or whatever else you’re studying, but it’s the cell. But, you know, we kind of came to understand that the cells are interesting, but the interstitial space between cells is equally interesting because not many people, not as many people study that, of course. But, the space in between gives you a whole perspective of what’s going on in the cell, how things communicate with each other, how it gets signals from the outside. It’s a really cool, fascinating space. And then you realize that it’s not just about studying the interstitial space or the cells themselves, but, actually, there’s kind of a unit that happens between the cell, the interstitial space, the fluids that course through the body, the environment itself. Dr. Andy Vosko: Okay, that’s the metaphor. Your cell is your discipline. It’s got boundaries around it. The interstitial space is what an interdisciplinary approach to something is. It’s what going on between this intersecting point, which is also really interesting. Dr. Andy Vosko: And then there’s this kind of zoomed out point of view. And it’s true, there are people that are going to want to put boundaries around what the transdisciplinary approaches are to create this giant cell, or the human body around it, and say, “That’s what I’m studying.” And that’s fair enough in itself, but the theories around transdisciplinary approaches are to actually be very intentional and cognizant that we’re studying something that can be put together as a unit and disassemble to be their component parts. Dr. Andy Vosko: And I think that that kind of metaphor is a healthier understanding of what it is rather than choosing, you know what, yeah… All what you’re saying is true, and they do have their own questions; they have their own scholarship around them, but it’s to be cognizant of the fact that the second you create a discipline, you can’t avoid creating a transdisciplinary space. You can’t. It’s part of it; it’s intrinsic to it. Once you put boundaries around the sandbox, you’ve got the space between the sandbox and something else. And you’ve got the bird’s eye view of what that sandbox looks like. Dr. Andy Vosko: And so rather than saying which one’s best, you have to acknowledge that it exists. And that’s the point of all of this kind of inquiry. Marcus Weakley: Sounds like you’ll need to fight against turning it into a discipline in and of itself. Dr. Andy Vosko: And that’s happening. Marcus Weakley: I mean a very active fight over a long period of time. Dr. Andy Vosko: It’s tough when you’re dealing with a ghost. It’s not really easy when your philosophy is based on something that you shouldn’t be able to define because the language that we use for that is based on definitions. So it’s kind of a balance, and those that are in the business of defining transdisciplinarity and moving forward with it in those ways, it’s important that they do that. And they should have space to do that because our meta level of understanding of what it is also needs to be progressed. But to understand that, again, that is a simplified version of it, it is not the meta, you got to be iterative in your research process. You’ve got to come back. Dr. Andy Vosko: Now what happened since we put boundaries on it? Now what does that bird’s eye view look like of everything? And that should be a constant dialogue. And we don’t answer a question. We are re-answering questions all the time. We are not solving problems. We are resolving problems. And I think that that kind of need for storytelling that we have, that has a beginning, middle and end, is in some ways the enemy of what transdisciplinary outcomes are. It’s that there isn’t an ending. This stuff is going to keep on going on. Our universe is continually going to provide with us problems to resolve. So we’re not done just because you got a grant, and we’re not done just because he wrote a book. Yeah. Marcus Weakley: People like to tell stories, but they also like to check off lists, so it’s like, “Check. We’ve taken care of that one. You broke it down, handled it, let’s move on to the next thing in the list,” when, really, history and time has shown us the more we understand about certain things that that is not how research often works. Dr. Andy Vosko: So cancer is an interesting… I remember back in my, my, grad school days, long time ago, there was a really crazy graph someone had shown us. He said, “If you look at the amount of funding that’s gone toward cancer research since like a hundred years ago, I mean, it’s off the charts, crazy amounts of cancer funding. Then you look at the incidences of cancer over that amount of time. It’s also skyrocketed.” And so one would think simply that by providing more money for research on something that is clearly a complex problem, that we would get closer to understanding how that is going to be solved. Dr. Andy Vosko: The answer is not necessarily true. We have much more need for cancer funding, but at the same time, we’re not solving it. As we solve one kind of cancer, we’re able to come up with therapies for one kind of cancer, a new one springs up, mutation happens because it’s a complex biological system. So we’re not beating cancer. We’re having to beat an individual cancer, but as we’ve kind of covered up one leak, we’re seeing another one spring and then we have to go for that too. So it helps us understand the complexity in what we’re doing. Beating cancer is an over-simplification, but we need to address each cancer and each complication of cancer that comes up, and that’s why it’s important to have this kind of funding always going on. Marcus Weakley: That’s a good example. It’s about time for us to wrap up. Troy, are you feeling okay? Troy: Yeah, I’m okay. I just got a cough. Marcus Weakley: I would like to give you both an last opportunity if you want to mention anything about transdisciplinary studies. Troy, I know you’ve you’ve wrestled with this a bit. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken part in any kind of vertically transdisciplinary research, but a lot of what your research is, is crossing traditional boundaries in and of itself. Troy: I think that’s one of the things that’s difficult in some ways, not so much from the project transdisciplinarity that I think is really valuable, but from the perspective of, I don’t have a discipline, right? Religious studies isn’t a discipline, right? It’s a topic of study. And that’s increasingly common whether you’re in cultural studies, religious studies, there are topics of studies, field areas. Some universities- Dr. Andy Vosko: Africana studies. Marcus Weakley: It’s a good example that overtly pushes back against having a single methodology. Troy: Yeah. And I think that’s one of the things that I think is difficult for me from this perspective, is the sense that, again, kind of dis-aggregating the different projects that of transdisciplinarity, there’s one sense in which it aligns with what I think is a fairly dangerous tendency in the university, which is to undermine those disciplines for the purpose of creating faster majors, that we can pump people in and out of faster, undermining that disciplinary kind of either pedagogy or expertise in favor, then, of bringing in students who didn’t know necessarily that this is the direction that they want to go into in order to kind of create a faster pipeline in and out. And I do think you see that at universities that are saying, “Well, we don’t need majors. We need like interest clusters, and we won’t have departments.” Troy: And that seems well and good, all until now you’re being paid by hourly instead of as a salary worker, that tenure track or something. So I think that’s one of the things, coming from a non discipline, and seeing then the way that that non discipline also has transformed the labor market around what it means to be a researcher. I think there’s kind of that itch in the back of my head is making sure our projects, some of them under the banner of transdisciplinarity that I find really compelling about undermining kind of these “objective” strands of knowledge, and of integrating the community members, making sure community stake holding is respected is also the sense of, “Oh, are there any other projects that this happens to overlap with that I don’t find quite as satisfying?” And that might be one of them is the kind of almost Silicon Valley-esque, let’s reinvent the humanities even as we defund the humanities, kind of aspect. So that’s something I think a lot about. Marcus Weakley: Gotcha. Dr. Andy Vosko: I’m glad that you mentioned that, Troy, because I do think that the different types of disciplinarities often fall prey to people believing that there’s an inherent sacrificing of rigor that goes along with it. And when it’s done incorrectly, that can certainly happen. Because then you know a little about a lot of things. Troy: Yeah. Dr. Andy Vosko: And that rigor is important. At the same time, you’re also illustrating a problem in university structures. When you’re a religious studies scholar and you are looking for the job, and you’re like, “There’s no department of religion.” And so you have to fit into literature, or you have to fit into history, or you have to fit into something in social science. And you’re like, “What in the world? “When you say you want an interdisciplinary scholar, you’re actually just asking for someone who studied religion in 19th century Zimbabwe under colonial rule.” You’re coming up with very particular things that aren’t actually interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary. Dr. Andy Vosko: So there is a structural problem that needs to be battled because that doesn’t make the transdisciplinary approach any less wrong. It’s still a reality. It’s still something that is worth exploring. And just because there are structures in place that are barriers to some of it, that’s changing. And there are more people that are infiltrating these spaces. You get into your traditional department. And I will also say there’s a fair number of religion departments in the world that you could also become a part of that appreciate that kind of scholarship. That when you infiltrate, you start to… Once you’re in, you could both say, “Yeah, I need to understand the rigor of this. This rigor has been an invaluable set of tools for me, but I can also grow beyond this and turn it into something awesome.” Dr. Andy Vosko: The other piece of this is that not everything requires a transdisciplinary approach.You got to save it for the really complex. And if you’re always thinking that you need to be transdisciplinary about something, you’re never going to finish; it takes way too long. And one of the things that I try promoting in our program and why stress boundary crossing so much, is that you can boundary cross without having to turn it into a complete questioning of your bases of knowledge. Dr. Andy Vosko: And it’s okay to start with smaller… Inter-perspective things are great. If you want to take courses in one department and then another, if you want your dissertation to involve a lens here and a lens there, that’s awesome. And that will give us really important, really valuable, information. And to create a line around transdisciplinary studies themselves and say there is, or there isn’t, there’s an out or there’s an in, alienates people from actually understanding that it’s on a continuum of how we understand disciplines. Dr. Andy Vosko: And so you should both be grounded in the discipline. You should play in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary space, and sometimes you should go into the transdisciplinary space. What’s important is you realize all of them are there. What kind of problems warrant what kind of approaches. And so when you’re on the job market, usually your approach is going to be limited in the transdisciplinary space unless you’re actually looking at a transdisciplinary job. Dr. Andy Vosko: Now, when you’re in your position, that transdisciplinary attitude that you have, or the tools that you’ve taken with you, are so valuable. It’s once you’re in the door is when it’s your worlds really opened up. But because when you’re in kind of the early scholarly formation part of your career, you’re seeing what’s next and you’re not seeing what’s two steps ahead of you. And I think that that two or three steps ahead of you is where this really becomes useful, and it really pays off. Dr. Andy Vosko: So there are people that have cognitive blocks to what this is immediately because they’re thinking, “How does this relate to me? No. It’s either going to be under rigorous, or it’s going to prevent me from getting a job. Done thinking about it; it’s not worth it.” And that’s like deciding that you want to go on a major fasting diet so that you look good for the summer rather than kind of taking on a lifestyle of balancing your diet and exercise. And I think that the transdisciplinary approach is more of that. Keep the moderation in mind. Keep that balance in mind. Marcus Weakley: Or not using a specialized tool that exists for a job that makes a better tool. Why not add that to your toolbox? Dr. Andy Vosko: Yeah. Marcus Weakley: Andy, Troy, thank you so much. Troy: Thank you. Dr. Andy Vosko: Thank you. Marcus Weakley: This has been Breaking the Shackles of Time. I appreciate your presence here very much from studio B3 at Claremont Graduate University. Thanks for listening. Dr. Andy Vosko: Thank you. Troy: Thanks.
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