You don’t want jacks-of-all-trades. You want experts.

March 23, 2013 6:41 am

(This post is a response to Bryan Goldberg’s article in PandoDaily)

Bryan’s argument revolves around two points – quoting from the article,

1. “But I’ll wager that there aren’t many people on the planet who understand the confluence of technology, editorial, and advertising better than me.”
2. “But what really catalyzed our success was that the founding team could bring it all together. Short of that, you would have had a boardroom where the editors, engineers, and salespeople were talking past each other and growing frustrated.”

Confluence and bringing it all together. That is basically the argument. Bryan’s idea seems to be that you can ‘hire’ experts – but to get it all together, you need a jack-of-all-trades running the show. It sounds like a great idea, except that it isn’t. Particularly in today’s world. Bryan’s argument can be nullified with this one statement – Expertise in any area and the skill required to bring it all together are not always mutually exclusive.

And Bryan’s examples are wrong. We will not consider the AOL example though – we never really understood why Bryan picked up that example as well. AOL is basically just a wrapper brand around many web properties, at least in our view.

What is wrong with Bryan’s examples? Steve Jobs, Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk. Steve Jobs – Jack Dorsey – Elon Musk. (Read it the way Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007). SteveJobs-JackDorsey-ElonMusk. That is right – he has picked examples that are, by definition, exceptions. What is wrong with that? If there ever could be a ‘most non-representative sample’ to base an entrepreneurship argument on, this would be it. SteveJobs-JackDorsey-ElonMusk.

Bryan, Steve stood atop a mountain of experts, and they listened to him because he was Steve Jobs. Jack Dorsey can get away with not knowing about credit processing (we don’t agree with you on the technology part though, he is an expert on technology) because he is ‘Twitter creator’ Jack Dorsey. And Elon Musk – don’t even get us started ..

The issue with the ‘jack-of-all-trades’ argument is this: it works at both ends of the entrepreneurship spectrum (small business owners and visionaries) but it doesn’t work in the huge space in-between. Because in that space, you absolutely have to be an expert to run your business. You definitely cannot be a jack-of-all-trades when you are expected to be an expert-of-all-trades. At the very least, you need to be an expert in one area, and preferably in the area that is the focal point of your business.

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1 Comment for “You don’t want jacks-of-all-trades. You want experts.”

  1. (XXXX)

    You do realize just because someone is a generalist it doesn’t mean they don’t have a specialty. Jack of all trades master of a few do exist you know.

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