A neo-generalist is somewhere between a polymath and a hyperspecialist. One metaphor used by the authors of The Neo-Generalist is ‘frequency hopping’, “wandering, accumulating, sampling, mixing, putting into practice what they learn.” Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin have written a book that defies the formula of most business and management books. Instead of one or two easily understood ideas, they offer a cornucopia of ideas, perspectives, and opinions. If you just read all the books they mention, you would be much the wiser.
“The jack [of all trades] is a lifelong learner, a trickster who will acquire the skills to navigate multiple domains … It is why this book is called The Neo-Generalist rather than The Neo-Specialist. It is about people who can specialise as the context requires it but whose personal preferences lie in the area of polymathic generalism, where they are able to exercise their curiosity and pursue diverse interests by choice, through the confluence of both preference and context.”
Neo-generalist do not fit easily into a simple definition or classification. They find it hard to describe what they do, to which I can relate. Neo-generalists defy common understanding. They cross boundaries, and some break them. They see patterns before others do, as Kenneth notes in his own experience that neo-generalists, “live on the edge of the future and detect signals early on by accessing a wide variety of people, ideas and information.” They go against hundreds of years of cultural programming.
“Yet we continue with a polemic today that can be traced back at least to the time of the Renaissance, evidenced by an artificial schism between the arts and the sciences … It is why the current advocacy of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM subjects, by policy makers and funding bodies seems so misguided. They are essential, but so too is the study of the humanities … It is through the hybridization of and cross-pollination between such disciplines that we will arrive at solutions for our wicked problems.”
Not only was this book a pleasure to read, it expanded my knowledge on a variety of subjects. I now have a much longer ‘to-read’ list (thanks guys). I am already working on re-reading this one, as there is so much to learn from this pair of deep thinkers and excellent writers. The Neo-Generalist will be added to the suggested reading list for my personal knowledge mastery workshop.
Read more in this interview with the authors the-restless-multidisciplinarian/