Summary of The Neo-Generalist

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The Neo-Generalist book summary


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Business adviser Kenneth Mikkelsen and writer Richard Martin post a thought-provoking central theme: Appreciate the “generalists” on your staff and understand what they can do for your organization. Today’s corporate leaders tend to esteem “specialists” and banish generalists. The authors suggest taking a different path since “neo-generalists” can act as intermediaries among specialties, helping to cross-pollinate ideas and to keep the experts aware of the big picture. This lively, passionate book traces how generalism went out of style. Then, the authors profile several dozen modern, generalist Renaissance men and women in the arts, entrepreneurship, international development and education. getAbstract recommends this treatise to executives who are seeking to spark new ideas and nurture synergistic energy within and among their teams.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why modern business and other institutions came to overvalue specialization in employees,
  • How specialization harms firms by segregating knowledge into silos, and
  • How “neo-generalists” cross silos and show specialists how to see the big picture.

About the Authors

Kenneth Mikkelsen is a writer, business adviser and Peter Drucker Society associate; he co-founded the St. Martin’s School for underprivileged children in Cameroon. Freelance editor Richard Martin wrote the film noir study Means Streets and Raging Bulls.



“Generalists” vs. “Specialists”

In most institutions today, a staff member’s most important asset is specialized expertise. Businesses, government and educational institutions tend to view employees as cogs in a machine. They expect each person to perform a discrete function. To look after its finances, for instance, a company hires an accountant whose credentials demonstrate the necessary specialized expertise. If the accountant quits, the company picks a replacement with the same credentials.

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