ThoughtStorms Wiki

A miserable posting from MacManus :


Ok, maybe there's a Friday Five style question to be asked here. If you were to specialize your blog to be about three things, what would they be?

For example, I'd like to say something like :

But, of course, these are only really interesting to me because I don't really know much about them, hence writing and thinking about them is an exercise in personal learning.

Being a good specialist means becoming an expert means stopping discovering and starting to simply apply (well) what you already know. Which is, of course, dull as ditch-water.


Tosh :-) Bad specialists do that. Good specialists are always poking at the edges of their field of expertise. Practicing and learning new things. Bad ones sit there with a lump of knowledge and say they know all. You get the same problems with generalists. Some sit there with shallow knowledge from different fields - jack of all trades and masters of none. The better ones find connections and synthesis between the different fields and carry on poking around the edges.


Ah, I always like responses starting with "Tosh!". Keep 'em coming :-)

But, surely the whole generalists vs. specialists thing is based on assumption that people have limited time and capacity and so they are forced to make a choice between going deep and going broad. It sounds like you're just saying the best specialists are also generalists and vice versa, and denying there's a need to choose.


I'm not saying that the best specialists are also generalists. I'm saying the divide is a false one.

Consider vets.

Obviously being a vet is a skilled activity that needs lots of deep knowledge. In the UK it takes five years of hard work to become a qualified vet (in some ways it's harder than becoming a medical doctor :-)

The vet we use is bloody excellent. He's up to date on the latest methods. His desk is always covered with papers on the latest research. He goes to conferences. He consults with other experts online. Does this make him a generalist? No. It just makes him a good vet. I've had vets in the past that, in hindsight, have barely opened a book since they graduated. Does this make the specialists? No. It just makes them a bad vet.

In the context of Biology our vet is a specialist - only concentrating on animal health care. In the context of Veterinary Science he's a generalist - looking at all animals rather that specialising in Equine Science or some other specialisation. Context is everything.

Stopping learning isn't an indicator that somebody is a specialist. It's an indicator that they have either given up, or that there is nothing left to learn in their field.


But now I have an idea for a /RecoveringGeneralistYASN

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