It is important to be a generalist and learn a broad swathe of knowledge in order to succeed in the Information Age we are living in. Technology is becoming better and better. When technology becomes better, it increases the speed in which new technologies can be introduced. Technology is not linear; it is parabolic. We are deep in the parabola.
Because new technologies are introduced frequently, niche skill sets become obsolete at a rate which never before happened. The new technology ten years ago is useless today. The service that was hot five years ago is cold and slow today. Think AOL, Myspace.
To thrive, we must adapt at the same rate of our technology. We need to be able to learn new technology and new skills. Having this ability is far more important than learning any individual skill or service.
In the age of information, it should be easier to learn these new skills. We have access to every library in the world, online courses from the best colleges available for free, and videos and forums that answer specific questions. It has never been easier to learn at any point in history. It has also never been more difficult to learn how to learn.
Learning how to learn requires discipline. Anyone used to be able to make deductions and draw insight from a group of data. Then, that became more challenging as people had more facts available to them. It became less important to be able to draw insight because other people had been insightful. People didn’t have to. At that time anyone was able to memorize what they needed and regurgitate it.
These days even rote memorization is hard. We have so many distractions, and such quick access to information, that it discourages both insightful thinking and the ability to memorize. We don’t practice either. Insight is discouraged because we have a constant stream of other people’s thinking being thrown at us. We don’t have time to think. We get the constant stream from our television, which now has Netflix and other sources we can turn to for entertainment of any kind, anytime. We have our phones, which also have Netflix, in addition to social media which floods us with content from other people, some insightful and others that just regurgitate thoughts or statements.
We don’t memorize because we have such immediate access to information. All that information being thrown at us that keeps us from being insightful is saved to the internet and tagged for future access. We can access anything, anytime. We just need to “Google” it.
We learn how to learn by practicing. We learn skills, and then we learn higher-level skills. For instance, we learn the English language so that we can then learn the higher-level skill of marketing so that we can learn the higher-level skill of sales. Sales makes money. Once you learn to sell, you can more easily sell in another language, or to a new market. You’ve learned how to learn.
Another reason to be a generalist in this Information Age is to appreciate the arts and find wisdom in philosophy and history. By learning philosophy, we learn that we can reject the materialist need to compete and acquire things. The philosopher can find meaning without work and without obtaining things and experiences.
If an individual seeks meaning through things and experiences, he has no choice but to become a generalist that can learn new skills. The world is evolving too fast not to. You need to be able to learn, or need to understand philosophically that meaning can be found and happiness achieved without participating in trade. Even to get to that level of freedom – where you can be philosophical, will often require a baseline of comfort so that abstract thoughts can be explored.
There are some professions that do not require technical understanding. These include the business programs – management, sales, marketing. Everything else is being disrupted by technology. Why would these expensive jobs be spared from going digital? These jobs will move and they will move fast once it begins to happen. Programs already recommend optimum decisions. Google Analytics recommends ads based on what’s relevant to me. The next step is to create ads specifically targeted to me.
It’s these creative positions and jobs that manage decisions that affect people that haven’t gone digital yet. But people aren’t good at managing people. Machines will be the efficient, inexpensive managers that are reported to. It will seem inhumane, but that will only last until the jobs that are being managed are turned into technology. That won’t lag far behind.
I should create a management technology. Something that assigns people work, checks progress, reports that progress compared to others, compared to the self, identifies areas of weakness, and makes decisions based on the data. The next wave of great managers won’t be people.
It is important to be a generalist and learn a broad swathe of knowledge in order to succeed in the Information Age. The business people may have a leg up on others. They have been working on projects in different industries since they graduated. The sales skills they developed have not been specific to one product or industry. They know how to adapt to a new environment. That’s what they will be doing. They will have to develop technical expertise faster than they have. But it’s not new.