In careers at large, this is a choice we make rather early in the piece. To be the delightful do-gooder who astounds the universe with flair and panache or be the bookish technician who enthrals with process and perfection. The battle between Saha and Pant is not just live in the playing fields but indeed in the corporate echelons.
I have been a warrior in advertising for longer than I can imagine and have seen both thrive and sometimes decline. The technically perfect copywriter who is obsessed with craft and grammar but perhaps sacrifices the stroke play necessary to carve the winning impression. The smartly savvy generalist whose appreciation of semantics is exceeded by a sincerity for execution and thus a certain optimality which is performing. We have seen both in action, in fact have been either at times and neither at other times, in this riveting duality the profession still expands.
But my question has a larger canvas, way beyond the stunted confines of creativity or engineering, whatever be your poison. Are we largely and gradually moving towards a generalist canvas, forsaking the impunity of the discerning specialist? Are curricula at the outset encoring the adulation of a little about all as opposed to a lot about a little? In a cricketing comparison, it is about the industrious all-rounder being feted and the diligent wicketkeeper being handed over a RAC ticket, reservation against cancellation lest you are unaware. Well, it must be said that this is increasingly a rudimentary rule and not an elegant exception.
And now, welcome to the twist in the tale. A deeply resonating belief that we must be relentless in being a specialist and the lure of generalisation is a passing fancy. In the post-Covid era, we will increasingly value the expert for both knowledge and experience, for in expertise most certainly resides the future of the human race. This has also been a pattern across civilisation, as we have been trained to be doctors or lawyers or engineers or poets and whenever the twain did meet, it was an unscalable aberration. In corporate hierarchies as well, the specialist is making a compelling comeback, aided by a persevering opinion that expertise is indeed supreme.
So what does this mean for the advertising industry, my favourite hunting ground? It certainly implies that craft must be resurrected — whether you are strategy, art, copy, servicing, media or even accounting. The destructive shallowness of generalisation must be considered an avoidable faux pas as we recognise the frailties of multi-tasking, not as an adjunct skill but as a primary skill. Even in this vibrant new world of digital marketing, this pattern must persist as we identify the performance specialists while marking the conversation cadre. Media is certainly no exception as once again, the cerebral acumen of planning must be separated from the transaction traction of buying and management most certainly is an under-connected functionality. Look no farther than film makers for inspiration, they have managed this role dissemination more smartly than any AI software.
Most exquisitely, there is an envisioned future that I must share, for any industry that chooses to listen. The future is indeed Saha and not Pant, at least in his current unified avatar. Abnormal influence of American management thinking has led to the garlanding of the leadership generalist, aided alarmingly by the HR contingents, a disturbingly influential corps of our times. While we must once again understand that quite like the armed forces, the ability to muster support and allegiance is a glorious skill that exists over and above the core skill — whether infantry, artillery, air, sea or administration. Each time we hand over a CXO function to a fellow just because he seems to be a good leader, it is necessary to verify his fundamental antecedents. For if he is not skilled at the designated basics, it is unlikely that he will be able to motivate a disparate cohort.
On Pant and Saha, most specifically, here is what I must recommend, not from a sporting but rather from a perceptive perspective. Let Pant improve his batting and Saha master his keeping for attention to adjunct skills may play to the gallery but never to posterity.
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