Breadth v. Depth AND Judgment

We all look to “experts” for advice.  It’s with good reason.  We are looking to people with depth and their skills and “know-power” on various topics in order to make informed decisions.  I bought a marketing book simply because it is printed by Harvard Business School.  That name has the prestige of serious knowledge.  It outweighed more of the gimmicky books I could have purchased.

As a person who has an intellectual focus on “breadth not depth,” I often look for specialized information from experts.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  It makes good sense.  I was a liberal arts major.  We, as a group, are specialists in well-roundedness.  So as a well-rounded person, I do my homework, gather information, and synthesize that information using my best judgment.

What’s this about judgment?  It’s a constantly evolving but critical component of our individuality.  As I’ve matured, I’ve seen just how critical exercising good judgment is in all facets of life.  Good judgment is something that takes many experiences and lessons to develop.  And, you can lose it on a bad decision instantly.

From experience, I am slow and cautious in judging human beings.  This reserved approach works well sometimes.  In other words, people have a chance with me.  I don’t immediately rule people out based on their walk of life, personality, profession, accomplishments, so on and so forth.  I generally consider people my friends until they give me a reason to consider otherwise.  A lot of people don’t operate like this.  I am fully aware of it.  It’s an area where I perceive myself going against the grain.  It’s an indicator of a strongly felt value.  It is the belief in the inherent goodness and worth of human beings.  When you dismiss a person on a quick judgment call, you are dismissing the value of that person.

With my moderate approach to judgment, I am aware that exercising judgment often requires snap decisions.  You have to go with your gut.  It is zen-like in this state.  You have to be able to instantly pull from your reservoir of lessons.  And that is where synthesis comes into play.  As a well-rounded, evolving human being, you need to be able to gather expertise but make decisions based on your own unique judgment.  It’s a delicate balance.  We inevitably make bad choices.  But ultimately, if you are paying attention to the balance, you are going to consistently make more good choices.

I will spend my dollars on a book from Harvard Business School.  I will look to a seasoned scholar with a PHD in psychology for insights.  I will listen to Zig Ziglar for motivation and sales tips.  I understand how the economy of knowledge works.  But I understand this because of my well-roundedness.  No one else on this planet has my same exact perspective.

Seth Godin pointed out today that there are 80 million blogs on the Internet right now.  Regardless of whether or not anyone should stumble across this one, I can confidently assert that this blog will always be a little different.  I will also boldly assert that an individual prone to instant judgment may quickly dismiss the content found herein this blog.  There is a very clear picture in my head of the individual I am describing.

If you concentrate on one path and dig consistently, you are going to get depth.  That’s how it works.  You get to be an expert on that one path.  I respect this.  But I think sometimes people who focus on depth, get a serious case of tunnel-vision and do not always respect the unique perspective and judgment that can be honed from people who focus on breadth.  Maybe “breadth” people like myself spread themselves too thin at times.  But don’t forget that there is an actual spread that is a force to be reckoned with and not underestimated.

Am I making a case in favor of “breadth”?  Not at all.  It’s all yin and yang.  We are all interdependent.  The breadth people depend on the depth people.  I am just daring to point out that it also works in reverse.


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