Range: generalists triumph!

A vacation is always a good way to read a few books from your to-read list in a short period. I managed to read 5 the past 2 weeks, 2 of which i wanted to write a blog about. This blog is about: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein:

Amazon.com: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World eBook:  Epstein, David J. : Kindle Store

The idea is basically about having broad experience, even of several (different) domains/crafts, is just as relevant and even more important than (hyper) specialization which seems to be the focus of todays education & work.

Learning, sometimes it involves putting experience aside entirely

He mentions people like Roger Federer, Charles Darwin, Elon Must and a bunch more as an example that you don’t need to start (at a very young age) focussing on 1 thing but that the experience of other domains and crafts help you further along and to come up with ideas you otherwise wouldn’t come up with.

Part of the book is about education which focusses on short term succes, mostly by assisting students with procedural tricks (just do it this way, than it will work out). But research suggest that it does not really help them in the long run. Students don’t have to try really hard to figure things out. While research indicates that this is wat would help students later on, they can make connections themselves because they have been forced to think harder. This however would result in lower grades and frustration in the short term and that would result in angry parents and frustrated kids.

Also, we expect kids to know what they want to do when they are 18/19 and have to choose the next educational step, when often they don’t even know who they are and what’s important for them. It might be better to allow kids maybe 6 years in college with more options to choose different topics like economics, social studies and sports academy as to experience more things. A great quote from the book i take to heart about choosing what to do next:

Here’s who i am at the moment, here are my motivations, here’s what i’ve found i like to do, here’s what i’d like to learn, and here are the opportunities. Which of these is the best match right now? And maybe a yearw from now i’ll switch because i’ll find something better

Equally with sports (and music), parents tend to want to focus too early on 1 thing ( or too much in my experience). However, the book remarks that having a broader experience in sports (and music) helps kids later on much more because these experiences come together at a certain point and they often come up with different and better solutions.

The difficulty is getting a broad experience and even more so, the time to get that experience.

The idea of the book is that with ‘range’ comes connectivity of ideas across domains and thus solutions to problems that a hyper(specialist) wouldn’t come up with. A striking study was regarding the idea when it’s best to get a heartattack. The common idea is at a cardialogist-convention. However, the study showed that it is best to get a heartattack at that moment but not at that place, you have a higher suvival rate at the hospital because you get treated by people with other experiences and they solves things differently. This is something called:

Overlearned behaviour, that is, they have done the same things in response to the same challenges over and over until the behaviour has become so automated that they no longer even recognize it as a situation-specific tool

The book also challenges the assumption that you have to be young to come up with your best ideas. It’s shows that it’s just as likely that with experience in more domains/functions you’ll come up with ideas at a much later age.

The books provides great and amazing examples where a different perspective solved a problem and was thought of by people who had ‘range’. It gave me new perspective on my own career and choices i can make. So try something different, work, hobby, sport, music, read a book about something you never thought of and get inspired and to end with a quote from the book:

Trying things is the answer to find your talent

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