NAS Workshop – Integrated Education (STEM, Liberal Arts, etc.)

I have been asked to present an industry perspective on the need for T-shaped skills at a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) workhop on “STEM Integration Into The Liberal Arts.”

Here is my presentation:

Here is a podcast (Dave Goldberg, Big Beacon/Whole New Engineer):

In industry, we see the need for business, engineering, social scientists, communications, and legal/policy people to work together and interact a lot on nearly every project. For example, when IBM communications department posted this about Quantum Computing advances – behind the scenes, all the above and more had to interact.  In the age of accelerations, this becomes more and more true – just think of driverless cars and Uber – if you like controversies.

A range of people study or work to improve this “need for diverse interactions.”

Some call it interactional expertise:

Some call it T-shapes and empathy:

At IBM, we like T-shapes, and the diversity is not just disciplines, but systems,and cultures as well:

Of course, integrated education is hard to design – it is hard for a single person to learn just one discipline or area deeply, but to learn several requires a polymath – and too often they are broad not deep, good for connecting, but less so for solving problems that require deep understanding:

To achieve integrated education will require a vision and a process, a process that works just a little bit, year over year to eventually get closer and closer to the goal of integrated education – I have called this a Moore’s law for education (not sure if you can access Example 1 on education here – and the details have been part of service science.   Simply put, service science is about improving our ability to play win-win or positive sum games through a better understanding of socio-technical system evolution and design.  Socio-technical systems of people and technology interconnected by value propositions are known as service systems.   The need for T-shaped people to advance service science and service innovation was written about in this report from University of Cambridge some years ago – notice figure 1 on the gaps beween academic disciplines especially:


Additional Readings

Miller RK. Why the Hard Science of Engineering is No Longer Enough to Meet the 21 st Century Challenges. Olin College of Engineering. 2015 May.
Kline SJ. Conceptual foundations for multidisciplinary thinking. Stanford University Press; 1995.

Friedman TL (2016) Thank-you for being late: An optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations.  NY: Farrae, Stauss, Grioux.


Also watch and listen to these two items:

Jim Corgel on the Right Attitude and Skill Set

SYSK Empathy:


For Ashley Bear.

National Academies Study Committee on the Integration of Education in STEM, Humanities, and Arts at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels

(Arizona State University; Life Sciences Building Room C202; C Wing 401 E. Tyler Mall; Tempe, Arizona; Thursday, April 6th, 2017)

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