May 19, 2005

The scourge of specialization?



I resonated fairly highly with this post of Dave Pollard where he starts by touching the negative points of this age of specialization.

We live in an age of specialization, where we are encouraged to narrow our
interests and our activities, to focus and limit ourselves to doing things at
which we are very competent. So parts of our brain get a lot of exercise and
other parts very little. What's worse, this can actually narrow our comfort
zone, the range of things we enjoy doing or thinking about and are competent in.
Many of our cultural activities and artefacts: political debates, win/lose
competitions, hierarchies, laws, religions, 'best practices', systematization,
uniforms, and monolithic architecture and design -- all tend to reinforce 'one
right answer' thinking that discourages and ultimately excludes and prevents us
from thinking differently. Even the mental exercises we do as we get older are
designed to stem the loss of analytical skills and memory rather than broadening
our thinking or our thinking ability.
I agree, I have spent the last 6 years in the training/learning/OD/HRD (that's a lot of labels!!) and I can already sense it happening. (So what am I doing about it? Relax..wait for news ..watch this space)

What can one do to offset this? I call it building up one's "peripheral vision" and it helps me when I facilitate a learning discussion too, by linking examples and stories and giving it more than a "office-context" !

Dave has 12 ways listed in his detailed blog post about it. Go ahead , read them all.

What has worked with me are:

Meeting up with people who are not like me, not professionals, not corporate creatures...and discovering that there are other platforms on which we can engage, and even have our ideas match. Like yesterday I met a six sigma statistician and found that the DMAIC model is almost a replica of the consulting engagement lifecycle. One of the best ways to meet people is to go for training/conventions that are of a non-professional nature. You never know who you'll connect with!

Reading. I am a book junkie, and even the proliferation of information on the net can't match the pleasure of holding a book and reading. The last book to get me really excited was Genome, and before that Desmond Morris' Bodywatching. And yes, they add to one's understanding of humans that Organizational and Industrial Psychology can never match.

Read blogs outside your domain. Again a great source for insights into cultures, thoughts and fields different from your own.

Move. Move out of your comfort zones. Growth never happens without pain. As someone said "Change is inevitable, growth is not" !