Generalists vs. Specialists: The Good, The Bad, The Invaluable


It’s the eternal question, for which everyone seems to have their own answer: Is it better to hire specialists in a specific tool or discipline, or to have a team of generalists who can step in where they’re needed, albeit not always equally as skillfully? 

When it comes to revenue operations, we believe the answer is simple: It’s better to have generalists. Here, friends, we'll explain why. 
 

Being a Generalist Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Have a Specialty

This one’s for the skeptics in the back. On its face, the word ‘specialist’ just sounds better. After all, it means the person is exceptionally skilled in a particular area, which is usually what employers are looking for when trying to fill a given role. However, when we say we value generalists more highly, that isn’t to say that we don’t want people with backgrounds in a specific area. If you think about it, that doesn’t actually even make sense, since our entire society is built on the idea that everyone needs to pick a “specialty” as early as college. All talent comes from somewhere, and being a generalist doesn’t nullify a person’s increased experience in any given discipline. 
 

A Generalist Mentality Fosters Cross-Functional Collaboration

It goes without saying that you want your revenue teams to be able to collaborate effectively in order to solve problems holistically and serve your customers without friction. Having people on those teams who feel comfortable using a shared language and stepping outside their specific role in the organization makes communication much easier and drives individuals to help where they’re needed, as opposed to thinking “that’s not my job.” This will increase your teams’ revenue impact and customer experience overall.

 

Specialists Can Both Teach And Learn 

Instead of searching for people who can already do a little bit of everything, create generalists within your organization by having people guide and advise on the work they’re already great at, while giving them more hands-on experience in the areas in which they might need some development. This way, your specialists will improve in other areas while also helping to teach others to be better at the thing they are best at. This strengthens your team faster as everyone progresses in various areas at the same time. 

 

Varied Ways Of Thinking Produce Creative Solutions

When someone has done essentially the same kind of work for a very long time, they become accustomed to solving problems one particular way. Not that they necessarily lack creativity; their mind has just been conditioned, in a way, to do things the way they have worked in the context of their experience. As a generalist, one can learn to approach problems from several angles, which can help devise creative solutions by combining knowledge gleaned from various experience within different areas of a business. 
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