Originally Posted by BigPecsPeter
OP's analogy is flawed/incomplete.
What you're meaning to ask, essentially, is whether specialisation in academics would enhance somebody's potential for generalisation more so than would be the case for a generalist trying to turn to specialisation.
I guess the problem with this line of enquiry is pinning down precisely what a generalist is in the context of academia. What is the academic equivalent of a cross fitter, if you will?
Even so, notwithstanding these difficulties of classification, I think the answer is clear: somebody who has specialised and attained a deep knowledge in one particular subject, is probably more likely to be able to easily and more rapidly acquire a general understanding of many subjects, than a 'general knowledge expert' will be able to turn his mind to the deep understanding of one subject.
I think the reasons for this are obvious.
I think the reasons for this are not obvious because they are wrong.
At best my 30 year specialization in say, physiology, gives me the background to do time efficient research in another field.
But in that I have exactly zero background in say, geology, I couldn't pick it up any faster than if I didn't have my specialization. I'd still have to start from jump ball and the beginning to get even the basic background.
And yet someone who is strong can dominate a crossfit workout in about 2 weeks if it takes that long. Plenty of videos showing some top ranked Ol'er outperforming crossfitters the first time they do the workout.
So the onyl thing obvious is that you're wrong.