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Creative Generalist: What Specifically Do Generalists Do?

Creative Generalist: What Specifically Do Generalists Do?

In 2002 I humbly planted a stake in the ground and began a weblog, Creative Generalist. The blog was and continues to be about generalism and generalists, those so-called dabbling dilettantes of knowledge; those curious of everything, but experts at nothing. I myself am a proud Creative Generalist and through my blog I’ve discovered that there are many, many others like me who share the same wide-ranging tendencies and healthy skepticism of unchecked or misguided specialization.


Creative Generalist is a six-part series

Intro | Wander & Wonder | Synthesize & Summarize | Link & Leap | Mix & Match | Experience & Empathize


Nothing can substitute for depth of analysis, and there’s proven value in specialization – it’s what education, career paths, scientific research, and technological innovation are built on – but generalism is a secret talent. With so much complex information, fragmented in so many ways and developing faster and faster, it is increasingly important to have generalists around to make sense of it all, of the big picture. People who appreciate diversity, who are in the know about the wider world and who understand how things interact are invaluable observers, matchmakers, and pioneers of the intersectional ideas so vital for success in today’s knowledge economy, conceptual age, and global community.


But what exactly do generalists do? That’s the question most often asked of me and it’s not an easy one to answer. By definition, generalists tend not to focus (actually, they do focus but just not to the extent that specialists do), they don’t often travel in groups (lacking common associations, designations, and unions), and their shape-shifting versatility changes them frequently. But they are definable and there most certainly are essential traits and skills inherent to them.


I’ve identified five core areas at which Creative Generalists excel. They are:


• Wander & Wonder – finding possibility

• Synthesize & Summarize – presenting information

• Link & Leap – generating ideas

• Mix & Match – connecting people

• Experience & Empathize – understanding worldview


Any industry or organization can benefit – indeed, thrive – by adding generalists to the mix. Based on my experience, observations, interviews, and random notes, this series will show you how.

This is the first of a six-part series on creative generalism. It is adapted from a February 2008 post by Steve Hardy on his blog, Creative Generalist, and reposted here, in its adapted form, with the author's permission.



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