Jack Uldrich
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You’re Not Very Deep … And That’s OK!

Posted in Ask a New Question, Creativity, Design, Education, Questions

2-theme_Deep_373x358 But let me start off with what is wrong with university education in general. In the universities, we train specialists, hire specialists, and we promote faculty if they are the very best at whatever they do. In order to be the very best, people have to be very deep, which also tends to make people narrow. The university scorns the generalist—they say, "Ugh. In any given area, you don't know very much, do you?" This is what worries me. Engineers and MBAs are really good at solving problems. People who create products and services have to be generalists. Good designers do not rush to a solution. First they ask, "Is this the correct problem to solve?" They need to know something about everything, enough so they know how to consult the world's specialists, enough so they can combine and create across the narrow specialties, putting together novel, exciting new products and services. 

The above paragraph was taken from this excellent interview with design guru, Don Norman. In addition to highlighting yet another flaw with today's university education, I also like how Norman emphasizes the point of asking a new question–which, as you know, is a wonderful way to unlearn.

More broadly, though, I agree with Norman's point that "specialization"–which certainly has its place in society–can also be a weakness; whereas "generalists"–long regarded as the poor step-sister to their smarter siblings (the specialists)–can have some real strengths.

In other words, the phrase: "You're not very deep" isn't necessarily a criticism, it can also be a compliment.

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