Once upon a time, people used to go to work - to a factory or an office - and know exactly what they are going to do. They had a work plan, and they would strive to do their individual best to reach the goals that were set for them by their managers. Sometimes they would have meetings with others to ensure good communication between all the departments.
Education was designed to train people for this type of work - do your individual best, learn your profession, excel in your area of expertise. The principle was that if everybody excels in their area of expertise than when everybody pulls together good things will happen. And this was how great products were created.
But this was in the 'Good Old Days'.
The rapid paste in which technology throws new possibilities at us changed that. There are multiple ways in which we can apply new capabilities, most of which don't have a clear application yet, and these capabilities can be better explored and put to good use when different disciplines put their heads together.
Whether it's a UXer designing with algorithms, or a Developer improving conversational interface by picking up the brains of a UX, the cross-disciplinary, collaborative work is rapidly becoming the better way to create amazing products.
Instead of solo warriors 'on a mission' that stick to their bit of the execution plan, we are moving towards an 'orchestra' like work pattern - where each has its instrument, but the beautiful music is created when all play together. This is when the audiences start paying for the tickets.
We need all the production disciplines exploring and experimenting together and not just pushing things down the pipeline.
This shift starts in education; we need to put an effort to learn how to work as a unit, as one multi-disciplinary team. To learn how to build into our processes the fact that any problem/solution/idea/piece of functionality can be improved when everyone else chips-in and we can see both our small parts and the big picture.
This new skill needs to be taught and the learning experience needs to be designed to support this goal.
Universities and other education still teach people in isolated courses that focus on their own profession. Echoing the initial purpose of education that was created in its current form in the 19th century and was designed to deliver good factory workers after the Industrial Revolution.
We should still be doing that, about 30% of the time, however, the majority of the training should teach the profession in the context of all the other disciplines. To show people how to mesh the skillsets and apply design-thinking together, how to prototype and feedback on the fly. How to fix, adjust, and improve - especially when working with new technologies and delivering products with new capabilities (a secret well known to the best product studios like IDEO).
The time of rigid specs and plans (that everyone goes to their corner to execute) is over. The methodology of mashing skillsets and working together is how we in Sputnik designed the training experience to reach results that serve the Forth Industrial Revolution.
There is also an interesting UIE podcast episode about how the About.com team restructured their process to redesign the company product using a similar way of thinking driven by the desire to bring disciplines closer together.