Jun 30 , 2020
In a galaxy of Generalists vs Specialists, be a UNICORN
It’s time to rethink siloed roles in the Age of Connectedness

Last week our community found itself in an intergalactic debate that has been waging on for decades. On the one side of the debate, specialist troopers from the Information Age hold on fiercely to their degrees, doctorates and accreditations insisting that hyper-specialisation is needed to drive programmes into the future of work. On the other side, experienced and seasoned generalists regale warlike stories of facing complex programmes of work with a systemic mindset and sleeves rolled up high.

These days, regardless of whether you are a project manager, business analysis, change manager or part of the technology team, this age-old discussion has taken centre stage once again as many of us find ourselves in murky project waters where the clearly defined roles of the industrial age blur under the pressure of budget constraints and unprecedented change. The more we work with clients, the more we have begun to acknowledge and accept that this time is different largely driven by:

  • The complexity of business and global consumerism has moved away from a general, simplistic production and distribution lines into hyper-tailored/customised products and services with client experience as a non-negotiable centre of the product or service itself. Simply put, markets are demanding complex products and services delivered simply and affordably.
  • The democratisation of information and knowledge has given us affordable and instant access to information previously only available to specialists.
  • The exponential creativity and problem-solving capability unleashed by digital connectivity and collaboration, fuelling the fast the rise of the exponential intra-/entrepreneur.

I think it’s safe to say that the Industrial and Information Ages are officially over and at Earth2Mars, we choose to rather take a page out of the book of organisations born out of the Age of Connection. Take Elon Musk for example whose ability to be flexibly both didactic and auto-didactive has resulted in and intergalactic success story with both SpaceX and Tesla. I am personally inspired by his ability to self-learn as well as humility to call in the professionals at the right time and moment without releasing his commitment and responsibility as CEO.

Instead of getting caught in polarised thinking, our leadership team at Earth2Mars has chosen to let go of polarised, black-or-white thinking around the topic and quite simply accepted that whether we are leading a business or delivering change management with our clients, it is important to know enough general knowledge across business and project silos in order to deliver systemic thinking that harnesses digital technology and facilitates rapid and radical change. However, it is also important to be able to assess risk and opportunities and have the humility to call in the specialists with clearly defined scope and performance measures when the situation calls for it. Yet, without a generalist knowledge, it becomes difficult to know whether our specialists and moving in alignment with our business strategy and client outcomes and I am sure many of our readers have experienced the disruptive waste of projects where consultants drive consultants with very little business input.

I was thrilled to see in one of our posts on the topic that a large majority of change, project and business analysts are waking up and becoming conscious to the realisation that in the futile war between generalists and specialists, client are demanding hybrid unicorns. Unicorns ensure that they not only can function and empathise as an everyday, generalist horse, but also set themselves apart by embracing their special uniqueness, nerve and talent through continuous improvement and an insatiable desire to learning things outside of their comfort zone.

It is through striking this balance and integrating a spirit of both the generalist and specialists that true magic can happen in a business or on a change project. And perhaps the Age of Connectedness demands all of us, regardless of our roles, to learn just enough about the other to kick-start and create successful programmes from the get go, and bring in specialists in a plug-and-play model to overcome the many complex and budgetary challenges we are facing in the new normal of the future of work.


Looking to harness your inner unicorn skills for the future of work? Reach out to us to find out how.
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