Tinkering with tools: LinkedIn, where networking and problem-solving gets professional

Who uses LinkedIn and how (Source: Lab42)

Who uses LinkedIn and how (Source: Lab42)

LinkedIn is a popular social network and it has been around for a while. Most people know about it. And yet most people don’t seem to really know what to do with it. LinkedIn the opaque social network? So what about LinkedIn? Let’s look at three aspects of LinkedIn: its functionalities (what it offers to do), its community (who it is made of) and its conversations (its engagement dynamics). Functionalities LinkedIn has been a popular tool early on because it clearly addresses the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) factor: help you find a job. The service started as a ‘CV online’ service. The web 2.0 wave which brought Facebook and Twitter to the  limelight urged LinkedIn to mark its ‘professional’ orientation, to fend off criticism about the futile nature of (other) social media. LinkedIn has thus become a professional social networking site which features:

  • The profile, where you present typical CV information, including groups and associations (see below), awards and a series of widgets (e.g. your Twitter updates, blog posts, Slideshare presentations etc.);
  • Recommendations – which you can give or solicit (the reason why I hopped on the LinkedIn train originally), as a nice way to collect nice and useful feedback;
  • A list of your contacts (see ‘the community’ below);
  • A status update right under the profile, which can be connected to a Twitter (or – I assume – a Facebook) account;
  • messaging system which combines direct (email-like) messaging and invitations to connect with new contacts;
  • Groups and networks (see ‘the conversation’ below);
  • ‘Answers’ (Questions and answers which people post, about content – so not really a FAQ);
  • Network statistics that tell you how many direct, 2nd and 3rd degree connections, most popular regional and industry connections that you have;
  • Statistics on your account: who has viewed your profile in the past period, how many times you appeared in search etc.
  • Jobs – a section to help you find or advertise a job;
  • A company directory/search function;
  • News and additional features such as events, polls, and all other ‘beta-phase’ features and a useful LinkedIn learning center to find help on LinkedIn;

The premium (pay-for) features allow you additionally to: sort your most important connections, enjoy additional statistics (location, industry of people that viewed your profile etc.) and a few more features which I don’t know (I have a simple account).

The community

LinkedIn has at least three communities that might interest you here: a) Your contacts, b) the community surrounding your contacts, c) the wider list of contacts.

It is very easy and intuitive to expand your list of contacts by connecting with people that you might know on the basis of joint history or just on a whim (although LinkedIn luckily doesn’t make it too easy to connect if you haven’t had prior contact with another person, and therefore requests you to fill the email address of the person you want to connect with). LinkedIn builds upon the serendipity factor by suggesting ‘people you may know’ on the basis of shared connections (remember the six degrees of separation?). The wider list of contacts forms a basis for e.g. finding a job, subcontracting some work to people you can rely upon or engage in fruitful conversations, which is perhaps the most interesting part of LinkedIn.

The conversation

LinkedIn allows conversations in various ways. The simplest form is through the messenging service that it offers between LinkedIn users (whether direct contacts or not), or through the status update, but the most powerful ways to converse are through the ‘Answers’ service and particularly through LinkedIn group discussions.

Answers are an older functionality where people can seek answers on topics that matter to them.

Another level of conversation however is through the many groups that one can join, related to a specific industry. Not all groups are active but those that are (usually based on a rather large group) can offer brilliant insights. You can ask questions by either starting a discussion or a poll, join ongoing discussions, mention what answers you like from those given, promote an event (or something else)… All in all group conversations are great as they connect you to very effective communities of practice and are likely to reap very interesting insights.

So what to make of LinkedIn from a KM perspective? 

The primary objective and perhaps strength of LinkedIn remains its job focus. However the conversations that take place on groups and the wide array of answers given are good arguments to develop a LinkedIn presence as a KM-focused organisation or professional wishing to engage in peer conversations, networking and problem-solving. If KM is considered to amplify conversations that matter for your job, then LinkedIn is a good complement in your KM apparel, particularly to engage with networks on your edges – but the documentation (and generally information management side) marks the limitations of LinkedIn as a KM tool.

Here is a short review of some positive aspects and some considerations to keep in mind to make the LinkedIn experience more worthwhile…

Positive aspects:

  • Group discussions, which bring you with like-minded individuals that you would not come across so easily otherwise and give rich insights to specific areas of interest;
  • Asking and answering questions, although this service competes with Quora;
  • The recommendations which add direct benefits to a CV and to one’s experience;
  • The easy network expansion which puts you in touch with people you know or might want to know;
  • The mobile version of the tool which works really nicely with instant access to all features including group conversations.

Possible points for improvement or considerations:

  • On groups there is no wiki or other repository of the conversation results so it comes down to individual members to volunteer to document a discussion;
  • The limited customisation means that LinkedIn cannot really become a central block of a ‘branded’ KM presence;
  • The job-seeking features are perhaps not ripe in all countries – outside the US, how many countries really pay close attention to the LinkedIn profile of applicants?

Hereby a selection of recent interesting readings and references about LinkedIn:

Related blog posts:


Reinventing the wheel: it’s ok… kind of…

Do we really know all the sizes and shades of the wheel? (Credits: Cobalt123 / FlickR)

Do we really know all the sizes and shades of the wheel? (Credits: Cobalt123 / FlickR)

For a long time, one of the mainstay arguments in favour of knowledge management has been that it helps avoid reinventing the wheel: We have to learn from others before us and not waste time going around in circles… to develop yet another circle: the wheel.

Let’s really look into this for a second or two though… and imagine a group of people reinventing the wheel…

What really bothers us here?

  • The fact that they are wasting resources (time, money, capacity) into something that already exists elsewhere – if we were sitting on that budget that would bother us even more?
  • The fact that they are bothering us with something that existed way before they found out and had their epiphany?
  • In both situations, the fact that they are not learning, that they haven’t adopted the good practice of scanning what is available out there before they jumped to action perhaps?

Now, let’s consider also what might be the reasons or motivations for reinventing the wheel:

“I didn’t know about all of this, I just thought it was new” No learning, no looking around, indeed this is daft – but it might also be a great opportunity to learn from the past and to learn how to learn? That is, if we provide that crucial feedback to these people who did not look around. Information gets quickly submerged – we need to unearth the gems buried in the information soils every now and then
“But this bit about it is totally new!” A new insight has come up about the wheel. Perhaps we think we know everything about the wheel, but then again there are these ‘phoenixes’ that keep coming back in conversations, each time in a different avatar. In KM, ‘what is knowledge (management)‘ and ‘Assessing knowledge management‘ are two of these phoenixes. Let’s keep open-minded or we might miss out on crucial insights from these reincarnations of old topics
“I want to give this a try (anyhow)” People might know that they are reinventing the wheel but it is part of their learning process. Much like: a child can be told that the oven is hot and they should not touch it, they will want to experience this by themselves. We all need to reinvent our wheels to go beyond the wheel.
This case can also relate to the quest of immortality… leaving a name behind might justify (in our eyes) going on a beaten track again to find THE way to make this better. That is human behaviour and though it can be irritating, it might again unearth new ideas and insights…
“What we’re doing here is not exactly the same though” Sometimes, at first sight there is no difference, no novelty in an initiative and it really looks like reinventing the wheel, but in fact it is adapting the wheel – and that is totally justified. Innovation emerges when old ideas mix with new opportunities too…
“Our donor asked us to re-invent this wheel” Either extremely daft on the part of the donor, or extremely smart: a great opportunity to think outside the box, erm, aside the wheel?

So all in all, reinventing the wheel is just one of the ways of failing fast and improving quickly – and sometimes it’s actually about adapting, not reinventing the wheel… At any rate it offers a wonderful opportunity to learn and/or to learn how to learn, and that is priceless.

This is why, in a community of practice, with new people coming in continually, there is sometimes a fatigue from older members to hear (again) about the same topics or see the same approaches. But listen carefully savvy folks, a butterfly of an idea there might create a creative tsunami elsewhere… Keep interested and curious, for we don’t know everything about the wheel(s) just yet…

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Portrait of the modern knowledge worker

The brain of a knowledge worker - and that is just the beginning (Credits: unclear)

The brain of a knowledge worker – and that is just the beginning

The concept of ‘knowledge worker’ which Peter Drucker coined in 1959, is perhaps not so clear (as shown again in a recent LinkedIn discussion – access potentially limited) and can be understood at least in two different ways: dedicated and other knowledge workers.

Dedicated knowledge workers are the persons whose job it is to organise ‘knowledge work’, in relation with the processes that their colleagues are working on – a sort of knowledge work maestro, as is the case with a knowledge manager.

Other knowledge workers are people who ‘do’ knowledge work: their job strongly involves using information and engaging in knowledge interactions (identifying knowledge needs, sharing knowledge, applying it, evaluating it etc.).

Our entrance to the knowledge era means that nowadays most people in a service-providing company are knowledge workers. Now, let’s forget about the dedicated knowledge workers and ponder: what is the portrait of a modern day knowledge worker? We’re talking about pretty much us all here in the blogosphere…

Let’s really focus on the specific know-how (not the specific knowledge) that s/he should possess and the attitude that supports their work. Let’s also assume that for us knowledge workers, the main objectives of combining those characteristics are a) to become ever more relevant and effective in our field of expertise, by deepening it or expanding it on its edges (i.e. making new connections with related fields to create a bigger picture and to be more likely to follow ever innovative approaches) and b) to help others become ever more relevant and effective in their own field through our interactions with them.

What is the profile of a balanced knowledge worker anno 2012? (Credits: fr.123rf.com)

What is the profile of a balanced knowledge worker anno 2012? (Credits: fr.123rf.com)

I can think of a few traits and characteristics that relate to the desired gifts, skills and attitudes of such a modern day knowledge worker.

Gifts and skills:

  • A synthetic mind that can ingest a lot of information and summarise it in clear and concise ways, perhaps using mnemonics.
  • A pair of intently listening ears and eagerly observing eyes to pick up the signals around (and question them);
  • Outstanding interpersonal communication skills helping to get in touch with a variety of people (in the same field of expertise and beyond);
  • An open heart giving the emotional capacity to connect with others at a deeper level and build trust authentically;
  • Good speaking and writing skills allowing to express oneself articulately so as to share knowledge more effectively – both with other people verbally and in writing;
  • The capacity to read quickly and to remember things well;
  • Typing blindly to write more quickly;
  • Ideally, good facilitation skills to be able to tease out knowledge and information from other people and apply/combine them – but that is just an extra.


  • An open, curious, humble mind that keeps inquiring about everything, and does not settle for finished, definitive answers – the way a child would do rather than a self-engrossed expert – to keep on learning;
  • A true curiosity to try new things out and add them to an array of experiences;
  • A vision of one’s own development pathway and next priorities;
  • Reflecting continually: every day, week or after every significant event, taking the time to ponder what just happened and what could have been done better, perhaps following the after action review principles;
  • Reflecting in single, double and triple-loop learning, in practice;
  • An attitude of ‘documenting on the spot’ (typing as people speak, live blogging, taking pictures and videos as things happen etc.);
  • A strong self-discipline to systematically act upon all the above and reflect to improve again.
Good all-round knowledge of information tools and information management processes also helps keep track of one’s own field of expertise, sharpen reflection and engage in more extensive social learning with others than just face-to-face.

This is an ideal picture, not easy to find in any one real person of flesh… But it sums up a number of characteristics many of us knowledge workers have to focus and improve on to remain relevant and adapt as we cruise through ever more complex paths in the knowledge era.

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Harnessing the power of introverts – a LinkedIn discussion

Introverts are definitely the talk of town then… After a last post touching upon the matter of introverts and social media, I landed in a fascinating LinkedIn discussion about introverts and how to facilitate workshops so as to harness their power.

Emma Konopka started this conversation on the basis of a blog post and of  the TedTalk video below:

“…what (more) I could do to make sure introverts have a voice in workshops, and whether/how I could build in some solitude in my sessions. What do you do? And what do you think of the TED Talk?”

About 18 rich responses came in from 14 different people. I hereby attempt to summarize them according to the main patterns of the conversation.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts (the TED talk which triggered the discussion)

Who are introverts?

Clearly there was some ambiguity as to what is meant with being an ‘introvert’, as Susan Cain explains herself in the video. A key point is that introverts are not ‘shy people’ but rather people that give their best in a quiet environment. We probably all fall on a continuum from introvert to extrovert and as Viv McWaters mentioned, we can allow ourselves to be introverts or extroverts, depending on the situation. Even though most of us probably identify with one end of the spectrum more easily.

Recognising and using diversity

Another crucial hint from many participants is to recognise and accept diversity and to design and implement an event according to the different learning styles in presence. Keith Warren Price wonders why quiet people should be forced in any direction. “People work best in their
Diversity (Credits: librariesrock / FlickR)

Diversity (Credits: librariesrock / FlickR)

preferred styles.” Whether we like or believe in the theory of learning styles, there is something going for embracing diversity and using it. And it starts before the event…

Being introvert-friendly? It starts before the event
The whole design of the event or workshop ought to be ‘introvert-friendly’. Pamela Lupton-Bowers reveals that planning activities should recognise and allow different learning styles. Discussing this with other organisers helps get that message across and embed different practices in the workshop which put all participants at ease and in a position to collaborate.

One of the best ways to empower introverts – as recommended by five participants – is to prepare activities before the event takes place – particularly if there is a specific question that needs to be asked to participants. This can be done through either a short questionnaire/ reflection sheet – as suggested by Elizabeth Mc Donnell – an email or a flipchart sheet on a wall as hinted by Rosemary Cairns. Using that pre-thinking during the workshop (as suggested by Monica Bolland) also matters to pay attention to introverts.

Embracing diversity in practice, during the event
Once at the event, embracing diversity translates into several approaches and tools…

  • Monica Bolland recommends using Team Ground rules to set up a team process and ensure that all participants have a way to contribute.
  • In line with this, I personally mentioned it’s a matter of getting participants acquainted with one another and appreciate each other. Along these lines, Debjani Biswas also suggested reading comments others have written about themselves.
  • Elizabeth Mc Donnell recommends a mix of processes for group and individual working (with people going to work on their own) – although of course, all of this depends “on the purpose, time and context of the work”.
  • Elisabeth Tepper Kofod praises the ‘Whole Person Process Facilitation’ approach of “Sitting in circles (to insist on the equality among participants as suggested by Thomas Herrmann)… acknowledging hopes and fears… understanding learning styles… understanding preferences (visual, auditory, kinesthesic) and allowing for different moments of interaction”
  • Using visuals (photos and postcards) helps connect participants to their personal side and creates opportunities for introverts to express themselves. Keith Warren Price also points that: ”cards, shapes, colours and specific processes and big pinboards” help celebrate that diversity better than flipcharts and whiteboards. He further suggests using ‘idea galleries’ rather than group presentations, to facilitate questions and establish common ground.
  • Using auditory or kinesthetic activities (voting with your body e.g. on a continuum) also brings people in a different dynamic that might give better chances for introverts to express themselves and rely on their preferred learning style.
  • Drawing, writing, reflecting, along talking… all activities that resort to different parts of our personality help in accepting that diversity and creating better options for introverts (and actually everybody).

Interactions between introverts and extroverts in plenary groups:
The other side of the coin is to ensure that extroverts do not monopolise air time when in plenary. Ensuring a balance between them and introverts is a must. On top of other approaches recognising diversity, these approaches specifically address the introverts-extroverts balance.

  • A talking stick,  can be a great device to give a chance to all, as hinted by Thomas Herrmann.
  • Talking one after another – in whatever way – also naturally creates space for everyone.
  • Rosemary Cairns evokes the ‘three toothpicks’ technique, an old Quaker method whereby “As you spoke, you had to throw down a toothpick. Once you had thrown all 3 toothpicks, you could no longer speak”.
  • Because introverts might need more thinking space in groups, Fern Richardson suggests asking extroverts to express themselves before moving on to an introvert, to not ‘put them on the spot’. If that is not enough, Debjani Biswas recommends moving “from popcorn brainstorming to formal, person by person brainstorming”.
  • The balance is also about making participants aware of their role in the whole group: Pamela Lupton-Bowers explains: “I encourage the extroverts to be more aware of when they might be hogging the space, but I equally remind introverts to notice when they are holding back from sharing an idea that might unlock a situation or solve a problem. We all have obligations and responsibilities to the success of the meeting.” Viv McWaters echoes this “I try and create an environment in which people can contribute if they wish”.
Aren't we all ambiverts (Introvert-extroverts)? Don't we all need our individual thinking space? (credits: Jerry Cooke / FlickR)

Aren't we all ambiverts (Introvert-extroverts)? Don't we all need our individual thinking space? (credits: Jerry Cooke / FlickR)

Thinking space during the event:
If introverts are to find their place in an event, they have to find a safe space for thinking. The TED video and some participants emphasised that there is currently a strong bias towards group interactions and collaboration rather than individual work (which a few references I blogged about in that previous post argue against). It is therefore all the more important to create thinking space for introverts during the workshop, by e.g.:

  • Planning moments of individual work, work in pairs and small groups.
  • Involving participants in social reporting, blogging etc. and using those as inputs to the workshop to share introverts’ gems.
  • Rosemary Cairns recommends ensuring a safe, quiet space where people can relax and think individually somewhere in or around the venue, perhaps outside.
  • Giving time to participants to think when asking questions. Fern Richardson suggests another 10-15 seconds of reflection before moving on to the next question.
  • Similarly, encouraging individual reflection before getting back to group brainstorming.
  • Responding on paper rather than verbally.

The role and responsibility of the facilitator:
In all of this, clearly the facilitator has the sacred role of creating the space for a certain dynamic that includes and involves introverts. In the conversation, I mentioned that it is something that needs to be built in from the start and followed gradually, by letting people know each other, co-create the dynamics according to the initial ground you have created for them. And indeed it’s your job as a facilitator to make all people feel valuable and able to contribute. Rewarding (verbally) the thoughtfulness of (introvert) participants encourages those participants to share more.

At the end of the day, together with Nic Stephen we recognise that for us facilitators, it is a matter of being flexible on group work and collaboration, but also of putting the responsibility on the group to develop the dynamics further: Keith Warren Price reminded all that “the essence of what we call Pinpoint Facilitation is to ensure the group does all the work, not the facilitator.”

Additional information:

Related blog posts:

Of serendipity, introverts and extroverts, social media and shooting the ambulance…

Once again signals converge to a particular direction in my flowing web of interests. Serendipity… That really might be the master word of social media – or shared media. Indeed this morning I come across this recent blog post by Antony Mayfield about social media being shared media – a rather inspiring term to describe catch-all ‘social media’. It comes at a very timely moment as me and my colleagues are putting together a social media guide about African knowledge on climate change adaptation. And we are trying to find a better term for social media, at least to question this cumbersome catch-all phrase.

So there’s this kind of serendipity – the ‘pregnant women serendipity‘: a selective look at the world as with pregnant women spotting pregnant women all around them because they are more alert to it than your average earthling.

But then there’s another kind of serendipity the ‘simultaneous inventions serendipity‘ – related to the phenomenon of inventions bubbling up and appearing around the same time in various places, something that Antony Mayfield (déjà vu?) also blogged about in passing reference (Antony, enjoy this, I probably never will refer to you twice in a blog post again!). Social media make this kind of serendipity much more obvious and expand it through the phenomenon of trending topics/conversations.

In that second serendipity avenue, there’s been a lot of talk recently about introverts vs. extroverts and the fact that social media seem to stifle the participation of the not-so-socially-comfortable among us. In my sphere, it all started around a few articles on team building, creativity and introverts: ‘5 reasons to hate teambuilding‘ (a recent blog post on HR career success), ‘Groupthink‘ (an article by the New Yorker) showing that brainstorming leads to fewer ideas than with people thinking independently, ‘Woz on creativity: work alone‘ (on the excellent Brain Pickings site) and the more recent ‘overcoming the introvert factor: communicating climate change in an age of uncertainty‘ which triggered a little conversation with my mate Michael Victor from the Challenge Program Water and Food.

Introverts and extroverts, two approaches to express ourselves, on social media and in life (credits: Alphadesigner / FlickR)

Introverts and extroverts, two approaches to express ourselves, on social media and in life (credits: Alphadesigner / FlickR)

I certain recognise that introverts should be considered carefully in conversations and that not all group-think is good, but when it comes to social media I argue that it is a false argument to hold them responsible for extroverts feeling sidelined by ‘communicators’.

In my view it relates to the pacing and approach in thinking, writing (or developing) and sharing behaviours:

  • Thinking: When we mention ‘social media’, most people think of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the ‘viral’ element that they support very effectively. But viral sharing is only one of the characteristics and approaches of social media. Of some social media. In their nature, wikis favour collaboration therefore more reflective work than just viral sharing; Delicious stacks, Pinterest boards, FlickR galleries and the likes feature collections of content, they have been thought through and by definition offer a longer shelf life than a tweet or facebook update. What beats all of this though, much more considerably: blogs really do encourage slow thinking space and offer a place of choice for thinkers. There is a whole variety of think-pacing dynamics in social media. as mentioned in this post ‘KMers navigating between fast flow and slow space‘.
  • Writing: In fact, I would even argue that thinking before you write makes you more likely to write quality content and to attract interest in social media. If anything, introverts should thus be able to find more value in social media than fluffy extroverts. Or perhaps more to the point, both can find their place and space in the shared media world. There are different dynamics at play. There are different ways of giving birth to our ideas and the variety of social media caters for our different styles. It has to be said, though, that blogging and perhaps to a lesser extent other social media interactions change the way we think and write, but I think for the better, following the rules of knowledge ego-logy: to be loved, you must come up with good stuff.
  • Sharing: The other side of the equation is the social side of things: how readily do people engage with one another and share their ideas and information? Extroverts will meet people as they breathe and share readily. Introverts might find this more daunting. Yet again, the (partial) anonymity that a computer or mobile phone screen offers in our social media interactions breaks barriers to share. This very interesting and challenging blog post / essay shows that even pathologically shy people can find their niche on Facebook (and it does argue convincingly that it doesn’t make people more prone to fight their shyness, but that’s another discussion). More to the point: social media are all about the network you build and interact with. Regardless of its size. You first tend to engage with kindred people. I cannot believe that introverts cannot connect with others, with the benefit of breaking down the barriers of physical interactions.
Bearing this in mind, yes we need to pay attention to using social media in a way that does not single out introverts (or simply thinkers) and their progressive and slower-paced approach. Perhaps we need to develop more opportunities for training and coaching on the use of these social media. But criticising social media for sidelining introverts is like shooting at the ambulance: it is targeting the channel not the person using it, it is misguided, over-simplified, not to mention the strait-jacketting it suggests, by putting all introverts and extroverts in one same bag. And perhaps judging social media in that way is simply a lame excuse for some to not write and share… There’s still people out there thinking that knowledge is power too…
So extroverts, please come out of the ambulance and show that you can prove cliché-hunters and lazy naggers wrong because I know you can 😉 I used to be an introvert too…
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In a complex world, it’s all about process… or is it?

The phenomenon of crowd-sourcing has made it practically useless to learn a lot about any given field. The fame and importance of the specialist, the expert, has somewhat waned in favour of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’. This is connected to the shifting dominant perspective of the world.

The Newtonian model of physics which has ruled for long puts strong emphasis on unpacking and dismantling the world around us into particles of observable and explainable phenomenons. It is being increasingly criticised. Complexity theories are increasingly making a dent into this paradigm and adjusting the focus from the nodes (these observable micro-phenomenons) to the interrelations between the nodes and the bigger picture that these inter-connected nodes make up.

Specialised generalists, the necessary new breed? (credits: Anitakhart / FlickR)

Specialised generalists, the necessary new breed? (credits: Anitakhart / FlickR)

In this shifting world, knowing one thing is subsequently less important and less pertinent than knowing how to connect different things together, connecting knowledges, connecting know-hows, connecting people that have knowledge and know-how.

This means that wide-spectrum generalists who do tend to have a better capacity at connecting fields together, are perhaps valued more than ever before. Connectors, mavens etc. are the new heroes. They are at the bleeding edge of change and innovation. And their source of power, process is perhaps becoming the main object of science, as we are trying to understand how change is really happening in a process-focused, interconnected manner.

Is it really so? Is this definitely and ultimately the age of generalists? Is connecting fields of knowledge the final truth of this era? Or is this not yet another baby-out-with-the-bathwater-syndrome?

I am a generalist and have suffered for a long time of not finding my place, space and faith (in the virtues of the process) in a world that venerated specialists. Yet, or perhaps because I wouldn’t want the opposite to happen, I do not feel totally comfortable with the process backlash that is happening now.

At a workshop icebreaker in October last year, I asked participants to put themselves on a continuum from specialists to generalists and one thoughtful person mention that one needed both: the capacity to connect fields but also some more in-depth understanding of a given field.

Why do we need to be specialists (or have some at hand at least)?

  • Because process can also be superficial if not applied to a specific context or purpose (as much as, in communication, content and process are two wings of a bird). In contrast, specialisation means one can distinguish deeper patterns and layers of complexity much more precisely than a generalist would;
  • Because even process expertise can become a field of specialisation (as demonstrated by the flurry of change management and innovation process consultants);
  • Because knowing a field more in-depth gives mastery and mastery is apparently one of the three decisively motivating elements in generating self-accomplishment and deep happiness – as shown on the RSAnimate video below;
  • Because knowing a field in detail also helps connect with a specific specialist crowd which becomes a support network with the deep connections that come from going through intense experiences together;
  • Because knowing people that know a field in detail adds depth to the colourful but watered down picture of life that a generalist might have, it makes certain elements spicier by zooming in on details (the spicy devil is in the details);
  • Because in a complex world, micro-phenomenons can explain macro-events and zooming in detail on these phenomenons holds keys to the process too…

So, while I appreciate this due focus on process, as much as I hated being stigmatised as ‘someone that doesn’t know what he’s doing’ in a world of specialists, I wouldn’t want generalists to chase away the importance of mastery and specialisation as part of their new exclusive dogma.

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