The Neo-Generalist


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.

First published by LID in September 2016.

Where to buy

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

PublisherAbeBooks | AmazonBarnes & Noble | Blackwell’s | Book Depository | Foyles | Goodreads | Google BooksHiveiBooksIndieBound | WaterstonesWordery

Sam Read display
On display at Sam Read Books, Grasmere.

About the authors

Kenneth Mikkelsen is a writer, speaker, business adviser and learning designer.
Richard Martin is a writer and editor.


WhitLit Festival, Whitstable Castle (13 May 2017)
Henley Forum, Henley Business School (29 November 2016)
The Neo-Generalist book launch, BDG London Studio (23 September 2016)


Scenario Magazine (5 January 2017) – Casper Skovgaard Petersen
#WOLWeek (9 November 2016) – Simon Terry
Marginalia (7 October 2016) – Gloria Lombardi
Magazine E-180 (27 July 2016) – Patrick Tanguay


Simon Terry (9 July 2017)
Veronique Frizzell (11 June 2017)
Gunther Sonnenfeld (4 June 2017)
David Holzmer (8 May 2017)
Tim Cigelske (23 April 2017)
Stephen Spinelli (14 April 2017)
Anna Wojtaszewska (12 April 2017)
Sudipa DuttaRoy (12 April 2017)
Danita Dyess (4 March 2017)
Dan Pontefract (15 February 2017)
Helen Blunden (14 February 2017)
Geoff Pilkington (7 February 2017)
Luc Dancause (29 January 2017)
Barry Silverstein (27 January 2017)
Natalie Nixon (31 December 2016)
Maria Andersen (22 December 2016)
Liz Alexander (22 November 2016)
Mark Storm (22 November 2016)
Hamideh Iraj (17 November 2016)
Lisa Baird (31 October 2016)
Brett Miller (26 October 2016)
Kiko Suarez (25 October 2016)
Paul Fairhurst (25 October 2016)
Jørgen Winther (23 October 2016)
Patrik Bergman (21 October 2016)
Nollind Whachell (11 October 2016)
Steve Seager (4 October 2016)
Ilkka Kakko (30 September 2016)
Mark Upton (28 September 2016)
Leandro Herrero (26 September 2016)
Mark Storm (15 September 2016) plus ongoing series on neo-generalism
Tanmay Vora (13 September 2016)
Harold Jarche (7 September 2016)

Blog posts on neo-generalism

Anticipating WhitLit. Photo by Susy Paisley-Day.

The Neo-Generalist poster
Poster designed by Caroline Li, influenced by Saul Bass.