THE EXTINCTION OF EXPERTISEThe PageGroup survey revealed that 52 per cent of professionals thought that specialist knowledge was central to improving problem solving. In many industries, this may still be true. But with businesses now required to deliver solutions to problems in real time, generalists will be able to find and allocate diverse resources from across the company more effectively. A survey by psychologist Phillip Tetlock asked 284 professional forecasters to predict the likelihood of certain events, both within and outside their area of expertise. His analysis revealed that non-experts were more accurate in their calls than their specialist colleagues. In his book Expert Political Judgment, Tetlock borrows Isaiah Berlin’s idea of the prototypical fox to explain why those with a broad knowledge, and the ability to deploy it in different business contexts, will thrive. He claims that foxes – generalists who cunningly “draw from an eclectic array of traditions, accept ambiguity and contradictions as inevitable features of life” are useful.
Hedgehogs, on the other hand, rely on a single defence mechanism – curling up into a ball – which is very effective, but only in specific contexts.