I-could-do-anything“Our culture respects specialists. People aren’t called ‘Renaissance men’ any more; they’re called ‘dilettantes’ or ‘jack of all trade,’”  — Barbara Sher in I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was.

This is amply demonstrated in typical job ads. The majority seems look for specialists only; people who have done exactly the same work for a long time. This will suit some people and some businesses some of the time. But it is no way for businesses to get injections of diversity and out-of-the-box thinking. And it is certainly demoralising for those of us who are actually interested in and have skills in diverse/divergent fields.

Barbara went on to separate “Renaissance men” into two groups: Scanners and Divers.

Scanners are those who are interested in everything. Their curiosity makes them adaptable and flexible. They cross industries easily and can connect the dots between different knowledge domains. When they develop deeper knowledge in certain fields, they become T-shaped people who are critical for innovation.

Barbara recommended scanners “have it all at once” by looking for work that leveraged their scanning ability; such as writing, teaching, film-making and management; or to “have it all sequentially” by deliberately moving from job to job over time.

Organisations that value their scanners can put them into multifaceted roles, or make sure they have the opportunity to move across a variety of roles over time.

Divers are also interested in many different things. Unlike scanners, they prefer go deep into every field they are interested in. They are however caught up in the fear of committing to one interest at a time, lest that commitment locks them from pursuing other interests. And so they don’t make a commitment.

Barbara recommended divers learn how to learn, learn to manage distractions (acknowledge feelings and still get back to work), and to set aside new ideas/dreams to explore later instead of immediately.

Are you a scanner or a diver? Are you in a work role that suits you?