We live in an era where the specialist has been dominant. Recruiters and hiring managers are on the hunt for engineers, coders, machine learning experts. PhDs and people with master’s degrees are sought with diligence. Even in HR and recruiting we seek people with advanced degrees and experience. It is probably the worst time ever to be a new graduate with no experience and only a bachelor’s degree.
Should we continue on this path? What are the upsides and downsides of hiring a majority of specialists?
Specialists brings deep expertise to a narrow area. When a problem is complex and a generalist cannot solve it, then the expertise of a specialist is welcome and needed. This is common in medicine where the general practitioner often refers patients to a specialist whose entire career revolves around a very specific illness or condition. This is also true in many areas including engineering, law, and science.
So what is the role of the generalist? Generalists bring a broader perspective and see the forest rather than the trees or branches. They often bring together many disciplines that when combined offer a different or even better solution.
Innocentive is an innovation and crowdsourcing company. They solicit solutions to challenges posed by a variety of companies. Anyone can offer a solution and if successful will receive a reward ranging from a few thousand dollars to much more. Many of the solvers are not experts in the field.
Innovation often happens when the most unlikely people are empowered. In an era where there are more challenges than solutions, we need new ideas on how to deal with the challenges of A.I, global warming, an aging workforce, and the shortage of talent.
Specialists are bound to past knowledge and experience. Generalist, on the other hand, have a chance to think differently and imagine a different tomorrow because they are not bound by the past.