The Death of Specialization?

My husband and I love New York City.  We love theater, walking, subways, food, window shopping, all of it.  One of Eric’s must-go-to restaurants is called Plataforma.  I call it “The Meat Coma Place.”  I said we liked food, not that we were sophisticated.

 

Plataforma is a Brazilian steakhouse.  Think large salad bar and meats on skewers everywhere.  Red meat is something I eat occasionally and in moderation, but marriage is about compromise.  Eric loves the Meat Coma Place, so, we go.

 

What does this have to do with productivity?  Stay with me.

 

In a recent post, I wrote about the future of work.  Jobs will be less specialized.  Work will be determined based on the skills of the worker.  Blah, blah, blah.  It’s a decent read, so check it out if you haven’t already.

 

People smarter than me posit that the future of work will take people off the assembly lines completely.  Systemized, routine, task-centered work will be performed by robots and AI (artificial intelligence) systems.  Humans will be the ones who perform the creative, innovative, and integrative work.

 

Okay.  So, does that mean that specialization is dead?

 

Lawyers are specialists.

 

Doctors have specialties.

 

Heck, I am a specialist.

 

So, let’s go back to Plataforma.

 

At the Meat Coma Place, everybody is a specialist.

 

Here is a sample of the jobs at Plataforma:

  • Host
  • Sommelier
  • Server
  • Caipirinha-maker (yum, by the way)
  • Gauchos/carvers
  • Bussers
  • Water glass refill people
  • Dessert cart operators
  • Port lady – I don’t know what else to call her. All she does is serve Port at the end of the meal.

 

I tried to take pictures of some these folks.  However, the pictures are blurry because these specialists move so fast!

 

 

So, what would Plataforma be without specialization?  It is very much an assembly line-like experience that is triggered by a coaster.  Seriously.  Every diner has a paper coaster that you flip to green if you are ready for meat and back to red when you are done with meat.

 

 

It just occurred to me that the vegan readers among us are probably nauseated by now.

 

Back to productivity…

 

I like specialization.  When I am working with a client to improve a process, we maximize the benefits of specialty jobs to improve efficiency.  Here is an example:

 

Commissioning Melissa to perform a full review of our firm was the best investment we have made for our staff! Melissa crafted well-organized plan after meeting with the partners to determine our goals. Once she met with each of our staff, she identified our strengths and weaknesses and allowed us to see a true objective picture of our operations. I do not hesitate to recommend Melissa to any organization!  ~T.J. Hollis

 

So, what can we specialists do to stay relevant in a world that is moving toward the generalists?

 

I attended a presentation led by a brilliant man who has a specialized job in the newspaper industry.  He is one of 45 people in similar positions in the entire country.  I asked him what he and his compatriots were doing to stay relevant, and his answer was disturbing:  very little.

 

His specialty is dying.  Is yours?  Is mine?  If so, what do we need to do?

 

Short answer:  Learn.  Grow.  Become.

 

If you are not already, consider doing the following:

  • Attend learning events outside your area of specialization
  • Read articles/books on topics ancillary to your passions
  • Explore a brand-new career
  • Schedule networking meetings with people in industries you don’t understand
  • Hire a coach (cough, cough) to help you improve your productivity so that you have time to do all of the above

 

At Plataforma, specialization works.  Those gauchos succeed quite effectively in inducing a meat coma.

 

Sorry vegans…

 






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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.

2 Comments

  1. Joyce A Teal

    Melissa, it is so true! The world of specialization is going the way of the dinosaur in business. As a former educator, I taught through years of every educator specialized in one area and didn’t relate their subject matter to any other subject. Time has shown that educators trained in multiple areas have students that perform better academically and thus have few behavior issues. For example, you may teach U.S. History in middle school. Your subject area is heavily reading and writing based as well map skills (geometry.) Doesn’t it make sense that you have training and experience in teaching reading, writing, and geometry? This cross-training of educators will create a better workforce that is able to be creative and work across many platforms. Specialization has its place, however, we must have the knowledge of related skills to be our best employee or entrepreneur.

    Reply
    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Oh, Joyce. Don’t get me started. I taught at a university for a brief time many years ago. No teaching experience was required to get the job – just an advanced degree in my area of specialization. Luckily, the university that employed me recognized that my Ph.D. in psychology did not qualify me as a teacher, and they offered great training and instruction to develop my skills as an instructor. If Karen Adsit is reading this, I am forever grateful for your help in teaching me to teach.

      Reply

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