Breadth Vs Depth

Yesterday I attended an interesting lecture by a renowned finance professional and a venture capitalist.

Apart from other interesting points, he highlighted the need for intense depth rather than a breadth of knowledge or skills.

He was addressing a group of executive MBA students with average business experience of 10 years.

I have always believed in breadth at the expense of depth, simply because I believed I needed to have a wider mental perspective to deal with complex business issues which keep cropping at regular frequency. Right from the beginning, I probably thought that I was always destined to become a general manager of sorts………that is what every MBA pass-out expects him or her to become eventually, I guess.

Things have changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, the world has inevitably changed, the business environment has transformed incredibly, and the manner in which people communicate has also change hugely.

With all this transformation, is it possible for anyone, even a guy at the very apex of an organization, to have a total comprehensive view of everything around that he needs to know ?

Surely that is going to be a very tough proposition.

If everyone in the organization tries to emulate the boss for breadth as against the depth needed for himself or herself, then most organizations will be in serious trouble, if you think about it. Job execution requires considerable depth. I met a CEO yesterday who mentioned that even in his late fifties, he trains himself everyday so that he could successfully demonstrate the latest features of his product to a potential client – he said that while the traditional wisdom is that you could always get that task delegated to a mid-level person, the customer does not think so – the customer would not only expect you to explain about your product or solution in great depth, explain how your product can solve his problems, and then if he has the time would expect you to demo ! One has to be prepared all the time for that eventuality. By doing so, instead of delegating it, the customer would gain huge confidence in your product, your company and your capabilities.

So, my new conclusion is that “Depth” is far more important and critical to one’s success than breadth. While there is no harm in knowing something about everything, it is not necessary these days as one can get any kind of information from the web; whereas, to attain depth, it requires hard work and training, not generally easily delivered for free from the internet.

This is something which we should all think about………


Vijay Srinivasan
25th August 2013

One thought on “Breadth Vs Depth

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