Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized Worldby Published 28 May 2019
|Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.pdf|
What's the most effective path to success in any domain? It's not what you think.
Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you'll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world's top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
David Epstein examined the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields--especially those that are complex and unpredictable--generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They're also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can't see.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World Reviews
Covers the idea of having a wide range of knowledge outside one's specialty helps people succeed. Often new ideas come from thinking analogically about things unrelated to what one is looking at. Has lots of case studies that make the argument that having a wide range of experiences can help with one's endeavors.
One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein is, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is about the latter half of that quote. Range introduces the concept of wicked domains (or as I like to them, reality) where you are faced with imperfect information and erratic feedback yet must somehow still devine a solution, preferably a successful one. Furthermore, learning occurs mostly through a coherent yet completely inaccurate summary of events, the narrative fallacy. So how can we better ourselves? How do we solve the most pressing issues of our time when there is no evidence that our solutions are working? Range doesn’t provide any easy answers but suggests the solution is, at its heart, to follow evolution. Take opportunities to expose yourself to new thoughts and ideas to supplement deep and purposeful learning in a narrow course of study. Range is a thoughtful and well-researched book with examples spanning from athletics to academia to business to government. Range is further proof that sometimes the best ideas come from outside the box.
The story of the new U.S. Open golf winner illustrates part of the thesis of this book. A range of experience is sometimes better than over-specialization. In the book, Roger Federer is another example.
This passage describes a key finding that is central to the book....
James Flynn, is a professor of political studies in New Zealand
Flynn’s great disappointment is the degree to which society, and particularly higher education, has responded to the broadening of the mind by pushing specialization, rather than focusing early training on conceptual, transferable knowledge.
Flynn conducted a study in which he compared the grade point averages of seniors at one of America’s top state universities, from neuroscience to English majors, to their performance on a test of critical thinking. The test gauged students’ ability to apply fundamental abstract concepts from economics, social and physical sciences, and logic to common, real-world scenarios.
Flynn was bemused to find that the correlation between the test of broad conceptual thinking and GPA was about zero. In Flynn’s words, “the traits that earn good grades at [the university] do not include critical ability of any broad significance.”
“Even the best universities aren’t developing critical intelligence,” he said. “They aren’t giving students the tools to analyze the modern world, except in their area of specialization. Their education is too narrow.”
As a patient, I see this in medicine. My father practiced medicine for 40 years. He used to say that medicine was as much an art as a science. The art is gone. No doctor I've encountered knows how to take a good patient history. Many times, as a result of my own research, I've asked my doctors "what about X?" "Oh, good idea!" Shouldn't they have the ability and knowledge to bring these issues up themselves? But this is true in many fields.
I have a friend who has been teaching a Western Civ course (among others) for many years now. He tries to make it entertaining to keep the attention of the students. They learn factoids about Socrates and Napoleon (that are likely to be quickly forgotten after the final exam), but not how to think. Meanwhile, the longer he has been at this the more he has lost his own critical thinking capacity and been cut off from the real world.
in late 2014, a team of German scientists published a study showing that members of their national team, which had just won the World Cup, were typically late specializers who didn’t play more organized soccer than amateur-league players until age twenty-two or later. They spent more of their childhood and adolescence playing non-organized soccer and other sports.
It's not about the mythical 10,000 hours. The reason that elite athletes seem to have superhuman reflexes is that they recognize patterns of ball or body movements that tell them what’s coming before it happens. As the greatest hockey player in history, Wayne Gretzky, said: “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Same is true of Steph Curry, who views the basketball court as a rapidly moving chessboard. He sees several moves ahead.
When we know the rules and answers, and they don’t change over time—chess, golf, playing classical music—an argument can be made for savant-like hyperspecialized practice from day one. But those are poor models of most things humans want to learn.
Meanwhile, advances in artificial intelligence have already shown that rules-based human jobs will be the first to go the more A.I. is implemented. This reality was made shockingly obvious when a computer defeated the world champion Gary Kasparov in chess.
Add poker to that list....
RE: parents, psychologist Adam Grant noted that creativity may be difficult to nurture, but it is easy to thwart. He pointed to a study that found an average of six household rules for typical children, compared to one in households with extremely creative children.
Darwin's father was a doctor who wanted his son to become a doctor. Darwin lasted only half a semester in med school. He turned to the church. He was a Bible literalist at the time, and figured he would become a clergyman. He bounced around classes, including a botany course with a professor who subsequently recommended him for an unpaid position aboard the HMS Beagle. After convincing his father that he would not become a deadbeat if he took this one detour, he experienced perhaps the most impactful post-college gap year in history. Decades later, Darwin reflected on the process of self-discovery. “It seems ludicrous that I once intended to be a clergyman,” he wrote.
A recent international Gallup survey of more than two hundred thousand workers in 150 countries reported that 85 percent were either “not engaged” with their work or “actively disengaged.” In that condition, according to Seth Godin, quitting takes a lot more guts than continuing to be carried along like debris on an ocean wave.
The trouble, Godin noted, is that humans are bedeviled by the “sunk cost fallacy.” Having invested time or money in something, we are loath to leave it, because that would mean we had wasted our time or money, even though it is already gone.
There is “perverse inverse relationship” between fame and accuracy. The more likely an expert was to have his or her predictions featured on op-ed pages and television, the more likely they were always wrong. Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" is an infamous example. He appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" (20x), gave congressional testimony, and his theory was heavily sold in a cover article in The New Republic. The end result of this crisis, Ehrlich asserted, would be global nuclear war.
The hedgehogs, according to political scientist Philip Tetlock, “toil devotedly” within one tradition of their specialty, “and reach for formulaic solutions to ill-defined problems.” Outcomes did not matter; they were proven right by both successes and failures, and burrowed further into their ideas. It made them outstanding at predicting the past, but dart-throwing chimps at predicting the future.
the opposite of flexible intelligence is cognitive entrenchment.....
Researchers in Canada and the United States began a 2017 study by asking a politically diverse and well-educated group of adults to read arguments confirming their beliefs about controversial issues. When participants were then given a chance to get paid if they read contrary arguments, two-thirds decided they would rather not even look at the counterarguments, never mind seriously entertain them.
I liked the first 10 chapters of this book. In chapters 11 & 12 the author turns it into a business book with some extremely tedious cases studies that they do in MBA programs. It reminded why I don't like and never read business books. So this a caveat for this book that removes one star from the rating.
I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways
This book is a useful mythbuster--grit, 10,000 hours, deliberate practice, tiger moms--this book says forget all of that (*sort of). Try lots of things, read broadly, and fail lots of times. I agree with this formula for success. Specialization is boring.
*I think there is something to being obsessive once you are in the right track. Once you figure out the project or sport, you need to focus. This doesn't go against the thesis of the book, but he wasn't explicit about it