Generalists and Specialists

An article on marketing I read recently got me thinking ~again~ about generalists and specialists.
http://startup-marketing.com/where-are-all-the-growth-hackers/. The article makes the case for a “growth hacker” rather than a CMO for most startups.
Makes a lot of sense to me. I have been deep in an organization with a CMO that was successful elsewhere but was ill-equipped for the marketing hacking we really needed.

The concept applies to all aspects of a small nimble organization, not just the marketing. Technical, biz dev, community outreach, support. I specifically say “small nimble organization” because even progressive bigger companies are starting to organize around flat smaller nimble groups under relentless market forces.

I would argue its more about the maturity of the product than the size of the organization. Early in a products lifecycle you need generalists who can try lots of things, look for options far and wide and take smart risks. For very mature products and markets you need people who go very deep, optimize relentlessly and protect the status quo.

The thing is, product lifecycles are getting shorter every day. It appears to me this will reward the creative generalist (hacker) though you could also argue the product builders need more unique skills to differentiate.

I have a half written “Why do (Tech) Managers Suck” which applies some of these questions to technical management in particular. The closer to the work you are, the better job you can do advising your team and making specific technical and architectural decisions. On the other hand, if you are focused and shoulder deep in the technical details its really easy to take a massive wrong turn organizationally or simply build the wrong thing. Technical management is particularly sensitive to this effect as the details of software technology seem particularly deep and fast moving.

So how long is the lifecycle of the product you are building?
Are you going deep or wide?

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