Expertise is Overvalued

That’s what Vikram Mansharamani says in the Harvard Business Review. The article argues that generalists are better at navigating uncertainty. In other words, those who know a little about a lot of things fare better in today’s uncertain times. The author concludes:

The time has come to acknowledge expertise as overvalued. There is no question that expertise and hedgehog logic are appropriate in certain domains (i.e. hard sciences), but they certainly appear less fitting for domains plagued with uncertainty, ambiguity, and poorly-defined dynamics (i.e. social sciences, business, etc.). The time has come for leaders to embrace the power of foxy thinking.

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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2 Responses to Expertise is Overvalued

  1. msample2 says:

    Interesting. He’s got some good ideas, I think. Did you catch his TEDx talk? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5qMFHTs-wE&feature=youtu.be)

    He’s right in that “hedgehogs” can be very narrow and insular in their approach to solving problems. I think the expression for this is “not seeing the forest for all the trees.”

    At the same time expertise should not be looked down upon. There is merit in asking very detailed questions and exploring those to their exhaustive end. Experts are important members in any business. They are the people who keep the machinery working on a regular basis, and that’s not bad.

    In his area of expertise, though, he does not deal with the everyday workings of a business or a machine. He deals with the exception to the rule. And the exception is generally not due to the factors that the experts are tracking.

    However, a generalist will never be able to find, predict, and fix exceptions all the time. He cannot follow every trend and every influence on a particular industry. At some point he specializes, because the vast tangle of applicable information could cause paralysis. I think the expression for that is “jack of all trades and master of none.” But in that specialization, he will miss a percentage of the exceptions that he’s hoping to catch.

  2. Uri Brito says:

    Great points, Matthew.

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