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A generalist is a person whose knowledge, aptitudes, and skills are applied to a field as a whole or to a variety of different fields, opposed to specialist – a person who devotes himself or herself to one subject or to one particular branch of a subject or pursuit.[dictionary.com]
What are the biggest strengths of the generalist?
The more domains you know, the better you get “the bigger picture” – a holistic view of the three cornerstones of a successful organization – the people, the processes and the technology. Specialization of modern jobs leads to silo-ization of experts – people good at what they do, but unaware of the interdependence and connections between the processes within the organization. Higher demand (and relatively better payment) of specialized expertise leaves the organizations (and the workforce market in general) in a state where there are brilliant subject matter experts, but few experts who have the capacity for a holistic view of organization processes and their inter-relations, especially after the organization grows past a certain size. In the end, the burden of systems design and process coordination falls on the shoulders of oftentimes the least prepared people – the organization’s higher management, who are usually business oriented and lack systems design and systems management skills and experience.
The generalist relieves that burden by taking ownership of systems design and process management – inhouse, or in an external expert capacity.
Combining inter-domain, inter-disciplinary knowledge leads to process innovation, efficiency and creation of qualitatively new services. Innovation lives in the cross-section of domains – applying knowledge and experience from one domain into another, often unrelated at first sight, resulting in a higher order operation. The synergy of inter-domain combination brings competitive advantages through emergence of new value propositions and sometimes drastic efficiency improvement in existing ones, leading to market disruption.
Tags: analysis, business process, digital transformation, innovation, strategy, systematic approach