Friday, December 17, 2010

But I Don't Like to Specialize in Only One Thing

Over the years I've become quite good at my job. Even if I do say so myself. I've been able to get better and better at my area of expertise. My real advantage though is that I'm a sponge for ideas, techniques, different approaches, and technologies. Knowing about a great deal has been a huge advantage.

Of course when I started in the field of computers it was hard not to have to know a bit of everything. The first hospital I worked for implemented a hospital wide computer system with five people in the computer department. That five included the manager (not even a director back then) and the secretary. There were two application consultants and myself. Now of course things are different. Computer departments in hospitals have lots of staff and the jobs are more specialized. Even so my strength has always been that I can understand and tackle almost anything because I've done a lot of different things on different platforms on different systems.

Which seems contrary to the overall trend in most fields. The trend seems to be to specialize to extreme degrees. Which I find sad. When it comes to troubleshooting, understanding, and dealing with complex systems the people I find the most capable are the generalists. Especially the generalists who know what they don't know.

Which is why Edward Carr's article The Last Days of the Polymath resonates. I don't claim to qualify as a polymath but I understand those who can cross between disciplines and realms and who don't specialize.

Even if we need specialists and monomaths we also need generalists and polymaths. For now the world belongs to the monomaths. Here's hoping the pendulum swings back but also finds a nice balance between the two extremes.

1 comment:

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