Specialisation is a great way for businesses to differentiate themselves in the market, and the same goes for people. People who have a deep knowledge and strong skill set in a particular area are often in high demand and are heralded as being experts in their field.  However, sometimes the narrow focus of a specialist can be a disadvantage to organisations seeking cross-functional collaboration and fresh ideas.

The solution for businesses that are experiencing this problem is to look for or develop ‘T-shaped’ specialists.

The term ‘T-shaped’ refers to a person who holds a thorough knowledge and strong skillset in one area, but who can also work beyond their area of expertise to collaborate in numerous other disciplines or fields. The vertical bar of the ‘T’ represents the depth of a skill, and the horizontal bar represents the person’s ability to collaborate and apply knowledge across disciplines outside of their normal field.

These people are different to the notion of a ‘jack of all trades’ as they have one area of primary expertise — but they are simply passionate or interested in a number of different things and have the ability to contribute accordingly.

This also differs from the traditional ‘I-shaped’ person, in that an ‘I’ shape is a specialist in one area. Their skills may run deep, but remain solely within their primary area of expertise.

In today’s competitive market, many employers are now seeking out T-shaped people, advocating their ability to bridge divides between departments and bring fresh ideas to the table.

T-shaped and I-shaped people both have their rightful place within a company, as a lot depends on the type of business and its goals. T-shaped people are able to think outside the box, see the bigger picture, view things holistically and as a result, take the business or product to the next level.

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