2020 Skills: The T-Shaped Professional

In this third post in a series on 2020 Skills, we take a look at transdisciplinarity, or how to become a T-shaped professional. 

Here is a handy index for accessing all posts in this series:

  1. Sense-Making
  2. Social Intelligence
  3. The T-shaped Professional
  4. Virtual Collaboration
  5. Computational Thinking
  6. New-Media Literacy
  7. Novel and Adaptive Thinking
  8. Cross-Cultural Competency

Back in 1963, Warren Buffet, one of the most well-known investors on the planet, closely analyzed the business model of American Express. With millions of cardholders, the company had managed to achieve an incredibly strong position in the highly competitive US market. However, the Soybean Scandal, which was caused by a third party, changed everything pretty quickly. The stock dropped by almost 50 percent and the company lost $150 million. While most people decided to stop investing on American Express, Buffet made a completely different move.

 The Oracle of Omaha The Oracle of Omaha

He decided to study the company in a different way before making the investment. He visited a number of banks, supermarkets, drug stores and travel agencies. He found that all the customers had been using the service of American Express. The scandal had obliterated the stock price. But it had no effect in the mind of general customers. Buffet clearly understood that American Express had become one of the most trusted financial services in the world. While people became more anxious about the stock price, he became more optimistic about the future of the franchise. He invested almost a quarter of his total assets. It didn’t take a long time for the value of American Express to increase resulting in a massive profit for Buffet and his company, Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffet didn’t study the typical reports from analysts to decide his move for the investment. Instead, he extended his scope of study to a broader range of information sources. He escaped narrowness and achieved a massive success. In today’s world, this is called Transdisciplinarity.

Transdisciplinarity is a way of engaging non-specialist perspectives to escape the narrowness of any one discipline and open up a wider array of challenges and resources. It is focused on researching a specific problem by crossing the boundaries of two or more disciplines, just like Buffet analyzing the ailing stock price and customers’ continued reliance on American Express cards. People who possess the skill of Transdisciplinarity are known as T-shaped professionals, as they have the competency for crossing multi-disciplinary boundaries to analyze a problem and come up with innovative solutions.

There is and will always be a huge demand for T-Shaped professionals in today’s market. In addition to an incredibly deep knowledge in multiple disciplines, they also have the ability to communicate effectively while crossing the boundary of cultures and economies. As a result, they have a higher chance of making an immensely positive impact in any area.

If you really want to become successful in 2020 and beyond, you will have to transform yourself into a T-shaped professional. The first thing you need to do is enhance your understanding in multiple disciplines and effectively apply the knowledge to your domain.

To become a T-shaped individual, you have to assess your own skills and knowledge. A great way of doing it is making a list of your skills and rating them on a scale of 0 – 5. You have to be very honest with your rating to help you to get a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses.

The next thing you have to do is go through a checklist of four key steps.

The first one is the improvement. While rating your skills, you might have identified areas that can be improved, for example, programming. Create a new list of skills you want to improve and start working on them in a highly organized way by taking online courses, reading books, or joining cohorts.

The second step is determining your comfort zones. If you are happy with the level of skill of a specific area, let’s say copywriting, and have no intention to go further, you shouldn’t put in more effort to improve. Time is valuable, and you have other skills to improve!

The third step is the addition of new areas. Think of skills that complement those you already have. Maybe there are skills that will help you gain a promotion or find a new job.

The fourth and final step is diving deeper into a specific area. You have to determine it honestly, as it will be your specialization and act as a stem for your T-shaped skill sets, taking you on a path that will require time and effort.

After working on all these four factors, you will have developed a great combination of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are the abilities that can be defined and measured, like copywriting and programming. But don’t forget the so-called “soft skills”, the personal attributes, like critical thinking and networking, needed to be successful in your work.

By prioritizing lifelong learning with transdisciplinarity, while maintaining a balance of your skill sets, you can transform yourself into a highly successful T-shaped professional now and into the future.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *