Crossing boundaries is the new mantra of academe. Whether “inter-,” “cross-” or “trans-” disciplinary, such academic traversing is a growing part of our intellectual lives. With issues ranging from climate change to economic inequality to cyberthreats stubbornly resisting traditional scholarly analysis, we increasingly emphasize in our teaching and research the need for the kind of nimble, flexible thinking fostered in collaboration across multiple areas of study.

I’m very much in favor of professors leaving their siloed intellectual environments and have certainly done my share of crossing boundaries during my academic career. But in recently leading a collaborative cross-disciplinary Teagle Foundation initiative, I’m coming to understand an underdeveloped dimension to all this boundary-spanning work -- one that is often overlooked yet essential to its success.