Beaver County leaders must develop greater reach
Note: This is the second in a series of essays on the topic of ‘range’ and its importance to the future health of our region. For more on this, see David Epstein’s book “Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”.
In the last installment of this column, I spent time laying the groundwork for a series of several essays dealing with the theme of “range”. As noted earlier, people and organizations who demonstrate diversity have skills and interests that are characterized by breadth rather than depth. An individual or organization with scope will therefore often seek to become capable of operating in a number of different areas but may not develop a highly specialized level of competence in a particular area of interest.
The idea of range can be understood superficially by thinking about the difference between a general practitioner and another pediatric neurosurgeon. Both deal with medicine, disease, human body, etc. on a daily basis. But they undertake their work in vastly different contexts, focusing on different types of problems and employing at least somewhat different knowledge and skills. To generalize in the extreme, one could say that the general practitioner is most valued because of his breadth of understanding, while the strategic advantage of the pediatric neurosurgeon is his laser-focused understanding of how children’s brains work and how. fix them when they don’t.
Although I have so far used a number of examples from working life to explain the notion of range, the question goes far beyond professional identity. In general, empowered people and organizations often do so because of the way they see the world and others around them. Such an arrangement tends to view things as fundamentally interconnected, works to discover patterns, and includes a collection of experiences as part of a larger and integrated whole. The individual or organization with a reach often betrays a compulsion to discover the relationships between seemingly disparate areas, experiences, problems, and solutions.
What I have written so far might give the false impression that I believe range is inherently more important than specialization. I want to clarify that this is not my intention. While I firmly believe that our region needs leaders and organizations that demonstrate greater diversity, this is not a roundabout way of suggesting that specialization is either unimportant or unnecessary in the creation of healthy communities. Vibrant communities need both generalists and specialists at different times and in very different ways.
The observation that we exist at a crucial time in the history of our region is neither unique to me nor extremely insightful. What is perhaps more unique or insightful is this: the future vitality of our region will depend, in my opinion, on the leadership and organizations that are committed to developing and exercising the range as a matter of course. For too long our region has been characterized by siled thinking, a hyper provincial feeling, and a reluctance to think beyond individual or organizational interests. None of these trends lend themselves to demonstrating reach. Nor do they produce results that equitably enrich the communities in which we live and work.
If Beaver County is to evolve into a more vibrant future, we must attract and nurture leaders and organizations that can demonstrate an increasingly wide range. We need organizations and leaders who are curious and engaged, who willingly think and experiment creatively, and who engage in broad coalitions committed to generating innovation and opportunity. We need organizations and leaders who recognize that no single entity can solve the challenges our region faces, and that complexity and sophistication are needed to build communities that will withstand the inevitable trials of the 21st century. and beyond.
Perhaps more than anything, our region needs organizations and leaders who are bold enough to act without knowing precisely what could be the outcome, who willingly seize opportunities, who take risks, and who are willing to make mistakes and make mistakes. learn publicly from such failures. Our region can no longer support organizations and leaders who do not appreciate the need for reach. Far too much is lost in his absence. Far too little is ever seen. And far too little is tried.
Daniel Rossi-Keen, Ph.D., is co-owner of eQuip Books, a community bookstore in Aliquippa and executive director of RiverWise, a non-profit organization that uses sustainable development practices to create a regional identity around the rivers of the Beaver County. You can reach Daniel at [email protected]