Specialisation and impact

It’s becoming really hard to use experience as a way to measure people’s ability to perform certain work. The problems that our world is seeking to solve are what we have not seen before and if we know exactly what experience would help us find the solution, then we are already prescribing the solution somewhat. Moreover, a lot of innovations that are needed to deal with those problems only emerged in the last 3-5 years in a big way. The person with 10-20 years experience in wind or solar may not be adequately equipped to support a project today where one has to consider elements of energy storage and even green hydrogen production.

When we choose to specialise, and the area we enter is something growing and continually improving, we are caught in some kind of race – with the field itself and also other people who are pouring into the field. Energy and climate transition appears to be in that category and being a consultant in this space, I’m conscious that there are more consultancies who are entering this space without much credibility. It’s good to have more people championing this cause for mankind but there’s a risk that the transition gets slowed down by some of the ESG crowd that is distracting us from the true solutions by shifting the attention towards elements of compliance and reporting as opposed to real action.

In terms of recruitment and hiring, we are seeing more people trying to step up to the challenge but without the right or clear understanding what the energy or climate transition is about. I am seeing people who are intent on joining a hype train without recognizing its genuine significance in the world. The choice to specialise should not to be making more bucks but to make a greater impact than one would make merely from just doing the general. At this point when people are not going to be hiring for experience, young people have the opportunity to differentiate themselves. And this differentiation will not be just a matter of talking about passion but understanding the impact one is trying to make.

What is the right scale?

Some impacts are hard to scale spatially, or geographically, or culturally. But they can be persistent, and in time, they scale well. For example, if you’re a teacher of a classroom of 40, you might impact at the most 40 lives. And that is not easy to scale, because enlarging the class does not necessarily mean more lives are impacted though the education system might want to think that way.

I once asked talked about scaling Laksa (a Singaporean dish) in an article about the narratives of millennials. I wondered if it matters that we created products which didn’t scale at least during the moment they were created. If we create products only to ride waves of growth, than majority of the products and service offerings in the world would not exists. It is often seeking to serve a particular audience that an offering comes into play and then gradually finds either more audience or more application in order to scale.

So what is the right scale for the impact that we make, or the offering we’re trying to put out in the world? It is exactly the scale that keeps things going, that keeps you doing what you want to do. If you’re happy to keep doing supporting under-privileged kids one by one, go for it; make sure it pays you enough to keep you going as well. And it is the same for a business, you just need the smallest viable audience (a concept that is popularised by Seth Godin).

Sustainability is the right benchmark, not just for the environment, but also the scale of what we do.