My Life of Pi

Some people are highly skilled experts in one discipline.  These people often credit their incredibly focused expertise as a key to their success, however they define success.  I do not see myself as one of those single expertise people, though I kind of like the success part of the equation.

life of pi

Image credit: Life of Pi…

T-shaped skills

Other people have expertise that spans disciplines.  They understand their expertise in relation to context.  These people have “T-shaped” skills, combining depth and breadth.  Vertical + horizontal = more attachment points, more connections.  T-shaped skills are a hallmark of great collaboration and leading innovation.

Sometimes, I see my skills as T-shaped.  I’ve applied my information management expertise, to varying degrees of success, across many different disciplines; health, finance, justice, natural resources…  in public, private and nonprofit contexts.  Similarly, I’ve used my conflict management skills in many different contexts.   Recently though, I latched onto something which I feel better conceptualizes my skillset, “Pi-shaped”.

Pi-shaped skills

Pi-symbolI first came across the reference to PI-shaped in this post by Ross Dawson.  Pi-shaped skills combine breadth with not one but two separate domains of deep expertise, creating a shape similar to the symbol for Pi.  In online dispute resolution (ODR), the two domains are technology and conflict management.  Perfect for me!

We know the benefits of having and applying domain expertise. One can bankroll a career on that. We also know how valuable T-shaped skills are, in a global marketplace.

Pi-shaped skills are valuable too. When our domain of expertise wears thin because of new developments (think of the impact of technological change), we can adapt, leverage, our other domain of expertise.  And in our complex and interconnected world, Pi-shaped skills contribute value beyond what a specialist offers.

Beyond Pi

So, why stop at two domains, at Pi?  Well, you don’t have to.  Add as many domains of expertise as you want.   Turn Pi- into “comb-shaped”.   Of course, you can’t be all things.  “Expertise” likely becomes  relative, as the number of domains increase.  Each of us has to find our breadth vs. depth balance.  We should be able to do that, though.  After all, we’re all mediators, in one form or another?

How do you conceptualize your skills expertise?

PS.  The Life of Pi is an awesome read.  The movie is apparently pretty good, too!

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