The future belongs to the versatile

by 21 Jul 2016
Have you ever known someone who seems like they can do anything? Maybe it's in your company – someone who's great at writing, speaking, crunching numbers, and so on. Or, maybe it's someone you know in your personal life – perhaps a handyman-type who knows everything from carpentry to plumbing to electrical work. We sometimes call a person like this a "jack of all trades," but it can sure seem like they're a "master of all trades."

On the one hand, we admire people who can do everything. Then, on the other, we scoff at them. Everyone should focus on his strengths and hone his core competencies, we argue. We should specialize in what we're good at rather than spread ourselves too thinly. Of course, I think there are merits to both of these lines of reasoning. But as the world becomes more complex and the market more volatile, perhaps there is some merit after all to becoming a "jack of all trades."

As a leader, it can really pay off to be more versatile. Sure, you will be better at some things than you are at others, but it's a great idea to be at least a little good at everything. Why? Because the speed of change is such that, if you aren't versatile in your strengths, you won't be able to adapt. What you are best at may no longer be relevant tomorrow. Will you have the versatility to pivot into something new when there's a sudden change of scenery?


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