Sector/industry specialization – a double-edged sword

In the agency and consulting worlds, many are of the opinion that sector specialization trumps generalist capabilities.

Like any of these things, I think the answer is, “It depends.”

Sometimes sector expertise and specialization is absolutely critical. In many instances, lacking an understanding of the complex issues, ecosystem and market dynamics within and across an industry sector will render the advisor incapable of providing the right advice and service (or at least charge a lot to get up to speed). Few clients would be willing to accept this.

Sometimes, expertise dealing with a similar or even tangental issue with a different organization in a different sector is where disruptive innovation is born. Fresh perspectives an naive questions can be an explosive, often unexpected combination driving either performance improvements or at least reducing complexity to useful simplicity.

Reality is probably in between – for most providers, having a strong set of generalist core capabilities augmented by say 4-6 sector focus areas is the right mix.

While single sector focus can drive specialization, efficiency and becoming the “go to” for topic X, without a robust innovation engine this can quickly be reduced to, or devolve to, cookie-cutter consulting.

Let’s continue the conversation.


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