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I am an Interdisciplinarian


I am an Interdisciplinarian


Up until recently, I've either been unable to capture "what I do" in a description. It usually comes out as something limited to what I'm working on at the time. When I was working at an agency, I was a Strategist. When I was running my own agency, I was a Marketing Consultant. When I was writing my book, I was an Author. When I was promoting my book around the world, I was a Public Speaker. Founding and running my startup, I am a founder and startup CEO. None of these descriptors really capture who I am or what I bring to the table. Even on my About Me page, I describe myself in a list of bullet points.

I'm sure many of you reading this have the same issue. Job descriptions are either too broad or too limiting to the work you do. And making up some silly title like Minister of Awesome is an even worse way to put it as the only image that conjures is that you run around waving your arms all day. I know I'm not unique.

I'm what Tom Kelly describes as a Cross-Pollinator, but I'm also part Anthropologist, Hurdler, Director and Storyteller (10 Faces of Innovation is still one of my favorite books on how to create an innovative organization). But what I really am came to me in the middle of researching my next book last night. I am an Interdisciplinarian.

I'm a student and practitioner of economics, psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, history, linguistics, women's studies, queer theory, postmodernism, political science, pop culture, technology, entrepreneurship, communications and marketing. I've taken on roles in nearly every industry (whether employed or consulting) from accounting to the arts, human resources to hospitality, fashion to food and beverage and technology to transportation. I've worked with B2C, B2B and C2C. Online and offline.

I'm book smart, street smart, stuck-in-the-woods smart. I can ride a horse. I've driven a tractor. I've traveled to 101 cities in 17 countries (since I've started using TripIt). I'm a mother of a 19 year-old. I've been married...twice. I've lived in 6 cities on both North American coasts.

I love reading - mostly books on economics, psychology, anthropology, history and cultural studies (though I avoid marketing & social media books). I have a Liberal Arts degree, which dove into economics, psychology, anthropology, history, women's studies, mythology, religious studies, political science and communications. I studied Native North America as my world area. My honors thesis was in queer theory (though I started out by doing it in fashion history and feminism): I created a curriculum for high school students on how to unpack heteronormativity and question their gendered world. I am a feminist. I love fashion. I'm a marketer, but a consumer first.

Everything I'm fascinated with starts with questioning my own biases and behavior: why did I just do that? Why did that make me feel insecure? Why can't I control that impulse? Why does that repulse me? I learned to ask WHY early and I continue to do it often. This is irritating for some, but it opens up new ideas for me.

I'm a learn-and-share type of person. I am not a social media 'addict'. I can turn off when I want to. I use it mostly to archive my experiences (I have a terrible memory, so checking into Foursquare helps me remember great restaurants I need to go back to) and share epiphanies with others (more than occasionally, those epiphanies shared become bigger epiphanies because of the brilliance and experience of others). I love and hate technology. I don't think it's the answer, but I think it's a great tool.

I seek to understand people I disagree with. They aren't crazy, they just have a point of view. I may never agree, but understanding makes me smarter. Sometimes (often) I lose patience. I can be rude and lose my cool. I fight feeling entitled constantly. Sometimes I think I'd be wealthier if I stopped fighting that entitlement, but I don't think my life would be as rich.

I can't pull a marketing strategy out of thin air. Every situation is different. I do recognize, however, that we live in a time of fast answers and instant gratification. So here is your 50,000 Facebook 'likes'. Now what? I like to look at the problem/opportunity from all angles before I move forward. I'm not a perfectionist, but I think you deserve better.

Do you know that consumers haven't really changed since the advent of marketing? Products evolve and consumers get savvier, but we still have the basic desires. We don't really need that many new non-fiction books (mine included), we need to read the fundamentals. Read Freud (Ego/Id/Superego) and Baudrillard (Consumer Society) and Girard (Mimetic Desire) and Dichter (Strategy of Desire). They are still mind-blowing.

Barry Schwartz is right: we've lost practical wisdom and I think that disdain for education and especially the Liberal Arts is partially to blame (great talk by Liz Coleman on this - happened right before Barry's). We're impatient. Critical thinking requires patience...and flexibility. We're also terribly silo'd. Between the 'what do you do?' question that doesn't quite encompass anyone to departments that don't collaborate with other departments to experts and gurus to identity politics that just don't want to go away to our quest for quick answers, we forget to look outside of ourselves for clues.*

And even as I change my bio to say, Tara Hunt, Interdisciplinarian, I hesitate. This title may be as meaningless as Minister of Awesome or Chief Unicorn. All that matters is that I get to continue to love what I do and do what I love.


* this is not to undervalue the amazing results of the deep-diving into specific problems from a specific angle. I realize being Interdisciplinarian means that knowledge is a mile-wide and an inch deep.