Let’s look at some definitions to get started…
Competent in several different fields or activities…
Competent, efficient and capable. I like that description.
Highly skilled in one specific field, exactly.
In a way, almost everyone becomes some form of specialist in their life.
This is how each individual person can fit into an available gap, group, sub-market, eco-system, or niche that makes the universe, planet or local economy a bit more valuable through added connections.
Whether they choose to learn the specific and extensive drink recipes as a barista at Starbucks™,
Or whether they choose to get a degree in computer engineering to learn how to design, create and better connect new computer parts to operate more efficiently and powerfully.
The word: “Speciality” seems to attract a “Salary” or another end desired result in some way, shape or form.
And we’ll talk more about that, but that’s often all a Speciality can be good for, if it’s for work-to-pay-bills related purposes.
Carrying on, the more you know about ONE thing, the better you are likely to be at it, assuming you are always trying to learn, develop and improve this body or specific collection of knowledge.
However, being a Generalist also seems to be in high demand (if you think about it).
For example, if you only have one skill, let’s say you can perform Brain Surgery really well, and you are the best in the world at it…
…Imagine if that’s the only skill you had.
Wouldn’t get you too far would it?
If you didn’t know how to Drive, how to speak or communicate well, how to work well with others, how to read, how to write, how to cook, you get the general idea.
If I were asked what I’d rather be, if the goal was to survive: I’d choose to be a generalist.
A Generalist could be perceived to be a person who know’s a lot about several different things, and may be highly proficient or may not be highly proficient at these things.
Let’s shift on a business lens and use an analogy:
Funnel Vision Opposed to Tunnel Vision.
Wide Gaze Vs. a Narrow Gaze.
Those are two alternate ways to look at this topic.
Having a Wide body of expertise, can be extraordinarily beneficial when it comes to growing a business.
Jay Abraham for example, has worked in over 400 different industries, with over 10,000 different small, medium and large sized businesses.
One of his founding principles he uses is to simply take something that works well in one industry and to apply it to another.
This has resulted in large, worthwhile and successful partnerships between him and his clients.
Only a Generalist could ever have a “thought” to do something skill like this — only a generalist — could also inter-weave all of the necessary parts together to achieve certain things, such as this example.
Take Steve Jobs, not an engineer per se, however, he’s the ultimate marketing & sales guy who also know’s how to choose, meet, hire and motivate Smart Engineers to carry out lofty vision.
Steve had a pyramid of well built up “Generalist” skills which enabled him to do more, then a Pure Specialist such as a Software Engineer, ever could.
Also, I’m not saying that if you are an Engineer only you are just a specialist.
Take Elon Musk for example, he is an engineer in just about every engineering category along with having several other helpful skills and bodies of knowledge.
Tunnel Vision / Narrow Gaze: Now, certain specialists are normally able to do one or a few things way better, faster, more efficiently and productively in a work-day than a generalist.
This often holds true, which is why it’s so valuable as well.
Think of Henry Ford’s assembly-line concept.
Rather than to have 1 worker perform 3 or 4 different tasks each day, he gave 1 worker 1 task to do, every day.
He soon discovered that by allowing each worker to be a specialist at just one thing, his efficiency and productivity could go up vastly.
Ford was the ultimate Generalist who also had several things he could also be considered a Specialist at.
Another way to look at being a “Great Generalist” is to become a “Specialist at 3 to 5 things” that relate to your business growth goals.
I for example, had to become a Specialist at “Sales”, “Facebook™ Ads”, “Psychology & Marketing” to name a few things, which have helped me to move towards my business objectives.
I would not give myself the title of being a Specialist at anything that I don’t feel I’m not an absolute 1-percenter Expert at.
For example, I understanding “Programming” more than the average human, but I’m not a “Specialist” at it by any stretch, I simply know enough to get by.
My opinion is: It’s hard or even perhaps impossible nowadays to be a one-trick entrepreneur and still make money consistently from a business.
When I say “one trick” I mean 1 skill or 1 expertise, not 1 business model (which could involve a collection of skills and knowledge bases to make work).
It takes a combination, normally of at least 4 to 5 highly developed skills to make up a speciality or successful person at a business.
An example of skills: Mastering an Advertising Platform or Prospecting Strategy, Mastery at gaining meaningful strategic partnerships, mastery at selling a product to a market, mastery in reading reports, data and accounting, and more.
So in conclusion, one speciality could be composed of 4 or more individual skills, that, when used together often, make a person a successful specialist at the thing in question.
However, depending on what you are trying to do, with your business, it often pays heavily to become and employ Generalists (who make the best managers of teams btw) and a wide-variety of Specialists, in order scale and grow what it is you are doing.
Hope this post added substance to your mind,
P.S. In Summary:
Point #1 – In the beginning of your IM career, aim to specialize to get results the quickest.
Point #2 – Take your speciality as far as it can go without it requiring any other major skills or additional knowledge.
Point #3 – Once you’ve maxed out the amount of clients you can handle, or revenue you can produce, then, at this stage, it’s important to seek out and gain additional knowledge and skills to move past your current plateau, thus evolving To a Generalist from a Specialist.