Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein Book Summary

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein | Free Book Summary

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein

The power of talent stacking and diversity

‘Kind’ vs ‘wicked’ learning environments

Learning environments can be split into two categories:

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the kind ones, where patterns repeat and specialists get better with experience, such as in chess.

the wicked ones, where there is a lot of spontaneity and unpredictability involved and experience doesn’t necessarily correlate with success, such as when researching.

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Cognitive entrenchment and abstract thinking

Modern work demands knowledge transfer and abstract thinking, things that are not actively taught in our highly specialized academic curricula.

It’s harder to be creative in a field the longer you have been studying it. It is best to insist on “having one foot outside your world,” to try to have broad interests, and not focus on solely one thing in your learning path.

Breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer

Children who try their hand at playing multiple instruments have a higher chance of becoming elites in one (even if they specialize later in life) than those who have been presented with a particular instrument from a very early age.

The facade of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice is a good example of that.

Slow learning and the power of mistakes

Fast and easy is a no-go when it comes to learning. Painful and uncompetitive as it may sound, slow and difficult is the proper approach to learning.

We want knowledge that is durable (it sticks) and flexible (it can be applied broadly).

“Spacing” (leaving enough time between learning sessions around the same material) and “interleaving” (switching learning contexts frequently) are two key concepts of meaningful learning.

When learning, one should aim for a “desirable level of difficulty,” i.e., obstacles that make learning difficult in the short term but much more beneficial in the long term; make mistakes, think, conceptualize.

The power of analogies

Relying on experience from a single domain is limiting. Going from the “inside view” to the “outside view,” i.e., switching the mindset from narrow to broad, is the practice of looking outside of the surface features of a project for structurally similar analogies.

The power of making a multitude of analogies from varied domains is what leads to coming up with solutions, and successful problem solvers are more able to determine the deep structure of a problem before matching it with a strategy.

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