The Paradox of Specialization

Being a specialist is definitely better than being a generalist. You can achieve differentiation, you can be the top person / company in your niche, and you can make more money. The problem with being a generalist is that you are obviously good at many things, but not great at one specific. Great, so now you want to specialize, you choose your niche and keep focusing on it, until you really master it. Right? Wrong! The problem with specialization is that you cannot achieve it without being a generalist to begin with. Let say you want to specialize in SEO. First of all you must be good at web analytics, because you will need to analyze the current performance of SEO on your site, and you will need to evaluate how keywords are performing, and based on that take your actions. You will need to understand social media very well, because you need to do link-building campaigns and this happens through content creators, and you will naturally need to win their approval. Paid search is something you need to be very familiar with, because you are probably working with the paid search team in parallel, in order to coordinate your efforts on certain keywords. Most importantly you will need to have a very good business understanding, because at the end of the day, there are business results you are trying to achieve through your SEO efforts. This is very generalist! In any field you need to understand how your specific specialty relates to other specialties and where your role ends and theirs start. In a similar argument, I wrote about the long tail person, arguing that similar to the basic concept of the long tail (lots of small niches amount to a large number of sales), a person who is just good at many things, can group these things together, and having them together in one person serving a specific niche would amount to something great. More on this in the tecnician vs. the marketer, talking about the difference between people who have a good understanding of marketing and happen to specialize in a certain field vs. the people who just learned how to operate a certain product like Google AdWords for example. I still insist, although the Jack of all trades is a master of none, I think the Jack of all trades is a master of some. Specialization is great, but it doesn't come without generalization.