“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow
In the book, Range, by David Epstein the concept of having “range” is provided as a predictor of success over the long-term. It explains why “generalists triumph in a specialized world”.
As a society we value a specialist more than a generalist. However, Epstein points out that generalists are more creative and they can make associations between broad fields that specialists cannot. Due to this, generalists are more innovative and they have more impact.
There are implications to be aware of when working with specialists. For example, when evaluating a hockey player’s ability to possess the puck in the corners a specialized coach could have a bias toward their niche area. A strength coach might notice a deficiency of balance whereas the skating coach sees poor edge work. The skills coach may focus on the puck protection skills and the head coach is focused on how she is playing within the team structure. Whereas, a generalist can consider all of these factors and synthesize an approach to guide the player to a solution.
This is not an either/or argument between specialists and generalists. After all, when the problem is a nail, the hammer does the job! Specialists can be incredibly effective.
We all have blind spots and reflecting on where you fall in the spectrum from specialist to generalist is worthwhile.
How might that affect how you approach situations as a leader?
What are your blindspots?
Do you need to increase your specificity of knowledge in an area?
Do you need expand your horizons and consider divergent experiences?
On the Coaching Project podcast
On my Coaching Project podcast, I had a conversation with with Wes Wolfe, Head Coach of the Cobourg Cougars in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). Prior to this role, Wes was an Assistant Coach of the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). In our discussion we examine personal and career development in hockey. Much of our discussion is relevant to having range as a coach and how it can lead to success on the job. Wes has an amazing story of climbing the ladder of coaching and we cover a lot of ground such as…
• Positive impact of varied roles within and also outside of the hockey and sports industry
• Preparing for failure
• Building your brand