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The Bain "Expert Generalist" Model and the Increasing Value of a Liberal Arts Degree...

With all the talk of automation and AI changing the nature of jobs in the future, one question we should all be asking (especially those of us with kids) is "what degrees, education and skills are going to have the most impact in the future?"

Mark Cuban has an opinion - he thinks some of the degrees we're most focused on now are going to fade in importance and liberal arts - yes, liberal arts - is going to make a comeback.  Here's an excerpt of what he said in a Liberal artsrecent interview via Business Insider:

I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. And so having someone who is more of a freer thinker.

Cuban's forecast of the skills needed to succeed in the future echoes that of computer science and higher education experts who believe people with "soft skills," like adaptability and communication, will have the advantage in an automated workforce.

Cuban highlighted English, philosophy, and foreign language majors as just some of the majors that will do well in the future job market.

"The nature of jobs is changing," Cuban said.

If you've followed the breaking news out of Cuban's Dallas Mavericks organization, you can insert witty joke on the most important training for future professional workers <here>.  Regardless of Cuban's recent troubles, his thoughts on the future of the workplace is interesting.

Cuban's thoughts made me think more about the Bain "Expert Generalist" model.  Here's a taste of that model:

Orit Gadiesh, the Bain & Co. chairman who coined the term, describes expert-generalism as “the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines.”

Research shows EG’s have:

Hmm, sounds like the world could use a few more EG’s.

More from LongNow.org:

From his perspective as a psychology researcher, Philip Tetlock watched political advisors on the left and the right make bizarre rationalizations about their wrong predictions at the time of the rise of Gorbachev in the 1980s and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. (Liberals were sure that Reagan was a dangerous idiot; conservatives were sure that the USSR was permanent.) The whole exercise struck Tetlock as what used to be called an “outcome-irrelevant learning structure.” No feedback, no correction.

Tetlock’s summary: “Partisans across the opinion spectrum are vulnerable to occasional bouts of ideologically induced insanity.” He determined to figure out a way to keep score on expert political forecasts, even though it is a notoriously subjective domain (compared to, say, medical advice), and “there are no control groups in history.”

So Tetlock took advantage of getting tenure to start a long-term research project now 18 years old to examine in detail the outcomes of expert political forecasts about international affairs. He studied the aggregate accuracy of 284 experts making 28,000 forecasts, looking for pattern in their comparative success rates. Most of the findings were negative— conservatives did no better or worse than liberals; optimists did no better or worse than pessimists. Only one pattern emerged consistently.

“How you think matters more than what you think.”

It’s a matter of judgement style, first expressed by the ancient Greek warrior poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.” The idea was later expanded by essayist Isaiah Berlin. In Tetlock’s interpretation, Hedgehogs have one grand theory (Marxist, Libertarian, whatever) which they are happy to extend into many domains, relishing its parsimony, and expressing their views with great confidence. Foxes, on the other hand are skeptical about grand theories, diffident in their forecasts, and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events.

I've always been a fan of the HR Generalist - the HR professional (manager, director and VP level) that is responsible for all of the areas of HR.  A lot of the research today is telling us that the need for deep specialization is going to fade in a world of automation and that the generalist - regardless of profession - is going to be on the rise.

The real question is - are you willing to bet your kid's future and have him/her get a liberal arts degree?

Wow.  I don't know about that.  I just don't know.



Really like this post. Just had a similar conversation with my wife about the need to supplement traditional education of our future kids with "learning how to learn." So much is focused on what you know, but how you acquire, digest, and adapt is a much more important skill, IMO.

TMT aba

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