Simon Terry

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The Flying Wedge

Speak to any generalist and you hear the same frustrating cry “Everyone wants to know my speciality”.  A generalist needs to see the diversity of their experience as a source of differentiation, not the core proposition. Begin by meeting the specific needs of a situation.

The Challenge of Generalists

With more changes of role, career, technology and capability demanded of individuals, there are more and more people who have chosen to follow the diverse career path of the generalist. For many individuals the diversity itself is an attraction.

However, with diversity of experience and opportunity comes a challenge. How do you sell yourself in a job search or other work opportunity? When you can do many things, how do you answer the common question “What do you want to do?”  An attempt to explain your general capabilities and many future paths usually results in a confused repeat of the question.

A generalist needs to position their capabilities as a flying wedge, a specific capability supported by a wedge of general capabilities.

Problems are Specific

Whenever someone is looking to engage you, wether you are talking to a hiring manager or a client, that individual will focus on a specific problem or opportunity that needs to be addressed. They want to know first of all that you can solve that specific problem. Start by explaining how your capabilities address that need. 

Remember you are competing with specialists. Specialists will endeavour to prove they are the best in the world at some capability. They do this because that is all that they can do. The specialist sells a match between the one thing they do incredibly well and the need. If their speciality does not solve the specific need, the specialist misses out completely.

The leading point of the proposition of a generalist must be focused to compete with specialists to solve a specific need. Sell the most relevant pointy end of the flying wedge first, because it earns the right to further attention.

Meet the Situation then Differentiate

Meeting the need of the buyer is only a ticket to the next stage of the conversation. Everyone who is shortlisted can meet the needs. The challenge to win the job or work is to differentiate.

At this point, the diversity of the generalist becomes an advantage because you can follow through on your focused point by sharing your broader capabilities. Differentiating on the breadth of capabilities enables you to highlight your unique ability to:

  • better meet related challenges 
  • apply innovative solutions using other capabilities
  • deliver a better overall outcome

Specialists will need to compete on who has the most expertise. Instead you can use the flying wedge of your capabilities to widen the conversation to better sell the need for your generalist experience.


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