Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Specialist vs. Jack-of-all-Trades

By: Joel Luedke

In the worlds of health, wellness, nutrition, performance and rehabilitation there is a never ending stream of information, data, tools, techniques and opinions.  This can present a problem to coaches, practitioners, professionals and the patient/client.  How do you handle it all?  Could you possibly take it all in and be good enough at it all to be a jack of all trades or should you settle in and become a specialist/expert in a specific craft?  This is something I've struggled with personally and we are going to look at the break down of the pros and cons in this article.

How I see this one defined is someone that knows a little (or more than that) bit about a lot of things to get them started and something they can build on but not dive too deep into immediately.  They can fill a big role due to being into many areas but this can also set them up for tough times due to the fact that they can miss things because they don't specialize in an area.  Pros and cons below:

-A big toolbox of options
-Ideas/thoughts to call on
-Avenues to do so many things in so many areas
-Constant learning from many angles

-No Niche/Specialization
-No 'go-to' technique or programming
-Spread thin (mile wide, inch deep)

Specialization/Finding Your Niche
This person I see as what you would think as your typically defined specialist.  You go in to get an injury looked at and then you are off to see the specialist for whatever injured body part you have.  This person knows everything about an area of two but if you venture out side of that (ex. an ortho looking at a concussion) they want nothing to do with it.  Pros and cons below:

-You're the 'go to' person and specialist
-Becoming a 'leader' in a given field

-Narrowed focus
-Working with a hammer, everything now looks like a nail
-Narrows scope of employment
-'Tunnel Vision'

My Personal Take:
The more I've thought about this and worked through the process I think everything is situational but the idea of 'jack-of-all-trade" vs. "specialist" applies in some capacity to each situation.  There are definitely times you need a specialist and they need to be seen because they are that good with their area of expertise.  That being said I think there needs to be plenty of 'generalists' or 'jack of all trades'.  In the areas that AJ and I work closely with we firmly believe the jack of all trades is the way to go.  When it comes to training in performance you can't pigeon hole yourself and only focus one style.  Moving into athletic training I think you can't just buy into one style of mode of treatment.  You could do all modalities and rehab and never do soft tissue work but I think you'd be missing a huge area to help yourself and your patients.  Vice versa you can't just do massage and never rehab the muscles and retrain movement patterns.

I've been a firm believer of having a 'big toolbox' and here is why.  You will be presented with so many things in life and your work that you need to be able to draw on a lot of information in order to make the right choice.  You can't rely on the same trick and if you haven't exposed yourself to a lot of different things you will run the risk of not being able to perform in that arena.  

Learn as much as you can, expose yourself to everything, drink the cool-aid and then just keep what makes sense to you and fits your mode of operation.

Here a couple resources that echo some more ideas around this.
Clinically Pressed Ep. 21: Coach John Baumann

Tim Ferriss: Jack-of-All-Trades

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