I came across another reference to the Scott Ambler‘s idea of the generalizing specialist via The Earth is Flat. Apparently Gartner study defines versatilists as:

That begs the question: Just what is a versatilist? The Gartner study describes a versatilist by explaining what it isn’t, a specialist or even a generalist. “Specialists generally have deep skills and narrow scope, giving them expertise that is recognized by peers but seldom valued outside their immediate domain,” the Gartner study said.

Generalists have broad scope and shallow skills, enabling them to respond or act reasonably quickly but often without gaining or demonstrating the confidence of their partners or customers. Versatilists, in contrast, apply depth of skill to a progressively widening scope of situations and experiences, gaining new competencies, building relationships, and assuming new roles.

The term came out via Gartner a few year backs when the downsizing was still all the rage in IT. It doesn’t appear this has been taken up too much by the analyst world, and in general I think the idea of generalizing specialists is more descriptive.

These are the employees you want to hire or inherit.