Friday, March 20, 2015

Digital Master Tuning #62: T-Shaped Talent with Innovative Thinking

Innovative thinkers are explorers and synthesizers of new world-views, or of future views to the world.

With the border between different functions or disciplines continue blurring, the specialized generalists are in strong demand, or we normally call the “T-Shape” talent, and the innovative thinker -you start with a strong T and then sprinkle heavy dots randomly across the graph with varying strengths of lines connecting them and the occasional pulsing outlier dot. How do T-shaped people feel? What are their emotional strengths and weaknesses? What is their ability to make sense of a situation? Does this "profile-metaphor" take into account fit and affinity, rapport and empathy? Why is T-shaped talent so popular, and how to groom such type of talent?

Many talent people start to build T-shaped skills when they progress through their career. People start out broad and narrow. As they progress through their career, they start to become T-shaped, either because they've gotten experienced in a specific area based upon where they work and the opportunities presented, or because they've established themselves as very strong reputation, in particular, topic area. As they progress even further, they could become more square or rectangular shaped and become more deeply skilled in many different areas, if they stayed in an area of practice that allowed them to do so. When they started to climb to certain areas of management, etc., those hands-on skills may not get to be put to the task as much, and some of their skills may atrophy, not be current, but they're gaining strength and expertise in new areas as they continue to grow, and build the recombinant capability, like onion -one layer over the other., etc.

The people who helped to shape our world are some of the broadest and innovative thinkers: The progress of the world is pushed forward by a select few who were applying agile techniques, using broad and diverse skills to create the impossible. For some reason having a broad and wide set of skills are now frowned upon. Yet it is these broad skills that helped to shape the world. As we go through the digital and information revolution, we must embrace the skills of the past to build the new capabilities, and refocus on the problems we are solving and use any number of skills and disciplines to get there. To create the new requires not just one skill, but many, not just old experience, but the new perspective. However, you must operate like a T-shaped individual, have one skill which is your anchor, and look wide from there. Plus, like Edison realized, you cannot do it on your own, no matter how broad your skills, you still need a diverse team of talent people who help bring all sorts of strengths and capabilities together.

Innovative thinking is a mindset that needs to transcend departmental, even industry, verticals. However, there are collaborative benefits of the co-design approach, so the breadth and depth of the 'T' in the context of a team has to respond to a challenge. That means a blend of skills and experience can be fostered in different ways. In addition, we need the broad exposure and some deep expertise that come with the "T," but we also need strong interpersonal and communication and collaboration skills in order to build an innovative team, with quality like resilience, empathy, metacognition, critical thinking, relationship building, agility, and community participation.

Innovative thinkers are explorers and synthesizers of new world-views, or of future views to the world: The T metaphor was not made to tell us how much we know about something or how many areas we know about. It was made instead to illustrate a predisposition to diversify our focus or not. Usually, we are either "experts" or "explorers." We've got stuck in the T metaphor and we are now trying to say that what distinguishes people is the amount of types of expertise they own. The T metaphor is something invented to talk the talk of managers in over specialized industrial settings giving the notion that one could start using a design way of thinking, leaving the old industrial system untouched. However, the focus should be on the capability of innovative thinkers to contribute to particular professional practices in specific contexts, rather than to focus on individual behavior or decontextualized skills or knowledge.

The T model is more about resource management, not just about expertise or knowledge management. Knowledge is N-dimensional, skill is multi-dimensional, and responsibility is comparatively most likely to be unidimensional. It makes more sense to think of responsibility being specialized than it does to think of "expertise" being specialized. "Mastery" as being the default state of an expert specialist, but even mastery makes sense mainly in a pragmatic and contextualized way, not in an essentially inherent way. One has to be able to build connections between the areas of specialization, to cross over so to speak. This is like becoming a skilled translator. It is not enough to know each language well, one has to build a network of connections and contrasts between the two languages, so that as one translates, one can experience flow.

Due to the hyper-connected and transcendental nature of digital age, either you are expert or explorer, continuously expanding knowledge horizon becomes more strategic and tactical  for mastering professional skills and building transferable capabilities. Go broader before dive in, or dig deeper, and then gain interdisciplinary insight to understand things from different angle or perspective, that’s the growth mind adapt to the change and get more popular in the digital era.

Digitalization is like a flywheel, and Digital Masters are the one riding above it. Surf more Information about Digital Master:


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