This might sound controversial, but as we head into a downturn economy the need for Generalists will rise once again. Hear me out or read David Epstein’s Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.
In the past few years we’ve seen departments like marketing silo themselves taking what are normally tactics within an overall strategy and breaking them into bonafide departments – product marketing, inbound marketing, brand marketing, digital marketing, content marketing, growth, – and it continues! Each of these are in fact critical elements and you do need specialists, like an SEO specialist, but what happens to the long-term strategy and communication in these instances? And how do you maintain balance with your remote teams?
Quiet Quitter vs general strategy
Right now an argument can be made that you cannot. With ‘Quiet Quitters’ being an actual thing, one could surmise that the minority of employees and the ones who are Quiet Quitters are holding global visions hostage. If you have a specialist who identifies as a Quiet Quitter, what does that mean to the overall success of your marketing strategy and your team’s morale?
The recent trend towards specialists vs. generalists has been simple – if someone specializes in one thing, they are perceived to be accountable for it. Yet, Generalist’s accountability is vague. They have their hands in all aspects of a particular project or strategy ensuring that work stays on track, daily issues are resolved and they roll up their sleeves when things get behind. And often that can be seen as an affront or simply as “I do that, so what do they actually do”. They do a lot, in fact.
The role of the Generalist
They are the buffer, the cheerleader, and the visionary of both the 50,000-foot view and the 500-foot one. And they develop and implement the strategy to get there because they have experience. Most Generalists are multifaceted in that they have done the work of a specialist across industries or segments. They’ve gone through the rebrand, content strategy, SEO audit, and launched a product or two – so they can speak from experience, but maybe cannot get into the nitty-gritty details of the day-to-day like for instance their growth hacker who lives and breathes AdWords.
And a good Generalist leans. They function with confidence minus the arrogance. When someone is falling short or a new priority has come into play and everyone needs to pivot, they will insert themselves. And if it’s been a while or a new way of working has come into play, they will ask their specialist “what are your best practices?”
Generalists in a downturn economy
In the next six months as the economy turns upside down, the Generalist will become more and more important to sustaining growth at companies. Generalists are efficient and often quick decision-makers which allows for a nimbleness and at times changers of the status quo.
Quiet Quitters, who I’d like to believe makeup 5% of organizations, while their voices are loud, might find themselves losing power to the other 95% of their colleagues. And that’s a good thing. In a downturn economy, you need your team to understand that even if you don’t always agree on the how it’s okay. It’s not personal. Everyone is doing their part, if they are not, a good Generalist steps in, explains the “why”, asks open-ended questions to find the best “how” and then gets to work.