Generalists vs. Specialists: Who Owns The Future?


Broad vs Deep

Who’s more valuable to your organization:  Someone who can ‘wear multiple hats’ or someone who’s very talented at one thing?

How would you advise a student looking at college options:  Pursue a degree that exposed her to a range of disciplines and taught her to think critically in different contexts, or pursue a degree allowing her to leave university with a specialized set of knowledge and skills?

The answer to these questions always seems to be “it depends.”  Along with such eternal debates as Security vs. Liberty or Chocolate vs. Vanilla ice cream, the Specialist vs. Generalist debate seems to have no clear consensus.  Every month I read articles that weigh in on one side or the other, emphasizing the importance of being either a Specialist or a Generalist, depending upon the author’s point of view.

Two worthwhile contributions to this debate recently came from an Economist Special Report on the impact of…

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