Epstein, David “Range: Why generalists triumph in a specialised world”

Everyone needs habits of mind that allow them to dance across disciplines.

Essential book information

  • Author: David Epstein
  • Name of the book: Range
  • 2019

Basic plot summary

Through multiple examples and interesting parallels, David Epstein shows that in most fields, generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. He highlights the ability to “dance across disciplines” as more important than years of specialised practice and forepeaks the thriving of humans who think broadly and embrace diverse perspectives and experiences.

Review

Uncounted times have I heard from my family, teachers and university professors that I should choose a path and consistently walk it to the end. I should study, get a degree, become a doctor or an architect, or a teacher, work my way through adulthood, climb the career ladder, and get better at what I do. In the end, I can withdraw from the busy business world being a respectable specialist. This was an image of success in the society where I grew up.
I have never believed that this is the only approach to be successful. I fought against it as I sometimes still do. I was happy to read the science behind my uncomfortable feeling about a highly specialised society. As per Epstein – whether or not experience inevitably leads to expertise depends entirely on the domain in question. Specialised expertise might create better chess and poker players or firefighters, but not for better predictors of financial or political trends or specialists in mergers and acquisitions. Deep analogical thinking, relational thinking, interdisciplinary thinking enable us to cross-reference our experiences through various disciplines, facilitating faster and even more creative approaches to problem-solving.

My recommendation

Worth reading if you are struggling with people around you trying to settle you down and make you decide what is it exactly that you want. As it turns out, you might be genuinely unable to do that, until you’ve tried it all and fused into your very own career. After all, you might be the next Van Gogh.

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