T-Shaped: How To Be An Adaptable, Collaborative & Valuable Employee

What will make you successful in digital? There is no doubt there are many skill-sets and personality traits that will help you succeed; but if you are just starting your career, like one of our Social Media and Digital Marketing Apprentices, how do you know where to start and what to aim for. According to Marketing Manager of Fatsoma, Andrew Allsop, developing the mental characteristics of a T-shaped person can pave the way to success in the digital world.

Here at The Apprentice Academy, we see a vast array of different Apprentices and each one is unique in their mindset. We get all kinds from content writers, social media enthusiasts, graphic designers and even web developers.

So, what is a T-shaped person?

T-Shaped people are defined by having a set of mental characteristics that can be illustrated by the shape of the letter T. The horizontal line of a T indicates that they have a breadth of knowledge in a number of different disciplines. The vertical line indicates that they have a deep knowledge in a few, core areas.

The concept was developed by those clever people over at IDEO, an international design and innovation consultancy firm. Never heard of them? Well, if you’ve ever used a mouse, insulin pen or even just stood in line at an airport, you’ve used something they dreamed up. With these kinds of credentials, it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about dreaming up concepts that have huge impacts on societies quality of life.

An example of a t-shaped person would be a web developer that knows how to use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Project Management and Java to an acceptable degree, but is an expert in Ruby and SQL. This kind of mental model allows people to empathise across different perspectives.

They’re able to contribute more in team brainstorms and hey can form new ideas by fusing concepts from different disciplines. It allows us to scale teams effectively without adding a layer of ‘integrators’ around them, people who essentially don’t contribute towards the output of the company but are required to make sure everyone’s contributing towards the same conversation. It allows us to highlight areas where we have gaps in knowledge and recruit the very best person to fill them.

As a T-shaped person, you will be able to adapt to future changes in the work environment. Whilst job roles are being rapidly automated by computers, a computer will never be able to make sense of complex problems by combining different cultural/disciplinary perspectives.

T-Shaped people will learn more because they are exposed to new information on a regular basis. If you spend your whole time researching the same thing your thoughts become stagnant and uncreative. You’ll be able to interact with more people because you understand them better, which in turn makes you a better leader.

Being T-shaped doesn’t suit every organisation. But if you value collaboration, creativity and leadership in your employees, don’t look further than the T. Developing yourself into a T-shaped person takes time and focus, but with companies like IDEO, Apple & Proctor & Gamble all being advocates, it’s clear to see why it’s valuable.

To develop into a T-shaped person, seek to become an expert in one skill. Jacks of all trade rarely accomplish a vast amount. Remain curious. Ask questions. Always be seeking out new knowledge. Broaden your horizons. Expand out of your comfort zone and you’ll be surprised how much more creatively you’ll be able to think. Have a side project. Or 5. Dabble with things and try and learn something new.