Generalists and specialists are needed in all organisations and in most complex situations. However they couldn’t be more different and work in different ways.
For instance, generalists create maps, like the wonderful London tube map, to make connections, chart routes or lines of enquiry. Whereas specialists build hierarchies, that tend to have more linear branch (or root) like structures, like the figure on the left.
If a node fails in a map, i.e. a station is closed, it often doesn’t usually matter critically, at least if it’s not on the periphery. There is still a different way to navigate around. Therefore generalists are interested in the bigger system rather than the individual components.
However if a node fails in a hierarchy, it can knock out the whole branch or even the whole system. Therefore, individual components or nodes are critical for the specialist.
As a general principal, as we become more connected and distributed I believe we need more maps at different levels. This is a complex business and there is still a long way to go to make these as useable as a tube map.
To some extent I think an output of our Connect projects is to map the respective spaces we are operating in. And it’s worth considering both maps and hierarchies when facilitating collaboration.
As a map geek (let’s face it – who isn’t?) I’d love to get any links to useful or beautiful (or both) maps that we can learn from.