Comments on The Specialist-Generalist Balance

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  1. Another (different) view on this subject:

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  2. This is a great post and you have a lot of wonderful suggestions for breaking down the walls between disciplines. I think “guilds” have been the most responsible for breaking down the walls in the nightmare scenario of specialists I used to work in. We call them “communities” and the Design community, by working together, has helped to spread the design standards and knowledge from Usability Engineer to Interaction Designer.

    I’m curious to know whether there’s a lot of crossover between your Design community/guild and your Developer community/guild—it’s been the hardest wall to break down in my personal experience.

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  3. Indeed, every company needs to have generalists and specialists, it’s the same as in a Hospital. I, for myself, I like to consider myself being a generalist.

    Also, it’s hard to have a company composed only of specialists, you’ll need a very good management in order to go forward with such a team.

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  4. Breaking down the walls indeed, being labeled as UI specialist in my current position has restricted me to take part in some of the front-end developer meetings where I feel I could be of value.

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  5. Garin: one thing to ponder - regarding your example where you didn’t have access to change the config file - you are obviously a skilled developer, but imagine if all developers (regardless of their level of skill) had access to change the config. You would probably see a large increase in bugs, and time wasted on discussions about what is the best way to do certain things, often by people that don’t necessarily know the full details.
    I’ve been in a similar boat to you, but I quite appreciate the silos, when they are implemented correctly, there is nothing worse than having to defend a design or architectural decision to someone that doesn’t understand the full picture, yet is adamant they should have full access to change everything, it can waste hours if not days.

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  6. Hey Garin, great article.

    I find myself in a similar scenario with a generalist skill set and do agree that it has it’s ups & downs.

    Red tape can make development a hassle in terms of being reliant on specialists.  I think you bring up a really important topic with developmental integration in terms of the hack days.

    Thanks for the interesting read :)

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  7. Lot of food for thought. Having spent most of my time in a large enterprise with lot of specialists, keep wearing both hats as specialist and generalist, I used to have similar thoughts.
    Finally it boils down to picking control over freedom of expression. Both have its advantages and disadvantages and will depend on the people involved! Typically, large organizations suffer from the bottlenecks created by specialists while smaller ones run the risk of anarchy and chaos resulting from the lack of specialists with generalist domination? This also gets manifests in the form of lack of processes on one end of the spectrum (small organizations) to too many impractical rules on the other end (large organizations). A balanced approach seems to be in order depending on the size of the organization.. Let the debate continue and time be the judge!

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  8. nice point of view…piastre per capelli

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  9. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.