The Sweet Spot Between Experts and Generalists from @craigpladson

This post is by Craig Pladson, M.B.A. ’10., Director, Interactive Innovation at Colle+McVoy. You can follow Craig on Twitter @craigpladson and read his blog.

The market is filled with self-proclaimed experts. People and organizations. Especially the social media kind. There are probably even Pinning and +1’ing experts to be found. Claiming expertise in the world of modern marketing is limiting, if not impossible. Limiting because expertise narrowly defines what you can do. Limiting because what you think you’re an expert at now is at risk of being irrelevant in six months. If you express expertise of what you know now, your ability to evolve will be hindered.

On the contrary, there are people and organizations that position themselves as generalists. Those that know a little about a lot, but not a lot about a little. Generalists have the biggest sandbox to play in and exercise a chameleon-like mentality depending on the environment they’re in. They architect a public-facing façades that only go two feet deep in term of what they could do, but span fifty feet wide in terms of what they can do. Like expertise, generalization comes with limitations. Limiting because a width of knowledge is not as strong as it’s depth in a few focused areas. Hopefully these areas are things you’re passionate about and great at doing. If you accomplish this, you’ll be distinguished among your competitors vying for the attention you seek.

Then there are those who have found the sweet spot between the extremes of wizardry and imprecision. People who express humble confidence about a few things they’re great at. Companies that recognize the value of bringing in specialists when the depth of knowledge required is beyond their means. Those who are constantly shaping their skillsets to keep up with the momentum of consumer behavior and technology trends.

Finding our sweet spot and evolving it to maintain relevancy is key. As we do this, we need to be careful not to niche ourselves into a corner. Or jack-of-all-trades ourselves to the point where people don’t understand how we can help them. By finding our sweet spot, we’re that much closer to being remarkable and happily successful.