Author(s): Kenneth Mikkelsen
The neo-generalist is both specialist and generalist, often able to master multiple disciplines. We all carry within us the potential to specialise and generalise. Many of us are unwittingly eclectic, innately curious. There is a continuum between the extremes of specialism and generalism, a spectrum of possibilities. Where we stand on that continuum at a given point in time is governed by context.Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, our society has remained in thrall to the notion of hyperspecialism. This places constraints on the ways in which we are educated, the work we do, the people we socialise with, how we are recruited, how our career progression is managed, how we label ourselves for the benefit of others' understanding. To counter and challenge these social norms, the neo-generalist has to learn how to give expression to their more generalist tendencies, even as they practise various specialisms, guiding others as they do so.Our workplaces, governments, intelligence agencies and other communities and institutions constantly complain of silos, but that is an inevitable consequence of our promotion of hyperspecialism.So too the myopia of expertise that prevents us from seeing properly what is right in front of us, or connecting it in meaningful ways with other information, other people.
In the book, we explore the characteristics and behaviours of individuals who do give space to their generalist inclinations, highlighting the social and organisational benefits that can be derived as a result of this. We ask how can the neo-generalist help shape our world, supporting and enabling others, as the current century progresses? To illustrate our idea, we draw on stories from multiple disciplines and cultures, from business, art, science and sport, from people who live in more than one world.Forthcoming from LID Publishing in September 2016.
Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin are consultants who specialize in organizational design and corporate culture.