Summary: Range – David Epstein
Summary: Range – David Epstein

Summary: Range – David Epstein

Highly credential experts can become so narrow-minded

That they get worse with experience, even while becoming more confident – a dangerous combination.

A recent study found cardiac patients were less likely to die if they were admitted during a national cardiology meeting, when thousands of cardiologists were away, the researchers suggested it could be because common treatments of dubious effect were less likely to be performed.

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.

Once can profit immensely from cultivating a range in his own life even as he was pushed to specialize.

The bigger the picture the more unique the potential human contribution

Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It’s the ability to integrate broadly.

In narrow enough worlds, humans may not have much to contribute much longer. In more open-ended games, they certainly will. Not just computer games, in open ended real-world problems we’re still crushing the machines.

The sampling period is not incidental to great performers

It is in fact to be exercised in the interest of a head start. It is integral.

Yale’s (British sports scientist) told parents increasingly come to him and want their kids doing what the Olympians are doing right now, not what the Olympians are doing when they were 12 or 13, which included a wide variety of activities that developed their general athleticism and allowed them to probe their talents and interests before they focused narrowly on technical skills.

Repetition, it turned out, was less important than struggle.

Struggling to hold on to information and then recall it had helped the group distracted by math problems transfer the information from short-term to long-term memory.

The group with more and immediate rehearsal opportunity recalled nearly nothing on the pop quiz.

Frogs live in the mud below see only the flowers that grow nearby

They delight in the details of objects and they solve problems one at a time.

However, it’s stupid to claim birds are better than frogs because they see farther, or that frogs are better than birds because they see deeper.

The world is both broad and deep. We need birds and frogs working together to explore it.

Superman or Fantastic 4

When seeking innovation in knowledge-based industries, it’s best to find Superman.

If no individual with necessary combination of diverse knowledge is available, one should form a Fantastic 4.

Individual creators started out with lower innovation than teams, they were less likely to produce a smash hit, but as their experience broadened they surpassed teams.

An individual creator who had worked in 4 or more genres was more innovative than a team whose members had collective experience across the same number of genres.

Compare yourself to yourself yesterday

Everyone progresses at a different rate, so don’t let anyone else make you feel behind. You probably don’t even know where exactly you’re going, so feeling behind doesn’t help.

Instead start experimenting.

Approach your own personal voyage, learn and adjust as you go, and even to abandon a previous goal and change directions entire should the need arise.

Research in domains from technological innovations to comic books shows that a diverse group of specialists cannot fully replace the contributions of broad individuals.

 Even when you move from an area of work or an entire domain, that experience is not wasted.

As a closing note, let me ask you

“Are you a Tiger or a Roger?”

“[Tiger’s] story is completely different from mine,” he told a biographer in 2006. Woods’s incredible upbringing has been at the heart of a batch of bestselling books on the development of expertise, one of which was a parenting manual written by his father, Earl. Tiger was not merely playing golf. He was engaging in “deliberate practice,” the only kind that counts in the now-famous 10,000 hours rule to expertise. Reams of work on expertise development shows that elite athletes spend more time in highly technical, deliberate practice each week than those who plateau at lower levels. And Tiger has come to symbolize that idea of success—and its corollary, that the practice must start as early as possible.

when scientists examine the entire developmental path of athletes, they find that the eventual elites typically devote less time early on to deliberate practice in the activity in which they will later become experts. Instead, they undergo what researchers call a “sampling period.” They play a variety of sports, usually in an unstructured or lightly structured environment; they gain a range of physical proficiencies from which they can draw; they learn about their own abilities and proclivities; and only later do they focus in and ramp up technical practice in one area.

And I found more and more evidence that it takes time to develop personal and professional range—and that it is worth it. I dived 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. And I was stunned by an enormous body of work demonstrating that learning is best done slowly to accumulate lasting knowledge, even when that means performing poorly on tests of immediate progress. That is, the most effective learning looks a lot like falling behind.

The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyper specialization. While it is undoubtedly true that there are areas that require individuals with Tiger’s precocity and clarity of purpose, we also need more Rogers: people who start broad and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives while they progress. People with range.

Oh and one more thing… I saw one interesting question from the book, the same question I encountered in an interview before I read Range. It tests your thought process. The question is

“How many piano tuners are there in NYC?”

In order to answer this question, you have to know the estimate just by reasoning and trying to get the right order of magnitude. Your thought process might be something like this.

  1. Know population of NYC
  2. Know what portion might have pianos?
  3. How often are pianos tuned?
  4. How long might it take to tune a piano?
  5. How many homes can one tuner reach in a day?
  6. How many days a year a tuner work?