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Generalists, Stand Up

When is the last time you made any substantial contribution using just one skill?

Never. That’s when.

If you play baseball, you must be able to throw and catch. If you are a good live comedian, you must write funny material and convey it.

And then there’s the less obvious “skills,” such as being able to stand in a field – possibly for a few hours at a time – and wait for a piece of yarned-cork to sail your way in foot suspenders, more commonly known as “stirrups,” that actually hook under the arch of your foot and pull up to the knee (for good reason, I’m sure).

High five, generalist.

Vikram Mansharamani explores the decline of the once acclaimed specialist, which is great news for those of us who don’t ‘get’ specializing in one thing when you can specialize in perhaps two or three things at negligible cost (this various, of course, by field, the person, the project, etc.) and need a little reassurance now and then.

One reason why generalists will affect positive disruption:

Specialists toil within a singular tradition and apply formulaic solutions to situations that are rarely well-defined. This often > results in intellectual acrobatics to justify one’s perspective in the face of conflicting data. Think about Alan Greenspan’s public admission of ”finding a flaw” in his worldview. Academics and serious economists were dogmatically dedicated to the efficient market hypothesis — contributing to the inflation of an unprecedented credit bubble between 2001 and 2007.


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