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Generalist or specialist?

Sogeti Labs
December 29, 2020

A couple of weeks ago I bought Marcos Álvarez’s book, “Leading with OKR” and although I have not been able to advance as much as I would have liked, I have managed to take some notes and learn a concept that, until now, I had not heard before and I found it very interesting.

It is included in the fourth chapter, Agile Collaborators and more specifically in the section with the title Generalists vs. Specialists. In it, the author talks about a concept introduced in 2009 by Tim Brown, CEO of one of the world’s leading Innovation companies, IDEO. It is about T-shaped person or in Spanish, people of type T.

The reason for the use of the T comes from the identification of the two lines that make up the letter with the individual’s own skills. That is, the vertical line corresponds to the level of experience in a given field (specialization). While the horizontal line is linked to interest in all those other things that surround it. Thus, in the book, the definition used is the following: “Type T people are specialists in their field and have high empathy that helps them to see and imagine problems from other perspectives and to contribute their opinion in areas in which they priori they are not experts. ” In addition, he describes them as enthusiastic, curious, and with a strong drive to learn and collaborate.

That is why, at times like the current one, organizations must identify those type T people. They are valuable business assets, since their drive and vision are an Up that cannot be missed. They are the agile collaborator to include in your project.

Although it is true that after several searches about T-shaped person, I have seen that there are other types. They are the pi-shaped or the comb-shaped, which in the end come to add vertical lines on which one is an expert.

This shows that it is increasingly important, in the face of employability, to adopt a broader approach to the so-called “Generalist vs. Specialist”. Which undoubtedly “forces” to be oriented towards learning and continuous improvement. In sectors such as technology, this approach is especially important, since change and evolution is so rapid that, in a short period of time, you can become obsolete.

Now that the end of the year is coming and it is a good time to sit down and think about the goals for the next few years. Doing an exercise in self-criticism and defining our own career plan is undoubtedly good practice. For this reason, I invite you to delve into methodologies such as OKR to help you achieve those objectives, making them accessible through the key results you describe, and lead you to meet them in order to achieve all your challenges.

Toast to your new challenges

About the author

SogetiLabs gathers distinguished technology leaders from around the Sogeti world. It is an initiative explaining not how IT works, but what IT means for business.


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