Monk at work has another great post about the CrossFit motto; “General Physical Preparedness”. It’s a style of physical training that Adam relates to work, and continual improvement. Something he terms “General Work Preparedness” with admonishment to “Generalize, not specialize” because “specialization has its price”.
I think it’s similar to a discussion I had with a college of mine regarding the difference between “specialists” and “generalists”. Even though I’m not a fan of the terms, when I saw the graphic it was actually inspiring to me.
In my work we have “IT Architects” and “IT Specialists” and it’s tempting to equate Architect to Generalist and draw a similar connection for Specialist. However, I think that’s more a fallacy enforced by English rather then a realistic comparison.
It seems entirely realistic to be that there might be someone who specializes in Linux but who can architect a complex multi-platform solution. Or if that seems too contrived consider an architect who’s entire world has been the mainframe.
A better conclusion from this discussion, but by no means the end of the discussion, would be to consider the different approaches that a Generalist and Specialist bring toward problem solving, and not the specific subject matter depth.
When you talk with a colleague do they speak in “high level” abstract concepts, or do they attempt to convey vagaries with with tangible, though perhaps not entirely accurate, examples. I believe a generalist approach tends to paint in broad brush strokes, where as specialists attempt to make things more tangible.
We all have strengths and affinities but as Adam says, “specialization” (in this case too much of one approach) has a price. I read somewhere today that successful entrepreneurs are individuals who can be both creative (sales, marketing, innovation, design…) and disciplined (operations, finance, paying bills, …).
Maybe one of those behaviors comes more readily then the other and maybe you don’t aspire to run your own business, but you must still represent this personal growth in your career.
So what are you training for in your career? Currently in my life I can design, implement and manage IT Infrastructure. Just like with GPP I don’t know what I’ll need those skills for but if I need them at least I know I won’t throw out my back.