Breeds apart: Generalists and Specialists

hedgehog (Photo credit: FletchtheMonkey)

Just came across a great little article in the HBR blogosphere that extolls the virtue of being a generalist in our rapidly evolving complex, globalized, interconnected world. While most of the focus of our institutions is on deeply developing specialization, it seems that generalists are perhaps better at addressing some complex problems due to their being more “multidisciplinary” in nature…

Of course this appeals to me as I see myself as first and foremost, a “generalist”. Having said that, I did indeed attempt to “square the circle” by presenting myself in my blog profile as “having specialized in being an excellent generalist”.

Fox Anyway, this little article reminded me of a fun little saying I heard at some point many years ago that really puts thing into the proper perspective:

“A specialist is someone who knows a lot about a little, and continues to specialize until they know absolutely everything about nothing at all. A generalist, however, knows a little about a lot, and continues to develop until they know absolutely nothing about everything.”

Taken to the extreme, I guess they both get to the same point of utter uselessness to society… however, which path feels more interesting to you? For me, I’m pretty happy to be well on the road to knowing absolutely nothing about most everything…


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