Hiring managers can be prone to think vertically when trying to fill a capability gap. They think in terms of specialist skills and alignment with existing or hypothesised silos. Despite a common requirement to collaborate and operate in a cross-disciplinary fashion, historically, a search for these important skills and behaviours has been given less attention than it deserves.
About ten years ago, Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, resurrected the notion of the T-shaped person and embedded it into IDEO’s recruiting and talent retention culture. He asserts that innovation needs T-shaped people and I agree with his sentiment although I also feel that it is a bit more complicated than that.
The T-shape model has two parts and refers to two important characteristics. The vertical line relates to depth of expertise, whilst the horizontal line relates to collaborative and integrative behaviours. The model assumes a two-dimensional construct where there is only one domain of expertise, only one vertical line.
My view is that it might be more useful to consider multiple levels of expertise that are developed in different domains to varying degrees of depth at different times and with varying longevity or relevance. This would yield a 3D model consisting of a time-series of T-shapes, of potentially different sizes, that would create a kind of stalactite effect.
“If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi