The Neo-Generalist


Title: The Neo-Generalist
Sub-title: Where you go is who you are
Authors: Kenneth Mikkelsen & Richard Martin
Publisher: LID Publishing
First published: September 2016
ISBN paperback: 9781910649558
ISBN e-book: 9781911498063

From the back cover

Have you encountered difficulties describing what you do to other people? Have you ever labelled yourself in order to be understood? Is there a difference in the way that a generalist and a specialist can stay relevant? If you had to design an approach to education fit for the twenty-first century, what would it look like? How do you live a life of meaning if you live in more than one world?

During an era still dominated by hyperspecialism and experts with ‘the one right answer’, the neo-generalist defies easy classification. They are tricksters who traverse multiple domains, living between categories and labels. Encompassing rather than rejecting, the neo-generalist is both specialist and generalist. A restless multidisciplinarian, who is forever learning. They bring together diverse people, synthesising ideas and practice, addressing the big issues that confront us in order to shape a better future.

They are curious, responsive, connective.

From the Preface

The neo-generalist is both specialist and generalist, often able to master multiple disciplines. We all carry within us the potential to specialise and generalise. Many of us are unwittingly eclectic, innately curious. There is a continuum between the extremes of specialism and generalism, a spectrum of possibilities. Where we stand on that continuum at a given point in time is governed by context.

Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, our society has remained in thrall to the notion of hyperspecialism. This places constraints on the ways in which we are educated, the work we do, the people we socialise with, how we are recruited, how our career progression is managed, how we label ourselves for the benefit of others’ understanding. To counter and challenge these social norms, the neo-generalist has to learn how to give expression to their more generalist tendencies, even as they practise various specialisms, guiding others as they do so.

Our workplaces, governments, intelligence agencies and other communities and institutions constantly complain of silos, but that is an inevitable consequence of our promotion of hyperspecialism. So too the myopia of expertise that prevents us from seeing properly what is right in front of us, or connecting it in meaningful ways with other information, other people.

In the book, we explore the characteristics and behaviours of individuals who do give space to their generalist inclinations, highlighting the social and organisational benefits that can be derived as a result of this. We ask how can the neo-generalist help shape our world, supporting and enabling others, as the current century progresses? To illustrate our idea, we draw on stories from multiple disciplines and cultures, from business, art, science and sport, from people who live in more than one world.

Where to buy

The Neo-Generalist can be ordered from local bookstores. It is also available to purchase in paperback and ebook formats online.

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Idries Shah Foundation (6 December 2017) – Robert Twigger
Scenario Magazine (5 January 2017) – Casper Skovgaard Petersen
#WOLWeek (8 November 2016) – Simon Terry
Marginalia (7 October 2016) – Gloria Lombardi
Magazine E-180 (27 July 2016) – Patrick Tanguay

Visual review by Tanmay Vora (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

The Neo-Generalist poster
Poster designed by Caroline Li.