I hear a lot, these days, that you have to “become an expert.” I also hear a lot of disdain for people who call themselves “social media experts” on the other hand. Expert says “specialized” to me. An expert usually has a deep knowledge of one particular area.
Maybe the question shouldn't be "Are you an Expert?" Maybe Jimi Hendrix had it right when he asked, “Are you Experienced?” Experience has the connotations of a renaissance person as opposed to an expert who knows one thing extremely well. In today’s fast moving marketing world, I think experience has more value than expertise. (Note: experience does not equal age or length of time doing something. It means passion and involvement. There were young renaissance men as well as old.)
In the broadcast era specialization and expertise was a necessary. But in the chaotic digital era how can you figure out what to do, if you don’t really what’s going on?
Specialization made people like Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor (he of Scientific Management fame a century ago) proud. The problem is that this model is breaking up everywhere, not only in our marketing industry. Soon we’ll be outsourcing our need for lawyers to offshore SaaS’. Yes, we need to have some expertise but we also have to be smart about a lot of different areas at the same time.
We’re moving into the Hybrid Era. And I don’t only mean cars. The best flash programmers I’ve worked with are amazing at both design and conceptual ideas. IAs need to know design, designers need to know public relations, PR people need to know search, and let’s not even talk about what an account person needs to know these days.
I love being a hybrid. It would get awfully boring otherwise. Here’s what I think constitutes a Hybrid:
- Adaptability – Like the Prius, Hybrids know what they should be driving on and when. They have the ability to shift quickly, rather than staying stuck in one mode.
- Curiosity – Hybrids are curious about what’s new in their area, and what new trends they see in other areas.
- Sharing – Hybrids love to spread the news. It’s their way of trying to make everyone a hybrid.
- Risk – Not being tied down to a specialty means Hybrids can’t be afraid of testing the waters, taking risks, and learning from failure and success.
- Cultural Awareness – Great hybrids learn and borrow from things completely out of their field. One poetry-writing developer I knew ended up creating some amazing apps based on his writing.
Back when I was younger, I worked on feature films in Sweden. We were usually a crew of 25 people. We were all specialists in what we did, but we all occasionally jumped in as soundmen, focus pullers, extras, grips, gaffers and stunt people. It was why some of those movies, with pretty low budgets, were able to win a number of Swedish Oscars (Golden Beetles).
So choose your title: Hybrid, renaissance person, or even polymath. The digital world around us demands it more and more.
Time to shift modes.