I’ve been thinking about specialism versus generalism for a while and today I stumbled on an article from Harvard Business review discussing the value of generalists in the world of research and development. The article talks about the benefit of generalist researchers who have a breadth of knowledge versus specialist researchers who have a depth of knowledge.
I decided to Google specialist/ generalist to see what would come up and I found another interesting blog at Capgemini
Essentially the arguments from both articles are that it’s horses for courses and that you need both.
In connecting generalist and specialist to my Five Functions Job Levels Frameworks (c), I’d suggest that for the strategic and senior management levels, generalists are more adept at leading due to their broad knowledge, skills and experience. At the business and operational level, specialists are more technically capable of achieving outcomes due to their expertise and immersion in their field. The mid level of management may be generalist or specialist, depending on the sector.
Capgemini proposes a third way and discusses the term ‘expert generalist’, which describes me well: a public sector expert that generalises across the whole sector.
In a time when change is constant, crises loom and direction is uncertain, maybe it’s actually the expert generalist that will be best able to lead us through the unknown to whatever lies beyond. They will know the overarching challenges and influences on people, places and pounds and be able to flex and move with changing priorities, able to utilise best practice from across organisations in the sector, for best results. I’m happy to be an expert generalist!