The generalist vs specialist debate

03 Jul 2017

  • Digital Marketing

As the industry is revolutionised by technology, what are businesses looking for?

The elusive unicorn, who knows the basics of everything or the specialist who knows a particular area inside and out? What's more valuable to a business? In the midst of skills shortage, does the industry have the option to be picky?

Three leaders in the industry weigh in on the debate.

Tourism Australia's Lisa Ronson

"Now more than ever, there has to be a mix. It’s because of the way the consumer is changing, and the way they’re interacting with technology, it’s changing constantly. You need the balance of specialist and the generalist, so one can go deep, and one can go broad and consider A through Z instead of just X,Y,Z."

The Marketing Academy's Sherilyn Shackell

"I’m sick of this debate. There is, and will always be a need for both experts and generalists. If someone has an overriding passion for a specific niche, then let them develop this. If someone wants a broader remit supervising others, then let them flex that muscle. Bottom line, we need diversity in thinking, experiences, skills, desires and abilities."

Mercer's Cambell Holt

"I’d take a generalist over a specialist any day of the week. They generally come with these qualities of resilience and an ability to take risks and be agile. Specialists tend to be quite narrow in their field of view and consequently their world view. You need that flexibility across generalist and specialist. Sometimes that changes, and with respect to the way we mix internal resources with vendors and partners. You need both, but I prefer generalists and I need them at the core of the business, when we are trying to develop a vision then navigate towards that vision. A group of specialists won’t get you there. But augment a core of clever generalists with specialists and that’s where the magic starts to happen."

Read more about skills required for modern marketing in Building the skillsets required for the modern marketing function whitepaper.

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