Giving Compass’ Take:
• T-shaped innovators are individuals that have “shallow and wide horizontal knowledge, deep and singular vertical expertise.” The author calls for social innovators to be more than T-shaped.
• The author states that collaboration is helpful when trying to drive progress in social innovation. How can donor collaboratives be useful in this context?
• Here is a roadmap to impactful social innovation.
Innovators are T-shaped. Social innovators must be more.
The concept of a “T-shaped person,” first made famous by McKinsey & Company, is prevalent in the innovation literature because it proves extraordinarily useful. A person is T-shaped when she possesses and continually attends to, a breadth of knowledge across many fields, accompanied by a depth of knowledge in one—shallow and wide horizontal knowledge, deep and singular vertical expertise.
What I’ve learned is that social innovators are in fact different, insofar as they cultivate a third dimension—what I’d call a z-axis that intersects the x- and y-axes of regular T-shaped innovators. This third dimension is a social dimension, one that requires just as much emphasis as the other two.
The problem is that our world’s most pressing concerns don’t conform to the stark lines of disciplines or departments, and wicked problems by their very nature can be made worse by single-method or single-discipline approaches.
That’s why it is increasingly incumbent upon us to cultivate social innovators with the vision and fortitude to break path dependence. T-shaped innovators won’t be sufficient. What we need are social innovators who operate in 3-D.
Read the full article about social innovation by Andrew Hogue at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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