Last weekend I powered through David Epstein’s new book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. The book has received rave reviews from the likes of Daniel Pink, who calls it “an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.” Through numerous stories and data, Epstein’s primary premise is that generalists triumph over specialists.
I dove into work showing that highly credentialed experts can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, even while becoming more confident – a dangerous combination. An internationally renowned scientist [later introduced in the book] told me that increasing specialization has created a “system of parallel trenches” in the quest for innovation. Everyone is digging deeper into their own trench and rarely standing up to look in the next trench over, even though the solution to their problem resides there.
Epstein directly takes on those (ahem, Tim Ferris…) who propose spending ten thousand hours to become a supposed expert in something. I found the book to be a breath of fresh air from all the “get smart quick” self help books, and he includes data-driven concepts applicable to a wide array of personal and professional situations. He even spends considerable time on how it applies to raising children, and Ashley Fetters at The Atlantic has a great review of the book from that particular perspective. In an interview, Epstein says the issues with children and sports is what originally led him to research this topic.
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