Generalists – A Crying Need

Systems Thinking isn’t new. It’s a tried and true process of seeing the entire ecosystem and how all of its different parts impact each other. It allows us to see how if a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it can cause a storm in another. This all starts with seeing things through the lens of the end customer, rather than through the view of the business. Some of the most successful businesses of the digital age were built around ecosystems.

I really like this piece by Steve. Being a serial entrepreneur, I always thought that we need T-shaped people (some one who is deep in one discipline and good in a lot of others). Now I am part of a team trying to build a tech startup ecosystem in Chennai, India. To build this successfully we need different types of people:

1. Specialists in emerging technologies  like Cloud Computing, Web Scale Computing, Mobile Computing etc. This translates into people with deep knowledge in areas like scalabe data base design (including NOSQL), Hadoop, Hive, Google App Engine, EC2. We also need people with great knowledge of Web frameworks like Ruby On Rails, Django etc.  The tech part of the specialization is the goal of ChennaiGeeks and Nerd Dinners.

2. The entrepreneurs (particularly the technopreneurs I work with) are the T-Shaped people. They are deep in some areas of tech and broad in many disciplines that require a startup to function. So they explore agile development, inbound and social media marketing and anything that helps their startups grow. This amazing, fast learning tech community is what infuses me with energy. Every budding entrepreneur is a source of inspiration.

3. We are missing the generalists. I have been looking for them and if they are there, I can’t find them. It is possible that some of them may be buried deeps in the strategy and innovation groups of large IT vendors like Infosys, TCS, Cognizant. I don’t know.

Where will these generalists be born in countries like India? Silicon Valley has an abundance of them. There are some possible brewing grounds but I have not seen any great signs, so far. If you know one, let me know.