By their very nature generalists tend not to congregate. Our interests are so many and so varied that it’s almost counter-intuitive to try to gather us around a common theme. But it is indeed possible and this site will prove it.
When I started this blog, Creative Generalist, in April 2002 I did so really just to bookmark websites and quotes that I found to be personally interesting. It was just my own solo link list, and having just quit my job and moved to Montreal (on a whim) I had a little free time to wander around – literally and digitally – and post such dispatches.
At the time I was a couple of years out of university and the web was becoming a really exciting place for exchanging ideas. I felt quite strongly that the world was over-specializing – partly because of a relentless bureaucratic push towards efficiency and partly because of the rapidly deepening technology-fueled push of innovation – and that a generalist perspective was not only valuable as a counter-balance but essential in understanding and maximizing such new ideas. So I posted about it – insights from others and my own opinions. (And by day I took up a job at Maisonneuve, a startup general-interest magazine.)
Over time I started to notice that other people were reading my blog posts (an audience?!) and some of them even took the time to email me – to challenge, to compliment, to share. In 2005 I wrote a ChangeThis manifesto called How Broad Thinking Leads to Big Ideas, from ’06 to ’08 I published the eclectic curiosity interviews, and in 2008 I presented my essay What Specifically Do Generalists Do? to Russell Davies’ Interesting conference in London. All along the way the feedback I received was amazing and the best part was that it always came from incredibly bright, passionate, curious people with fascinating projects and stories. And these people identified themselves as creative generalists!
They’re out there. You’re not alone. You really should meet each other.
Over the past couple of years my career and life have gotten very busy and I gradually fell out of the routine of regularly feeding the blog beast. Besides that though I also felt that there were many more people championing the generalist mantra – including incredible minds like Dan Pink, Frans Johansson, Bruce Nussbaum, Tim Brown, Roger Martin, and many others. The whole big idea of T-shaped people and versatilists and holistic approaches and design/systems thinking really caught on. Meanwhile, this blog is mostly dormant and I’ve occasionally pondered if and how I might renew it.
A few conversations I’ve had with generalists over the past several months – in with particular Arnold Beekes – have inspired me to evolve Creative Generalist from personal soapbox to shared community. That’s really the best part of it. And so I’ve established a niche social network, The Society of Creative Generalists, for generalists to introduce themselves, share a bit about what interests them, and converse with each other if so moved.
Why a standalone social network? Well, there are a few reason:
1. Facebook is too personal. SoCG is more than just a vanity badge to show friends.
2. LinkedIn is too professional. SoCG goes beyond work projects and job posts.
3. The Ning platform I’m using seems to be pretty versatile for the wide range of things a motley crew of generalists might use it for.
Some of you may know of the Creative Generalist group I formed on Facebook years ago. It has a few hundred members but is also fairly inactive. That’s my fault. A good community needs active managers and moderators and fortunately Arnold (and soon others) has agreed to take on that role and ensure that this Society of Creative Generalists maintains its vibrancy – perhaps including some collective assignments around which to collaborate.
The community’s goal is simply to define what it is to be a creative generalist and build a directory of sorts for all the people out there that specialize in everything. See you there!