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Generalist or Specialist: Resolving the Paradox at Pariveda

Most people think of becoming either a generalist or specialist, which creates a paradox. Each type is critical of each other. Generalists believe specialists are too narrow in their knowledge. Specialists believe generalists are too shallow in theirs. At Pariveda Solutions we believe both are valuable to develop in each of our Fins.

Generalization requires a breadth of knowledge to master the integration of concepts across many domains such as general problem-solving and communications skills. Specialization requires a depth of knowledge to thoroughly master in any given knowledge domain. Shouldn’t generalists honor specialists for their deep knowledge and awesome skills in a particular area? Shouldn’t specialists celebrate generalists for their broad knowledge that allows them to be adaptable to the ambiguous and unknown?

By the time someone enters college, most have decided their preferred area of study. People tend to divide into two paths. One is for those interested in generalization, such as mechanical engineering, management information systems, economics, or philosophy. The other is for those interested in specialization, such as computer science, biology, electrical engineering, or accounting. Regardless of their chosen path, most people need to find entry-level positions to launch their careers. These tend to be specialist roles, particularly those that pay well. Early in one’s career, specialization is valued over generalization. So generalists need enough specialization in their tool kits to qualify for the best entry level jobs. As people advance in their careers, the trend is to generalize out of necessity to meet ever-changing client needs and job requirements. In one’s mid to late career, generalization is valued over specialization. Here again, we see the paradox impacting everyone. Is either pole inescapable during one’s career?

Through our mission of developing people to their fullest potential, we strive to integrate the best of generalists and specialists in the same individual. This is a requirement for mastery of any domain. To master anything, one must not only thoroughly know the domain, one must understand and embrace its connections to other domains. We support an infinite game of career development to grow each Fin into a “T” type person: an individual who is both broad (—) and deep (|), which combine into a “T”.

We grow the “T-person” through a lifetime of learning because it is critical to our mission to develop our people into solution and enterprise architects. Our individual scans the client’s environment using their generalist skills looking for unknown/unmet problems, understanding the complexity of a problem and deconstructing it as a specialist into appropriate parts. Pariveda’s “T-person” is a priceless asset to our clients and their organizations who need broad thinking and deep skills to resolve their most challenging problems.

Bruce Ballengee, CEO

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