Share this post Are you a Jack or Jill of all trades, or both? Do you think that knowing many things doesn’t mean you are a master of all?
Is this a good thing? What does this mean to you as an individual? What does this mean to your organization?
There are too many questions I have, so let’s begin by looking at you as an individual.
You are a Jack / Jill, which means you know many things but only at a superficial or semi-skilled level. How satisfied does this make you feel. Are you respected in your field? Are your skills recognized by your peers?
Individuals who have evolved to be Pi- or Comb-shaped are the most successful in their career.
We will often explore many options as we begin our careers. This could include multiple industries, multiple roles, multiple qualifications and even multiple countries. As we find the right fit for us, we become the T-Shaped professional: a master in one discipline but a high-level, general knowledge of many topics.
This is when evolution can stall. It is easy to stay in our “safe zone”, especially if we have achieved recognition in the field or are earning a high salary. It’s easy to stay in a comfortable place, especially when the rewards are great.
But how long before your entire career stalls? How long will it be before your career actually stalls itself? How long until you aren’t considered for the promotion? Your qualifications expire and your field of expertise ceases to be relevant?
As I have already mentioned, those who continue to develop into Pi and CombShaped professionals are the ones who achieve the best career.
Pi-Shaped professionals are people who specialize in one area while still having a broad knowledge of other disciplines.
Comb-Shaped professionals are able to diversify their knowledge and become specialists in multiple fields, while still maintaining their broad knowledge of other disciplines.
However, evolution into a comb-shaped person must be accompanied by a warning: too many disciplines and too fast will lead to your skills becoming too diluted and you becoming the Jack / Jill again.
Now that I have seen you as a person let’s take a look at it from an organizational perspective.
What benefits does a comb-shaped professional bring to an organization?
A comb-shaped professional is multilingual. A translator is not the same as someone who was raised in multiple languages. This person is not only proficient in grammar and spelling but also has a deep understanding about phraseology, culture, colloquialisms and intonation. This professional with a comb shape is well-versed in multiple disciplines.
A professional with a comb shape is able to connect the dots between disciplines. Identifying synergies, articulating relationships and identifying potential points for failure and weaknesses.
Multi-disciplinary professionals are able to bring together experts from different fields. Multilingualism builds trust and facilitates collaboration.
Finally, and perhaps most disruptive to an organization, comb-shaped professionals can challenge expert wisdom and decisions. A com-shaped professional can challenge thinking better.
All of this leads us to a harsh reality: Being a comb-shaped professional can do wonders for you confidence, skills, C.V., and C.S. However, it’s often not what your organization wants. Because no one likes being told they’re wrong.
While it is clear that comb-shaped professionals are the best for an organization’s success, leaders must be open to accepting them. Before they can accept the benefits of a comb-shaped workforce, they must be open to feedback and willing to improve.
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