Multidisciplinary study: the value and benefits
Multidisciplinary study: the value and benefits

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Multidisciplinary study: the value and benefits

7 Introducing ‘multipotentiality’

By choosing to study this course, you have already demonstrated an interest in learning about multi-subject study. You are not alone! In fact, many people choose to have a range of different careers over their lifetime (or at any one time) and may also be interested in a wide variety of leisure activities.

As you have already explored earlier in this course, multi-subject study has very much been part of society for a long time, and the way this is described and demonstrated keeps evolving. There are many ways in which this type of approach can be defined and in the following sections we will look at one example of this.

The term ‘multipotentialite’, coined by Emilie Wapnick, the founder and Creative Director of Puttylike, is one way to describe someone with many interests and creative pursuits. Emilie and her organisation support multipotentialites to integrate their many interests into all aspects of their life and to recognise that this is a strength, not a weakness.

Multipotentialites tend to need variety in their lives, but how much variety depends on the individual. Knowing how much variety you need can really help you to avoid feeling too overwhelmed by taking on too much, or feeling bored because you don’t have enough projects on the go. Multi-subject study can help satisfy the need for variety which multipotentialites tend to have.

A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits, rather than someone who is only focused on a particular subject or hobby. How much does this sound like you?

Download this video clip.Video player: Multipotentiality
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Transcript: Multipotentiality

A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. It's a mouthful to say, and it might help if you break it up into three parts, multi, potential, and ite. You can also use one of the other terms that mean something similar, such as Polymath, the Renaissance person.
During the Renaissance period, it was considered the ideal to be well-versed in multiple disciplines. Multi potentialities have super powers. The first of these super powers is idea synthesis. That is, combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection. This means innovation can happen at intersections. That's where new ideas come from. And multipotentialites, with all of their backgrounds, are able to access a lot of these points of intersection.
The second multipotentialite super power is rapid learning. When multipotentialites become interested in something, they go hard. They observe everything they can get their hands on. They're used to being beginners because they've been beginners so many times in the past. And this means that they're less afraid of trying new things and stepping out of comfort zones. What's more, many skills are transferable across disciplines, and multipotentialites bring everything they've learned to every new area they pursue, so they're rarely starting from scratch.
The third multipotentialite super power is adaptability. That is, the ability to morph into whatever is needed in a given situation. Idea synthesis, rapid learning, and adaptability, three skills that multipotentialites are very adept at, and three skills that they might lose if pressured to narrow their focus.
As a society, we have a vested interest in encouraging multipotentialites to be themselves. We have a lot of complex, multidimensional problems in the world right now, and we need creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them. Wapnick 2017.
End transcript: Multipotentiality
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Activity 5 How much of a multipotentialite are you?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Now take a few minutes to think about the extent to which this description of a multipotentialite sounds like you. You may feel that it does sound just like you, but remember to reflect on why this might be. Conversely, you may feel like it doesn’t sound like you at all, but do still take some time to think about why this might be. Regardless, this activity will hopefully help you to understand the different way in which you, and others, may choose to approach your study-life and work-life balance.


Even if you don’t define yourself as a multipotentialite, studying a variety of subjects can still help you to demonstrate an even wider range of transferable skills than you looked at earlier in this course.

Recognising and embracing the fact that you may be a multipotentialite can be an incredibly positive experience because it can give you the confidence to explore other areas that you may not have considered previously. By applying some elements of multipotentiality to your learning, you are exposing yourself to diverse subjects and allowing yourself the opportunity to study, and potentially work, in a truly multidisciplinary way. This can be incredibly exciting and rewarding.

Even if you don’t define yourself as a multipotentialite, studying a variety of subjects can still help you to demonstrate an even wider range of transferable skills than you looked at earlier in the course.

Before you start to think about which specific subjects you might be interested in studying as part of your inter/multidisciplinary qualification, it is important to reflect on why studying in a multidisciplinary way might be the right decision for you and how you might be able to use this to your advantage when making academic or important life decisions, such as choosing your career.


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