Specialization is the key to success today. Those pursuing expertise in a particular sector perhaps dedicate their entire life to excel in their field, often ignoring any peripheral connection. But is this the correct approach?
Well, not really, says author Nick Lovegrove. To substantiate his argument, Lovegrove in his book The Mosaic Principle: The Six Dimensions of a Successful Life & Career, illustrates how to expand one’s forte of work to multiple fields to make it big. With 30-plus experience as a consultant, executive coach and the US managing partner of a global corporate advisory firm, Lovegrove should know this more than anyone else.
To illustrate the theory of why an executive should gain knowledge in multiple areas, Lovegrove uses the examples of two distinguished personalities, Paul Farmer, a renowned physician, anthropologist, social entrepreneur, author, activist, among many things, who had a broad perspective of life; and Jeff Skilling, CEO, Enron Corporation, who preferred to master only his leadership skills and little of anything else. While Farmer attained success professionally and personally, Skilling reached the peak and had a great fall, more due to ignorance of the risks of their business model.
Through the study of real life executives, Lovegrove also lists out methods to look beyond the realm of one’s career by using six skills — a moral compass, transferrable skills, contextual intelligence, prepared mind, intellectual thread, and extended network. For example, learn a new skill, go beyond your speciality and even work with those unrelated to you at work to gain a different perspective, allowing them to have a “mosaic” of experience to go ahead in their careers. At a time when reports are emerging about lack of job growth in India, Lovegrove’s mosaic skills and lessons on versatility are sure to come in handy.
We’re pressured from an early age to specialize. You can see it in all fields, from business to the arts to sports. We’re enthralled by the so-called 10,000-hour rule, the amount of time supposedly required to become an expert. Mr. Lovegrove accepts the value that specialists bring to our lives: We want our airplane pilots and surgeons to be extremely skilled. But we probably have a working life of 75,000 hours or more, he figures, so that offers a chance to be knowledgeable in more than one field. He counters the assumptions driving this trend. First, evidence shows that we have overestimated the value of specialist expertise and underestimated the significance of broad experience. Second, the complex multidimensional challenges we face in modern society are better dealt with by a broad approach. Climate change, he notes in the interview, is not just an environmental issue – it’s economic, political, social, cultural, and involves communications challenges. Third, he argues most of us would choose breadth over depth, if given the option. He is calling for a rebalancing between depth and breadth. If you set out to achieve that in your own life, his study of 200 people who exemplify the breadth he preaches suggests you pay attention to six dimensions: moral compass, intellectual thread, transferable skills, extended networks, contextual intelligence and prepared mind.
Lovegrove, U.S. managing partner for the corporate consulting firm Brunswick Group, delivers a thoughtful plea for breadth of experience and learning over intense specialization. Lovegrove uses the titular mosaic as a metaphor for both society and individuals, explaining that a focus on highly specialized knowledge is damaging to both people’s inner selves and their careers. He believes that, as a society, the U.S. needs to refocus on diversifying professional development and training—the approach of a liberal arts education, rather than of a trade school. He argues that specialists can get hamstrung by a lack of broad information and experience, and provides positive stories of those who’ve succeeded at achieving breadth, including Paul Farmer, U.N. special envoy to Haiti, and David Hayes, U.S. deputy secretary of the interior. Addressing readers at every stage of their careers, Lovegrove explains that having diverse knowledge and interests can help to “overcome your external constraints and internal doubts.” All readers looking to break out of an intellectual box of their own making will find a refreshing new viewpoint on their personal and professional lives in this convincing manifesto.
Making the case for a mindful approach to career and life development. Any guide to a successful life or career must take liberties in how success is defined. In this book on finding your own way forward, Lovegrove, the U.S. managing partner at the Brunswick Group, takes a more philosophical approach. This isn’t to say that the author doesn’t consider the how, when, and where, but he makes the case that the reasons why will go a lot further toward building a satisfying career and life. Lovegrove’s thinking with his mosaic principle is that the idea of a “jack of all trades, master of none” is unnecessarily constricting, that creating a wide-ranging, diverse life is not only healthier in the present, but will also open up more choices as time goes on. The author addresses the trend of specialization in many of its forms, from high school students being steered away from a liberal arts education to the medical profession, in which it’s commonplace to require different surgeons for nearly every individual part of the body. Lovegrove argues that taking a T-shaped approach—having an area of deep knowledge that serves as a base, of sorts, from which you expand outward into different subjects—prepares you for a broader range of challenges while avoiding the master-of-none scenario. The author lays out six skill areas he feels are crucial: a developed moral compass, a prepared mind, an intellectual thread, an integrated network, contextual intelligence, and transferable skill sets. Lovegrove compellingly draws on examples from his own careers to illustrate the benefits and pitfalls of each skill area, and he bolsters his narrative with anecdotes about other successful people in a variety of disciplines. Lovegrove balances his book neatly between the nuts-and-bolts approach to being successful and the more philosophical sense of understanding yourself first before seeking to change the world for others.
“A powerful case that the jack-of-all-trades can be a master of some. Nick Lovegrove highlights the rising costs of specialization, encouraging us all to unleash our curiosity and go broad.”
“In a society in which even elementary kids are told to pick one sport, Nick Lovegrove’s conclusion that the best life path features wide-ranging experiences, even those we aren’t good at, should be a breath of fresh air.”
“The Mosaic Principle underscores why critical issues like national security and economic advancement cannot be adequately addressed by people with one-dimensional skills and experience. We need many more people who can cross between different walks of life, sharing their expertise and perspectives – not just in fiction, but in real life. Nick Lovegrove’s book is a must-read that offers us a practical and compelling guide to meeting this challenge.”
“We pay a high price – both individually and as a society – for our obsession with narrow specialization and the trap of being a “one-trick pony”. Nick Lovegrove’s pragmatic guidelines – such as a developed moral compass, a prepared mind, and a robust intellectual thread – provide the roadmap for a more fulfilling life and an extraordinary career in an ever-changing, complex, multi-dimensional world.”
“Nick Lovegrove’s book compellingly makes the case for why the world needs more ‘tri-sector athletes’ – to build a more long-term, inclusive capitalism will require just the kind of breadth of experience and perspective these leaders possess.”