on specialization, expertise, and needing each other

“yes, i designed that thing in 30 seconds but it took me 30 years to get to the point where i could design that in 30 seconds.” - michael bierut (quoting paula scher) on design matters

as technology becomes increasingly democratized, some people have predicted the decline of expertise. some have gone so far as to advocate for it. they believe that the most successful people will be generalists (i’ll come back and find some sources for this someday).

i don’t buy it. at my last job, we believed strongly in this idea:

“do what you do best and connect to the rest.”

in effect, it’s a lean in to the idea of specialization. the paula scher quote explains why. over time, skills developed by individuals creates incredible efficiency gains. the same thing that may take an expert 30 seconds, may take a notive 30 hours.

and as i deepen my thinking (with ross) on snap and also personal branding, in order to build a world that works, two things are necessary:

  1. we need people who are going to be able to contribute effectively, and
  2. we are going to have to learn how to need each other in non-destructive, healthy, even generative ways.

of course, i don’t think that means people should (or would ever actually) be singularly skilled. but if someone has intentionally developed skills in specific areas, those should be capitalized upon.