Last Friday, we made it to a ‘Tech Nite’ workshop for young IT professionals in Kuala Lumpur. We were a bit late and the presentation from an American entrepreneurship coach was about to hit climax. He was just finished mentioning on the right traits as an entrepreneur, and comparing the benefits of having general knowledge in broader area against special knowledge on specific, narrower field. His point was this: if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur who owns and manages the business, you should possess general knowledge as opposed to special knowledge.
Well, the prospect came fresh to me, with a realization that I’ve been trying hard for these years (like everybody else around me, individual, organization alike,) to be a specialist in field. After all, we are living in a world of information where the sea of information is just one-click away, and consequently, it is more important to know-where (to find an expert) rather than to know-how (to do it yourself). In the mean time, you should brush up yourself as an expert for some other field, waiting for the duty call from society to contribute your expertise in turn.
I still remember having this online debate in my undergraduate sociology class, where people argued in unison (strangely) on the superiority of “generalist approach” in social change. In the end, it ended up being a rather sad rationalization of our majoring in sociology, a not very popular (at least in Korea at that time as it is now) subject in this era of marketing, law, stock, and medical specialists. However, the logic behind the claim was that critical questions to the human nature and function of society, as we practice in human studies including sociology, should be the basis of all specialist approaches and “generalist” should play a role as a lighthouse in the sea of knowledge, providing a holistic understanding that links different disciplines. A multiplayer. A libero. A person who sees the wood rather than a tree. And perhaps, this is what our entrepreneurship development coach was talking about.
Finally, an application to our role as a peace fellow. In an NGO where maybe more than 10 different kinds of expertise are in need, ranging from a marketing specialist, an IT development specialist, a program management specialist to an administration specialist, it is usually a lone (or two still lone) peace fellow(s) trying hard to juggle things and realizing the greatness of being a generalist.
Posted By Julia Zoo
Posted Jul 31st, 2007