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  1. #21
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    A comment from bluemonday


    Reminded me of this question. Why is being a specialist better than a generalist? By specialist, I mean people who dedicate their learning to one specific (often narrow) field. Generalists would be the reverse, those who aim to learn about a variety of subjects. The way I see it, there are cases where having a wider range of skill set seems beneficial to me then being completely focused on one thing. Feel free to convince me otherwise.
    A good thinking.

    Confusion is not the underhand of order.
    Only the problem is special.
    A condition is not interest.

    Growth is not an exponent.
    Greed inflates what is not.


    You find the general when you look in the particular?
    Only if your interest is in the general.

  2. #22
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildcat View Post
    You find the general when you look in the particular?
    Only if your interest is in the general.
    You're right as usual. It's what inside you that matters. A generalist will always be one regardless. An unchangeable fact.

  3. #23
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    I have not read the entire thread; perhaps this point has already been raised.

    But I think one problem with specialism is that the practicer of the specialist field loses sight of the system as a whole, and how the pieces link together. Thus the specialist very well could be missing some important, relevant data that impacts his field, his research, and his observations, only because he's unaware of the pieces outside his immediate focus that filter into his area.

    (Medicine is the obvious example. A specialist is great, obviously, once the root problem has been found. But the specialist could come to extremely invalid conclusions if he's not familiar with other aspects of physiology, and underlying conditions that might be completely unrelated to what he's honing in on. He might miss a crucial diagnosis because he is unaware of the larger picture.)

    The specialist may also enact a 'design'/plan that may work great for his particular goals/work effort, but when tied into a larger system, becomes incredibly inefficient and impractical. Again- missing pieces - better design/product could have been created when looking outwards at the bigger, more generalist, picture. I experienced this many times as a Systems tester. The programmers may have been very good at what they did -- their specialized field - but they lacked the big-picture knowledge of how the business worked, so they'd give us code that was often useless, at least initially, because they didn't look at everything else beyond what they were specifically coding for.
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  4. #24
    Senior Member Simplexity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    You're right as usual. It's what inside you that matters. A generalist will always be one regardless. An unchangeable fact.
    Quote Originally Posted by cascademn View Post
    I have not read the entire thread; perhaps this point has already been raised.

    But I think one problem with specialism is that the practicer of the specialist field loses sight of the system as a whole, and how the pieces link together. Thus the specialist very well could be missing some important, relevant data that impacts his field, his research, and his observations, only because he's unaware of the pieces outside his immediate focus that filter into his area.

    (Medicine is the obvious example. A specialist is great, obviously, once the root problem has been found. But the specialist could come to extremely invalid conclusions if he's not familiar with other aspects of physiology, and underlying conditions that might be completely unrelated to what he's honing in on. He might miss a crucial diagnosis because he is unaware of the larger picture.)
    Do you think that it is more an inherent skill, ability or predisposition that allows people to be hyper-specialized. I think the point the wild cat made has some merit. I always, always, always need to see some bigger context for me to understand the specific or specialized.

    Perhaps those who are so specialized that they may lose some foresight are those who can truly excel at embracing the minutiae and lose that ability to go into those depths if they try and see the larger context. This might have some field "dependence" in the sense that some specialist's really do have to know a wide swath of things to be considered specialists.

    I just think for me, my route to being a "specialist" would be in the research, consulting, professor, marketing field. Not a specialized medical professional, biologist, or what have you.
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  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimahn View Post
    Do you think that it is more an inherent skill, ability or predisposition that allows people to be hyper-specialized. I think the point the wild cat made has some merit. I always, always, always need to see some bigger context for me to understand the specific or specialized.

    Perhaps those who are so specialized that they may lose some foresight are those who can truly excel at embracing the minutiae and lose that ability to go into those depths if they try and see the larger context. This might have some field "dependence" in the sense that some specialist's really do have to know a wide swath of things to be considered specialists.

    I just think for me, my route to being a "specialist" would be in the research, consulting, professor, marketing field. Not a specialized medical professional, biologist, or what have you.
    I think specialists are created by experience - sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not. Get enough practice at anything and you'll begin to notice specifics about that task/skill/etc., that others wouldn't. There may be a pre-disposition to a certain task/skill/etc., but I think it falls into the "practice makes perfect" realm. Again, some opt for this voluntarily, and some don't.

    Of course, there could also be a person who specializes in generalism...

    ...doesn't work or play well with others...

  6. #26
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascademn View Post
    But I think one problem with specialism is that the practicer of the specialist field loses sight of the system as a whole, and how the pieces link together. Thus the specialist very well could be missing some important, relevant data that impacts his field, his research, and his observations, only because he's unaware of the pieces outside his immediate focus that filter into his area.
    ...
    The specialist may also enact a 'design'/plan that may work great for his particular goals/work effort, but when tied into a larger system, becomes incredibly inefficient and impractical. Again- missing pieces - better design/product could have been created when looking outwards at the bigger, more generalist, picture. I experienced this many times as a Systems tester. The programmers may have been very good at what they did -- their specialized field - but they lacked the big-picture knowledge of how the business worked, so they'd give us code that was often useless, at least initially, because they didn't look at everything else beyond what they were specifically coding for.
    Yes, it's something I fully agree with. There needs to be both "specialist" and "generalist" in the system. However, the education system has been focusing far too heavily on the importance of specializing.

    For example, basic electronics is no longer taught in the pharmacology program. My supervisor keeps on teasing me that I don't know how to use any device unless it comes out of a prepackaged box with instruction manuals. Speak nothing of fixing problems if anything went wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aimahn View Post
    Do you think that it is more an inherent skill, ability or predisposition that allows people to be hyper-specialized. I think the point the wild cat made has some merit. I always, always, always need to see some bigger context for me to understand the specific or specialized.
    I personally think it's a predisposition and an interest thing. If we have unlimited time and resources, we naturally like to learn everything about all the subjects that holds our interest. Since we don't have unlimited time, we have to choose either in depth knowledge on selected subjects, or learn a bit of everything. Clearly this choice is personality dependent.

    Of course there's the case of people who have very few interests (like my ISTJ father) for which specializing is the only option. Or alternatively those who have lots of spare time on their hands and money isn't an issue such that they can learn everything...

  7. #27
    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    Reminded me of this question. Why is being a specialist better than a generalist? By specialist, I mean people who dedicate their learning to one specific (often narrow) field. Generalists would be the reverse, those who aim to learn about a variety of subjects. The way I see it, there are cases where having a wider range of skill set seems beneficial to me then being completely focused on one thing. Feel free to convince me otherwise.
    No one can answer your question satisfactorily, because you're asking which one is "better." Better is a value judgment, and values are relative, not absolute. For example, if we define flexibility as "good," then a generalist would be "better" than a specialist. But flexibility is an arbitrarily chosen end. I could just as easily say that perfecting one's craft, discipline, and dedication are "good" and therefore specializing is "better." Same problem. What's useful and what the goal is in any given situation (productivity, intimacy, self-empowerment, competence) are all slippery ideas only.

  8. #28
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    No one can answer your question satisfactorily, because you're asking which one is "better." Better is a value judgment, and values are relative, not absolute. For example, if we define flexibility as "good," then a generalist would be "better" than a specialist. But flexibility is an arbitrarily chosen end. I could just as easily say that perfecting one's craft, discipline, and dedication are "good" and therefore specializing is "better." Same problem. What's useful and what the goal is in any given situation (productivity, intimacy, self-empowerment, competence) are all slippery ideas only.
    Allows me to rephrase then. What are the pros and cons of being a specialist compared to being a generalist. You can list specific points and minimize value judgments.

  9. #29
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    You're right as usual. It's what inside you that matters. A generalist will always be one regardless. An unchangeable fact.
    Yes!
    A generalist will always be one regardless. As you say.

    The particular is not in the general. The general is in the particular.

  10. #30
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    Allows me to rephrase then. What are the pros and cons of being a specialist compared to being a generalist. You can list specific points and minimize value judgments.
    Exactly.

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