Sunday, June 12, 2005

 

Blogging, specialization, and the postmodern engineer

Self SEO has an interesting post about the art of business blogging. One of the key ideas of the post is that bloggers are unusual birds in this age of specialization in that the good ones tend to be generalists:


Bloggers, from what I have seen in my years of blogging, tend to be more generalist than specialist, except for a few who are both...which is to say they have wide knowledge and interests, but also have one or two things that they know a great deal about.

Business bloggers, ideally, fall into this last category. They know a great deal about their company, service, products and so on, but also have a wide-band tuning which allows them to connect with people of all stripes, types and interests. After all, one should not expect that a customer or client know all the fine points of what they are seeking to buy, yet the seller should know those fine points, but also a good deal about the customer as well. This is where a wide-band understanding comes in handy.

This sounds about right; however, I've been wondering lately whether these postmodern times are as friendly to the notion of a specialist as was the Cold War was. In engineering, at any rate, it seems that companies more and more value those engineers who can communicate with marketers, finance people, manufacturing types, and customers. No longer is it acceptable to sit at a drafting table or CAD tube and think only grand technical thoughts alone. Postmodern engineers (and computer scientists) need to be more broadly educated and broadly interested to be successful, and certain changes are coming about to an engineer's education, albeit slowly, in recognition of the workplace shift.

None of this suggests that specialists won't continue. Division of labor and the efficiency it brings about will continue to demand specialization, but the specialization will be more and more be like the second category of business blogger: "which is to say they have wide knowledge and interests, but also have one or two things that they know a great deal about."

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