Generalists get a bad rap. They’re supposedly unfocused. Lost. Distracted. Confused. They can’t do anything with expertise and are ultimately a mish-mash of random skills pieced together to form a functioning person.
Now if all that were true, I’d be pretty depressed, because I certainly consider myself a generalist. Although I’ve yet to hit on the perfect definition (don’t worry, I’m working on it), my personal behavior and way of thinking have made it quite clear.
My mind is always racing between different ideas that I want to further explore. I get bored of one thing and excited by the new thing, far too often. I can’t say I have one subject or skill that I could do for the rest of my life – it’s more a combination of skills that change and evolve over time. Sound familiar?
Intellectually curious individuals can become generalists. Intellectually lazy individuals settle for being specialists.Mokokoma Mokhonoana
I love to learn, read tons of books, and have ADD when it comes to projects now and again. More or less, that’s led me to my conclusion. I’m a generalist. I embrace it, love it, and I personally believe it’s an approach that more individuals should follow.
Of course, I’m not trying to say one approach is better than the other, although Mokokoma Mokhonoana (what a name!) would disagree. I fully acknowledge the value of both sides, BUT I know generalists can add tremendous value that is often taken for granted.
Here are the 5 unexpected skills that generalists bring to the table.
1. Thought Engineers
Generalists are masters of connecting the dots between knowledge and ideas. Seeing the big picture and how everything fits together is an inherent byproduct of their approach. By having a diverse skill-set and knowledge base, they can make connections between things that are simply invisible to others.
2. Curious Learners
By default it seems, generalists love to learn – a lot. They’re driven my an insatiable curiosity to learn anything and everything that peaks their interest. And they tend to do it faster than most. It seems that their constant state of learning has helped them improve their ability to learn in general. All of this makes them perfect for being thrown into the fire and learning on the fly, when no one else is capable or willing.
The wide range of knowledge that generalists possess mean they are apt at adapting to most situations. Be it transitioning to a completely new career or wearing many hats at the job, they handle chaos and change better than most. Moreover, living in the fast-paced world today with technology advancing by leaps and bounds, means adaptability is more valuable than ever.
Once again, the diverse range of a generalist makes them perfect at connecting with others from various backgrounds and working with them. They are able to speak the language, empathize with multiple perspectives, and bring about solutions that blend the ideas and skills of the people they connect with. In essence, they are fluent in a wide range of knowledge, making them the ideal connector, when it comes to working with others.
Finally, generalists are the ultimate experimenters, taking the wide range of subjects and skills they explore and putting them into action. They are willing to try new things, take risks, and live to fight another day. It is their curious drive and optimistic outlook that make them natural risk takers, unafraid of failure and consequences as they tinker with new ideas, technologies, and skills.
There are of course pitfalls of this approach as well, which ill cover in a later post, but it’s clear that generalists have a lot to offer.
Are there other skills well suited to generalists that I might have overlooked? Share in the comments. Cheers!