The Future Belongs to Deep Generalists

Versatility is valuable. Narrow specialisation suppresses creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

A deep generalist is someone who generalises but does it deeply, with a balance of knowledge depth and knowledge breadth. They adapt well and turn change into opportunities.

Many great thinkers are generalising specialists. Most of humankind's significant breakthroughs come from multi-faceted individuals. Famous deep generalists include Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Marie Curie.

"Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else." — Leonardo Da Vinci

Is there a middle ground between generalists and specialists? Every day, we have to decide where to invest our time — do we become better at what we do or learn something new?1

Relevant reads:

  • Range by David Epstein
    • “We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.”
    • “The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyperspecialization”
    • “The precise person you are now is fleeting, just like all the other people you’ve been. That feels like the most unexpected result, but it is also the most well documented.”
    • “it is difficult to accept that the best learning road is slow, and that doing poorly now is essential for better performance later. It is so deeply counterintuitive that it fools the learners themselves."
  • Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall
  • Loonshots by Safi Bahcall