Specialist or Generalist?

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by: David Armano

CM colleague Matthew Milan pointed me to this visual from Xplane's Dave Gray.  It's a thought starter, that's for sure.  The visual defines Generalists as being best at defining the problem or goal.  Specialists are best at solving the problem or "executing the plan".

There's probably a lot of truth to the stake that this visual puts in the ground.  It certainly simplifies the differences between Specialist and Generalists.

One problem.

My view on creativity is that it's problem solving at the core.  Innovation, design, communications, invention, all disciplines that depend on both the Generalist and Specialist mindsets working in concert to solve the problem.  On the flip side—Specialists can also be quite good at defining the problem, especially if it falls within their area of expertise.  Do you consider yourself to be a social media expert?  Maybe your knowledge is more specialized than you think.

I think the reality lies somewhere in this:  Generalists can excel at both defining and solving problems but may require the assistance of specialists as they go deeper into execution.  Specialists can excel in defining the problem especially when it falls within their area of expertise.  Are we saying the same thing?  I think the difference is stressing that both can actually function in the other's "role" depending on the individual and context.  And I definitely would expand effectiveness of Generalists in solving problems as opposed to just the definition of them.

Maybe it's the title if the visual.  Change the "or" to "and" and you can look at this from another perspective.

Original post: http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2007/08/specialist-or-g.html