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    From the Gaping Void

    Food for thought

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    September 28, 2010


    Brett T T Macfarlane

    You are correct, this is true for any role/department. I would argue that the skillset or 'shape' of a person is less important increasingly than their mentality. A deep specialist who has the mentality of collaboration and co-creation (sorry for the hackneyed terms) can accomplish great things. If they recognize what they don't know as much as they know. The tough part is how many T people and how many specialists - too few and the load is unbearable, too many and you spend most of your time managing each other not the business challenge before you. The right number, and some good healthy messy creativity can take place...

    Bud Caddell

    Hey Gareth,

    Interesting to see this discussion as it has been something I've been studying for the book.

    The balance of specialists vs generalist is important depending on the maturity of the business and the market. In a nascent market (say, when mobile marketing was first taking off), generalists can push a business into fitness rather aggressively, but in order to maximize profitability in a more mature market, you have to shift the balance to specialists. Although, this will also force your business into more rigidity (it's harder to switch focus when you have a specialist work force).

    I think it begs the question: is your agency a generalist or a specialist? Do you focus on any one technology, medium, or industry? If not, consider loading up on generalists for now.

    Did I make any sense?

    Erik Rodin

    Looking at the Youtube clip the first thing that comes to mind is not advertising, planning, or alphabet shaped people. What pops up in my head is leadership.

    Whether you are I-shaped, T-shaped, or O-shaped, I believe that most people are not using their potential to the fullest. Maybe you’re not allowed to or perhaps you don’t give yourself permission. What Carwyn James does so well in the clip is to lead by example and in doing so he inspires and empowers those around him. I think the conversation should not only revolve around what kind of people are needed in organizations and agencies, but what also what kind of leadership needs to be in place for them to thrive.

    If we stick to the alphabet as a metaphor, I believe that an "I" is just a "T" waiting for its wings to grow. Of course this goes both ways meaning that incompetent leadership can quickly wing clip any T-shaped person into an I. Cheesy? Yes. True? I’ll let you decide.

    Bottom line is that leadership can give the necessary permission slip. And in the end I think it’s not only about the people you hire, but also the people that lead them.

    This leaves me wondering what is T-shaped leadership and what does it look like in a T-shaped organization?


    I don't know about T shapes or any other letter to be honest, but I agree with what you're saying [as usual] though the best reason to be a generalist is from this Peter Ustinov quote:


    It might not be exactly what you're saying, but I think the underlying message is easily adaptable for what makes a great planner versus a good one.

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