Specialists vs Generalists
Generalist vs Specialist Skills. What skills are needed in the workplace? Which will help me advance in my career?
Specialisation is better
A saying goes: Jack of all trades, master of none.
Mastery of skills gives humans satisfaction. Specialists, with a deeper understanding of subject matter, can better spot and seize on emerging opportunities. Specialists may also have an easier time collaborating because it’s clearer how the work can be shared.
According to the Hays Asia Salary Guide 2019, 65 per cent of Singapore employers favour technical skills, like project management, over soft skills, like problem-solving, when hiring new employees.
Division of labor and specialisation is a chief source of productivity gains using the example of factory assembly line. Output per worker increases in multiples; the factory becomes extremely efficient in producing items.
Should I specialize my career as a specialist or as a generalist such as consulting where I’m exposed to a variety of experiences and skills?
According to “structure” proponents, organizing by function allows for task specialization leading to process efficiencies and production consistency (no variations in the end product). https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-data-science-teams-need-generalists-not-specialists?referral=03759&cm_vc=rr_item_page.bottom
When is specialisation not so hot?
Specialisation increases coordination costs whereas Generalists are better at moving between functions.
Specialisation may have its detractors, with some suggesting that it leads to the “dulling of talent where workers become ignorant and insular as their roles are confined to a few repetitive task”.
Specialization may provide process efficiencies, some say, but it is less likely to inspire workers.
Are some sectors more prone to specialisation skills, e.g. engineering, medical research or cyber security, u need specialist skills surely. But it’s good generalist skills that will get u to the top.
Interestingly researchers Theodoridis found that generalists were “strongest in fields with a slower pace of change. Example, oil and gas, mining, it might be harder for specialists to come up with new ideas and identify new opportunities, while generalists may be able to find inspiration” connecting the dots from other areas.
If you’re a Manager, would you prefer to employ specialists or generalist?
In fields with a faster pace of change, eg quantum computers and gene editing, the researchers found that “generalists may struggle to stay up to date, while specialists can more easily make sense of new technical developments and opportunities as they arise.”
Research also discovered that generalist roles drive job satisfaction providing: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy in that they are not dependent on someone else for success. Mastery in that they know the business capability from end-to-end. And, purpose in direct connection to the impact on the business they’re making.
Generalists are more passionate about their work and making a big impact on the company.
Generalists =Mastery + Versatile + More tools in your toolbox.
Google’s Project Oxygen used internal company data to identify what makes a great manager. The list of traits of Google’s best managers revealed coaching, empowerment and inclusivity among the key skills for effective leadership. Tellingly, technical and specialist skills do not appear on this list.
In his book, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” investigative journalist David Epstein while looking at the strengths of generalists versus specialists, found that generalists “focusing on keeping a broad range of interests, experimenting and changing course every now and then” are essential to finding one’s true passions.
Khe Hy of Radreads described the career of specialists vs generalists as a “martini glass” where one starts as a generalist” then becoming specialist with experience before becoming a generalist at general manager level working with people from different business and roles.
Do you prefer to be a specialist or generalist?
Don’t Underestimate Generalists: They Bring Value to Your Team