The generalist vs. specialist debate has been simmering for many years. Is there a verdict? The question isn't a new one, and yet there's still no resolution. In fact, opinion has fluctuated over time.
In today's uncertain environment, breadth of perspective trumps depth of knowledge.
~ Vikram Mansharamani
In terms of the market research supply chain, are you better off with a generalist who has all the bases covered, ranging from design to fieldwork, to data processing analysis and ultimately to reporting and insights? Or is it the pool of specialists, each working on their area of expertise, which will add the most value to your market research efforts?
Nothing about everything, versus everything about nothing…
Clearly there’s something to be said for both approaches. And without doubt, pursuing the extreme of either is fraught with risk, the most pragmatic approach being one of maintaining a balance.
‘The Power of Impossible Thinking’ by Jerry Wind and Colin Crook explores this in a practical way with ‘R&D of the Mind’. It involves developing an inventory of new and old models, and refining intuition to fit current reality rather than being prisoners of set routines and models of reality.
Everyone has their favourite
The reverse of the trend towards specialization is referred to in Vikram Mansharamani’s blog.
Specialists (successful ones) cannot work in isolation, but must have an understanding of underlying context. They should be close to both the end (client) needs, as well as the underlying needs of other players, through the value chain. This will allow them to deliver an optimum solution and ensure some future proofing in a constantly changing marketplace.
Make sure your team is stronger than the individuals, so being a part of it is a joy for all.
~ George Bradt
The importance of teamwork through the pipeline cannot be overestimated. And very often the true measure of success is more about attitude.
For instance, a global company handling the market research pipeline may seem to be in a better position on paper. However these days, through company mergers and buy outs, they often represent a federation of companies, processes and cultures which makes streamlined communication very difficult. Working with teams of specialists certainly has challenges, but ultimately their value is intrinsically linked to their ability to work with others.
So for me, it is a no brainer albeit slightly idealistic… and I’ve worked on both sides! You can’t beat a team of champions working as a champion team! And that is, more often than not, done by specialists with the right expertise, experience, collaborative intent and attitude.
To view a more in depth slideshow click here.