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Mark Lawton

I wanted to be a specialist, but now I am a generalist.

I am happy being a generalist though, because being a generlist helps me to sort out a lot more problems than would a specialist.

I have also started my own website...

The Generalist's Repository


I’m surprised because of the fantastic ideas close to this topic. You did this as the freelance writer , thence, you deserve very prestige price for that, I guess!

Doug K

I like Osvaldo's counterexamples. The grumpy-specialist mapping is a massive oversimplification. I'm a generalist in IT, and I'm grumpy.. there are plenty of happy specialists in this craft, too.

Dave Nicolette

The excerpt about attachments / interruptibility / reactions rings true in the software development field, where agile methods tend to appeal to generalists and traditional methods tend to appeal to specialists. The agile approach to a project involves exploring the problem and discovering the solution as you progress, while traditional approaches tend to involve choosing a single path to the solution in advance, and then following that path rigorously. The generalist/specialist personality types seem to fit. The general nature of debates within a team during a project also tend to line up, with generalists on an agile team and specialists on a traditional team behaving as Weick describes when their ideas are challenged.

Erik Sherman

I think partly the specialist might be too invested in a given idea, which might compose the person's career. But I think there's another difference: whether people think that their part in the process of idea development is to focus on one aspect or to take a broader responsibility. The specialist works as though the job is entirely trying to fit everything into his or her theory, which becomes one of George Lakoff's frameworks. Either everything fits in or it must be wrong. The specialist becoems incapable of considering anything else.

The generalist, on the other hand, is more involved in trying to find the connections between theories and not on the construction of a single theory. It's as though the specialist wrestles with thesis and anthesis and then freezes, never getting to synthesis.


When I think of the number of judicial misconduct cases, and more importantly; the judges on these governing panels who make rules insisting on preserving Confidentiality regarding the misconduct of a public servant, I worry there is little chance of success working within the State.

But the good news is transparency is key to a good government, so appears to be dealing effectively with bad judges.

Max Christian Hansen

Mightn't there be two-way causality here?

Granted that increased investment in an idea might increase the tenacity of our emotional bond to it, and thus our grumpiness when it is attacked.

But it may also be true that the specialist became a specialist because of a pre-existing tendency toward monomania. I'm no psychiatrist, but my experience suggests that monomania brings with it an emotional brittleness that may show up well before one's career choice is made.

Osvaldo Spadano

Could that be because generalists happily piss specialists off due to their lack of knowledge on a specific subject?

In business, many managers are/become generalists. In "command & control" companies, managers (generalists) make decisions and specialists execute it. That would explain why the happiness distribution is unbalanced.

I think that in well run & balanced businesses both generalists and specialists are happy.

Furthermore, specialists have a passion for something. Shouldn’t that provide a better chance of being fulfilled and happy?


P.S. I do not believe in everything I write :-), just trying to take a different perspective and start a root cause analysis.

Wally Bock

Weick's observations ring true, but they also bang up against that "Fox and Hedgehog" thing. My experience has been that the people who have been most successful in careers and business and science have mostly been specialists. On the other hand, when I think of who I know that's been successful in life taken whole, the generalists triumph.

ann michael

Bob –

I'd take this one step further. This also happens when a company holds too strongly to a strategy or when a person or team holds too strongly to one potential implementation path (for a tool, a new process, a new product). As soon as someone backs an idea in a political corporate environment - watch out!!! They will likely go to the "grave" defending it - even when all the evidence shows it needs adjustment!!!

Not only that – some might consider the idea of entertaining new information as weakness! That you’re being “wishy-washy” or not sufficiently committed to the path!

Where’s the line between commitment and acknowledging when the emperor is naked?!

Great post!


PS – I JUST got my copy of The No Asshole Rule from Amazon today!!! I can’t wait to start reading.

James Hubbard

It's seems to be prevalent in the sciences. It's full of examples where people are married to their ideas. String Theory and Global Warming are two areas. I've included some links that should prove to be interesting even if you don't agree.

There have been two books published recently about the disagreements on String Theory. Here's a review:

Global Warming is a contentious issue. Here are three different links that have interesting information.

Take note of the last couple of paragraphs about searching for evidence.


Publishing that goes against the grain:

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