Is There Room for Creative Generalists in an Attention Economy?

How to Prosper in An Environment That Appears to Reward Hyper-Specialization

The world has morphed into an attention economy where the old 80/20 rule doesn’t apply. Those who have captured the ‘long tail’ attention of Google are usually those that get all of the rewards. That usually involves narrowing down your area of expertise so that you can claim to be the top dog. So is it more important to just be the best, or is there another way?

There’s Less Room at The Top

hummingbird with bicycle

Nicholas Taleb in “The Black Swan” makes a great case for accepting that the bell curve rings false on hyper-connected social systems. The old 80/20 rule is dead. It states that 20 percent of the companies will control 80 percent of the market is broken. Now its not unusual for 3% or fewer of the companies or websites within a niche to get 97% of the traffic and business. Some quick examples are Google and Amazon.

And the larger the network the more extreme the inequality. There’s no escaping it unless you’re willing to forgo the benefits of a networked world. And with the spread of ever smaller smart connected devices into the physical world that’s becoming almost impossible.

So it looks as if only the apex players will prosper. And to become the best you’ve got to focus with laser-like precision and passion on one niche. No one has the time to do otherwise. If you choose the wrong area to become an expert in, you’re screwed. You’ve lost too much time to be able to surpass the leaders.

Tell A Better Story By Making It Different

So where does that leave those of us who are interested in more than one subject? Maybe with better, more original stories. By mixing and matching, slicing, dicing and blending ideas from across many disciplines we can do better than just being good. We can be DIFFERENT.

Tim Ferris, that master of self promotion agrees. In a great interview on how to market yourself and your company he stated that, “Its not enough to be better, you have to be different.

For far too long I’ve ignored my hunger for collecting information that interests me. I’ve been chasing dollars in niches where ‘everyone knows’ the money is (but where my interests aren’t). I’ve dismissed my mind’s magpie eclectic eye as impractical and flighty. And quite frankly the bird’s getting restless. So I’m going to let it fly here on this blog and just see what happens.

Maybe I’ll find there IS room for someone different, like a creative generalist in an attention economy.

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