The Interdisciplinarity of Professional Coaching: A Whole Person Globalized Imperativee

Coaching the whole person requires a “whole coach.” Interdisciplinarity is required—this is part of the job description for a professional coach.

William Bergquist and Bill Carrier

To say that something is both an art and a science credits both the creative and the procedural. When we say that, we mean that we can concretely define, describe, and know certain things—and that other things remain intuitive, ineffable, even mysterious. Cooking, for example, holds certainties–water boils at 212; gravy can be thickened with a ¼ cup of flour; the texture of scrambled eggs depends on heat and time. Cooking, too, encourages creation—what spices should flavor a sauce; how do you present a plate so that visual aesthetic enhances the food; what should you add to the eggs to make them marvelous?

Like cooking, coaching combines the concrete and the intuitive: from holding someone accountable for actions they’ve promised to take to creating an environment of trust, from detailed articulation of problems or opportunities to supporting a transformational change in career or character.

Professional Coaching and the Decline of Specialization

We can take a first step toward framing an argument about the interdisciplinary nature of professional coaching – and the blended art and science of coaching—by noting something that is occurring in many domains of contemporary life. And not just the field of coaching. The world of specialization is leaving us, as we move away from the mechanistic notion of organizational functioning (the “assembly-line” mentality) to a postmodern notion of agility, broad-based knowledge and capacity to engage in many activities.

As noted in the sub-title of a recently published book, written by David Epstein (2019), there is substantial evidence that “generalists triumph in a specialized world.” An article (Useem, 2019) appearing in the July 2019 issue of the Atlantic is titled “The End of Expertise.” It features the work-restructuring of new high-tech Navy ships: every person on each ship is trained to perform a multitude of tasks—thereby reducing the number of crew members needed to staff these vessels.

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