danish is a dubai-raised artist, speaker, DESIGNER, sailor, father, investor & ENTREPRENEUR. he heads hybrid advisory firm xische & Co.

The Extinction of Specialisation

Recently, an interesting article about Leonardo Da Vinci unraveled an aging theory in my head.  As a well-regarded  genius of an artist, the epic nature of his failure might perhaps come as a surprise to many. And I will address this shortly. But first, as fellow critical-thinker Mishaal Al Gergawi explores in his piece (World Collaboration Manifesto - Gulf News), one of the fundamental tenets of the Industrial Age has been the commonly accepted concept of 'specialisation.'

Our educational system seeds such thinking very early on. Followed soon afterwards by the urgent need to 'pick' a niche, and as a result, a career, all whilst still in high-school. Fast forward to the workplace, the 'drone syndrome' quickly catches on, rewarding competency development that shrinks daily into tunnel vision the size of a key-hole. The less you're involved in, the greater your chances of success and elevation. It doesn't nearly end there, not even close. Gradually, entire organizations ferment within this all-consuming culture, becoming collectively less relevant on a daily basis.

Like it or not, life in general doesn't quite work that way.  And especially less in 2010 -- a decade into civilization's apparent reawakening. The 'Knowledge Economy' they called it. Sadly, it has remained a glorified label. This is evident in the Gulf, perhaps more prominently than many other economies today. Reasons of which to be explored in another article.

A single thing -- regardless of how petty -- impacts everything else. Life requires an 'always-on' balancing act, combining challenges that range from the individualistic to familial, from work/business to extracurricular and so on. Let me ask you this: what if we adapted the unquestioned approach of 'specialisation' to everyday life? What would you pick? Family or work? Personal development or greater social change? Money or contentment? Sport or politics? Paper or technology?

Unfair? Yes. Untrue? No.

Back to Da Vinci. His journals unearthed a spectacular archive of thoughts, ideas, theories and designs. Not all art, as one might imagine, but tangible scientific inventions: new kinds of clocks, a double-hulled ship, flying machines, military tanks, an odometer, the parachute, and a machine gun, to name just a few. His endeavors in art have found a place in history. But at what cost? The sheer opporunity cost of the unrealized potential makes Da Vinci's artistic body of work, dare I say, almost pale in comparison to what could easily have been.

To take Al Gergawi's argument a step further, I ask: does evolution stop with the end of law-firms and creative-agencies and the birth of agile and affordable freelance specialists? I think not.

I firmly believe we're headed not only towards the death of industrially-structured service firms, but will have no choice but to embrace the concept of what I call 'Hybrid Thinking.' An economy where, to mirror life itself, even those individual consultants of the future will need to become multi-disciplined. Each with certain areas of greater experience than others ofcourse, but fundamentally playing the role of knowledge-bearers. Those that understand business above all, then contribute knowing full well what the bigger picture is. And not just conceptually, but tangibly and accountably.

The dark side of continually evolving technology is no doubt the collective shrinkage of the attention-span of Generations Y and Z. Attempting to explain this phenomena in itself will distract readers to another tweet. These very decision makers of tomorrow will have less patience for six specialised consulting firms, but would love six holistic opinions about everything from each of them. Just as social media highlights the innate human need to accept the opinions of those in one's 'circle of trust', the managers of tomorrow will increasingly depend on these opinions, across the board. If your friend on Twitter tells you a certain restaurant serves the best breakfast in town, you're likely to trust his/her judgement just as much as their condemnation of a certain government policy. Are they dimissed for having diverse-yet-significant opinions about equally diverse subjects? Not at all. Trust begets trust.

To add to Al Gergawi's well-titled World Collaboration Manifesto, this is my first exploration of the internal challenges that face every individual well before a 'greater no-holds-barred collaboration' will come into effect.

The sooner one realizes this, the greater the chances of discovering light as we exit this tunnel of recession-hit, blame-cultured, super-centralized and uber-specialised disarray of economic darkness.

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