Chasing dopamine — The Neo-generalist

Dopamine a chemical released by nerve cells, which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. For some of us the adrenaline rush comes seeking and mastering new challenges and then moving onto the next.

Chasing dopamine

This habit of seeking new problems to solve goes beyond job titles, roles and responsibilities, educational background and age. These polymaths, knowledge seekers or autodidacts bloom where planted. They thrive when things need to be fixed, they use the knowledge gained from one industry on others, experience with one method leading to another. Monotonous tasks seem arduous.

“It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities.”–Eric Hoffer

I find it hard to grasp that organisations hire specialists to break down silos to facilitate continuous flow of information between different business units but individuals on the other hand are encouraged to be specialists within a certain discipline. Unless there are people who can handle multidisciplinary roles transcending departmental borders, I do not see a solution to organisational silos. The divide between tech and business is one such area of concern. People with tech skills are assumed to have little grasp of business acumen while people with strong business understanding are assumed to have limited IT proficiency and people with both business and tech expertise are perceived as average in both. That’s due to our obsession with specialism. Generalists are looked down upon, likened to jack of several trades and master of none. On the contrary, the monkey minds are an asset, being able to connect several dots and improvise solutions based on their creative thinking, envisioning paths beyond their job titles.

My constant dilemma

Hailing from India, Jugaad was part of the everyday vocabulary. Jugaad in Hindi means makeshift solutions which requires resourcefulness. Resourcefulness is not part of any syllabus, it comes naturally when there’s a scarcity of means. Being able to do more with less. Doing more has to do with understanding several disciplines to put together a solution beyond frameworks and recognized theories.

I came across a book The Neo-Generalist by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin which was sort of narrating my mental state — the nomad state, in search of the next problem irrespective of domain, technological challenges or borders. We, the neo-generalists are happy as long as our brains are being harnessed and we are involved in something meaningful. If you identify yourself as neo-generalist then it is a must read. You’re not alone, there’s a whole tribe of us, restless souls, trying to juggle several disciplines at the same time and loving every moment of it!

Settle down — this word does not appeal to neo-generalists. Constant learning and treading on paths not previously traveled are our only focus.

“Listen baby, ain’t no mountain high,
Ain’t no valley low, ain’t no river wide enough”

Organizational culture

CCh2KJYUAAAEON6Having gathered more than a decade of professional experience, I am quite wary about the job ads out there and tend to tread cautiously. The hiring managers never fail to paint a rosy picture of their organization and the job ads, alluring new talent but the moment a new employee starts his/her job they’re forced to confirm to the organizational culture, not utilising the vast experince they bring along with them. What a waste of talent?! It fails me every time to understand why then hire new “talent”, hire a worker who hasn’t got anything to contribute and will just go with the flow, no???

No matter which organization/industry you take into account, the types of employees can be broadly classified into the following:

1. The stars – always eager to get their hands dirty with anything and everything, considering every opportunity as a learning experience, portraying the right attitude, believer in fair play. Every organization, that wants to have an edge over it’s competitors should harness such talent and try every trick to retain them. These employees are not just doing their job but are passionate about their interests, are creative and wanting to go that extra mile. They are the ones that get work done, given a chance!

2. The zombies – they fill the void with their presence but not much beyond that. Their presence or absence does not make any difference. They are the bystanders, the mute spectators, they’ll do as told. They tend to be inclined towards the popular culture – good or bad, they lack an opinion of their own. Organizations that want to get the head count right, can get their numbers right with such…onlookers.

3. The cherry pickers – they choose the easiest of tasks and the only aim they harbour is to outshine others at the cost of others! Always on the look out for like minded allies to get more force for their sinister intentions. They are also the ones using sycophancy to climb the corporate ladder, hogging the corporate limelight through hook or crook is the only ambition. The higher management have other things to bother about and do not realise that “The stars” often quit due to managers favouring the cherry pickers (flattery overtakes their senses).

4. The self claimed leaders – the father figures/ know-it-alls they have a special need of mentoring people irrespective of people’s need to be mentored or not. They usually choose their preys carefully, the meek ones, the ones with lesser experience who dare not question. The motive, ofcourse, being to gain visibility within the organization by means of showcasing their “magnanimous” self. Substantial traces of the cherry pickers found in these species. They are armed with (unnecessary) advice and (stolen) ideas at the drop of a hat!

It is a no brainer then, what kind of employees are required to bring about the change and transformation that businesses often talk about and the senior management attend top notch seminars about the same. Why then do the hiring managers almost never get it right? Maybe they are one of #2, #3 or #4 themselves or just not in touch with the reality. They maybe have a blurry vision of a quintessential organization but lack the acumen to get one in place.

If organizations, really, are serious about high performance and keeping abreast with the latest in their area of expertise, they should hire the bright talents and encourage their curious minds to help attain the organizational goals. If not, then managers should introspect and get themselves more of #2, #3 or #4 and save themselves and the stars the agony, seriously!

It is in the interest of a new employee and the organization if they could work together for a longer time, thus reducing the stress of a job hunt/new recruitment.