The modern hyper-specialty: everything
"One must be absolutely modern." (1)
But it was easier to always be modern in the days of the quoted poet, when modernity turned over no more than once a generation, if that. One had time to settle in and solidify a stance, to become expert in the novelty. When conditions perpetually change, however, the most up-to-date trendsetter is at risk of turning passé, at almost any moment.
It’s hard work to stay modern in these circumstances. It isn’t something you do once and then forget about, like getting a new degree or moving downtown. It is something to refresh, it is continuous labor and an ongoing education. One must not only understand one’s present time, but one must gather particles of the future. It’s really like investing, and doubly difficult because it isn’t just some asset whose prospects one needs to estimate, but that very same asset in an ever changing context.
And some things that may be still considered modern in the business world may not be so for much longer. For instance, specialization: It is probably unfair to say that specialization may be(come) outmoded, but certainly it has turned into a more complex subject than it was even a few years ago, is more nuanced now to say the least, and in important ways requires a revisit. Its narrow footprint may not (yet) be outright obsolete, but it has its limiting aspects:
Retail is becoming finance is becoming media, which in turn begets data used in retail to complete the commercial loop. Manufacturing is becoming robotics that can be printed and connected through wireless networks. Healthcare ties in wearable devices that are part of a growing mesh of nodes that feed into artificial intelligence systems and other analytics, which feed into commerce. The arts – music, images, and combinations in television and film – are both drivers as well as mirrors of these new economic ways, which are distributed through perpetually evolving access points.
To be modern, truly modern, at least for a little while to come, one must specialize in all these things, because these are increasingly convergent and unified. The specialization of greatest value is not in technology or commerce or finance, but in the blend; not in the art or the science, but in the overlap.
To be absolutely modern, in other words, one must avoid rigid definition and confining formula. To be most effective as a modern-era specialist, one must be as generalist as possible.
(1) Opening quote from Arthur Rimbaud: a poet turned entrepreneur in pursuit of far flung ventures, who met his end in the desert of Abyssinia; providing further proof, if this was necessary, that context, timing, conditions, communication, interaction, traffic, learning, are all as important to entrepreneurial success as are individual traits such as inspiration and energy. Rimbaud’s poetry was a product of Paris, as much as it was of Rimbaud.
… a collection of essays about a new technology environment and its new fundamentals.
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