You probably know your fair share of specialists. You know — people who have fine-tuned a skill or knowledge about a market segment, who can walk you through all of the particulars of a particular platform or tool. "Specialist" is even part of many peoples' business titles.
These people are valuable. Their grasp of the details and proficiency in execution is what busy executives often need.
But don't confuse them with strategists.
Strategists may have a more fundamental understanding of some of the details, but they perceive how pieces fit together from disparate functions and areas. The strategist can look above the clutter and make sense of an overall program, integrating the tactics that specialists execute.
But there's a distinction.
A specialist is an order-taker. A strategist is an adviser.
A specialist can tell you about one thing. A strategist can find the intersection of many things.
A specialist knows the next development in their area of expertise. A strategist spots trends based on pulling together disparate information that might be outside of a domain of expertise.
Strategists have spent time in their careers as specialists. Specialists are usually less broadly experienced.
In the end, we need both specialists and strategists. But we also need to know when it's appropriate to engage each one.
Image credit: "Light's Just Right" Lotus Carroll (Flickr)