While I was a bit sceptical about some of its assertions and assumptions as regards the causes of "The Rise and Fall of the Ad Man", the recent BBC3 documentary of that name (which UK readers, at least, can view here) has certainly produced a lot of discussion online.
Drawing some parallels between the allegedly changing media landscape of the late 80s and today Iain Tait has mused upon the skills needed for the creative organsiation of the future. Coincidentally and serendipitously, Mark McGuinness has produced a great overview of the specialist/generalist argument which lies at the heart of the matter.
My inclination is towards the generalist, as long as the aim is to have depth as well as breadth of expertise. Generalism today is not about being a jack of all trades and master of none, it's about diversity - all the more so in our fast-changing times. Crucial also is the ability to see the overview - strategic and analytical thinking are skills through which specialist input can best be filtered, assessed and directed.
In a way I suppose this reflects my general marketing philosophy. The user/customer is essentially the generalist in the equation, certainly in comparison to the creators of a product or service and it is crucial for all those specialists to focus on using their skills to meet generalist needs rather than to overcomplicate things. So don't be beholden to the specialist. Yes, they can supply very specific skills, but in too many cases they do so from within a very specific silo mindset and there are commercial and creative dangers inherent in that.
By way of illustration, let me return to "The Rise and Fall of the Ad Man" and the comment of the brilliant John Hegarty - a man who has thrived in both the 80s and today. His defence of the quality of modern advertising, specifically the Sony Bravia work, finished with the assertion that it had picked up all the awards going. True enough, but those are awards that are given to specialists by other specialists. The aim should not be to win awards. It should not be to focus on the specialism. It has to be about an outward focus on people who are not specialists.