I enjoyed this excellent article about working in remote teams.

Not only is it some cheery hearsay, but it offers some sensible pragmatic ideas about making remote teams successful. As an industrial engineer and optimistic futurist, I believe that most of the benefits and optimizations of remote work haven’t even become apparent to us yet. It’s like the cell phone my dad had in the mid 1980s which was viewed with suspicion and a bit of ridicule while at the same time everyone could see how obviously huge its potential was. When non-corporate entities first owned their own computers, that too was treated with disdain. We early adopters of that technology were often surprised at the hostility and reluctance to even consider something that was so obviously (to us) an exciting change for the better.

I also like the author’s endorsement of generalists. I can’t say if generalists are relevant to effective remote teams but I figure it can’t hurt. I work with a lot of amazing people in the top levels of their elite fields. I’m often impressed by the depth and focus of such people, but seldom do I think that they’re also much more versatile than I am. Indeed, I continually strive for extreme versatility as a way to maximize my extraordinary and precious opportunity as a sentient being.

Although I’m not a huge Heinlein fan, he has his moments and I enjoyed this quote.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

— Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve never butchered a hog (though I’ve fed them plenty when I worked on a pig farm) and I am, thanks to some incredible luck, still alive. The rest, I have actually done.

Update 2016-11-25

This is from Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano.

Nobody’s so damn well educated that you can’t learn ninety per cent of what he knows in six weeks. The other ten per cent is decoration. Show me a specialist, and I’ll show you a man who’s so scared he’s dug a hole for himself to hide in. Almost nobody’s competent, Paul. It’s enough to make you cry to see how bad most people are at their jobs. If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

Update 2017-09-21

A scientific study claiming: "…the likelihood of being self-employed is higher for individuals whose skills are balanced. In addition, their earnings from self-employment tend to be higher." If only that second part were always true!