Deep-Generalist Fellowship

Lateral thinking & micro-experiment
In the age of widespread automation, learning and unlearning is a lifelong pursuit. Tools and technologies will constantly change. While this might unsettle those with a narrow set of skills, it will empower deep generalists to create new opportunities they have nurtured over years of building lateral thinking and conducting repeated experiments to figure how they want to contribute to the changing world around.

How does this work?

In most modern workplaces, a disproportionate emphasis is paid on having narrow skills that are marketable. While there is nothing wrong having an area of focus, one should be mindful of the perils of early specialization. There are three key reason for that. 

First, we tend to specialize without knowing why. More than 80% of people work in areas that have nothing to do with their field of study. In India, for example, most students first graduate from courses like engineering and then figure out what they want to do with their lives. Spending four years of one’s life getting deep into a subject one doesn’t particularly care about is a colossal waste of time, energy and money.

Second, it hinders lateral thinking, a problem-solving approach that draws upon seemingly disparate concepts and domains. Most innovators are lateral thinkers. Their lateral thinking is a direct result of combining different strands of thoughts and learning from different contexts. Leonardo Da Vinci combined art and engineering, Steve Jobs built upon the interconnectedness of design, fashion and technology, and Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in physics, is known to draw upon references from music.

Third, people with a narrow set of skills tend to approach every problem through the same lens. This not only ignores loopholes in one’s hypothesis but also amplifies biases. As investor Charlie Munger puts it, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

If early specialization can backfire, should we all snack on an array of ideas, insights and interests? No. The future belongs to deep generalists, a term popularized by JotForm CEO Aytekin Tank. These are people who combine two or more diverse domains and integrate them into something defensible and unique. These are the professionals who will push the boundaries for creativity and innovation in the AI era. Their competitive advantage will propel them to learn, unlearn and develop innovative solutions consistently.

The fellowship journey

The fellowship will require 8-12 hours of engagement very week for three weeks. Live sessions will be held on the weekends (typical at night IST); and weekdays will be for 1:1 mentoring and community building.
  • Lateral thinking 
  • Scaling operations & effective execution
  • Thinking like a quant & poet 

Note from Utkarsh Amitabh

Founder & CEO of Network Capital
One of the best professional decisions I took in my early 20s was to invest a year studying liberal arts at Ashoka University. Studying anthropology, philosophy, history, literature, art and economics after a couple of years of work experience helped me understand what I wanted to do and why. Most importantly, it set me on the path to becoming a deep generalist by strengthening my lateral thinking ability. This is, of course, clearer in retrospect. I didn’t pursue the fellowship to become a generalist or a specialist. I was simply following my curiosity.

I chose to take a year out to study before heading for my MBA but there are many other ways to achieve the same goal.

As long as we can figure out a way to build or be a part of diverse learning communities, we can conduct several low-risk professional experiments to sample various options and double-down on ones that interest us. I am not saying that sampling will make all of us like Roger Federer or Richard Feynman but it will position us to take thoughtful career decisions.

Sessions from the previous cohort

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