T-shaped skills

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The concept of T-shaped skills, or T-shaped persons is a metaphor used in job recruitment to describe the abilities of persons in the workforce. The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one's own.

The earliest reference is by David Guest in 1991.[1] Tim Brown, CEO of the IDEO design consultancy defended this approach to résumé assessment as a method to build interdisciplinary work teams for creative processes. In the 1980s and probably earlier, the term "T-shaped man" was used internally by McKinsey & Company for recruiting and developing consultants and partners, both male and female by then.

The term T-shaped skills is also common in the agile software development world and refers to the need for cross skilled developers and testers in an agile team, e.g. a Scrum team.

Also known as[edit]

  • Versatilist
  • Generalizing specialist
  • Technical craftsperson
  • Renaissance developer
  • Master generalist

Skills of various shapes[edit]

Other shapes have also been proposed, e.g. "X-shaped" (leadership), "I-shaped" (individual depth-skill without communication skills), and "Tree-shaped". The tree-shaped person has more rhizomic skills with depth in many areas, not just one, and being able to reach many heights of accomplishments, in many different fields, or many different branches of a field (e.g. a contributor to many branches of mathematics). The notion of the tree-shaped person was first presented as the Keynote address at the eLeo Symposium in 2013[2] and later developed elsewhere[3].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of computing," in The Independent, September 17, 1991.
  2. ^ https://vimeo.com/83107245
  3. ^ Declaration of veillance (Surveillance is Half-Truth), S. Mann, R. Janzen, M. A. Ali, and K. Nickerson, 2015 IEEE Games Entertainment Media Conference (GEM), Year: 2015, Pages: 1-2

External links[edit]