Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) by science journalist David Epstein challenges the notion that specializing in a narrow field from a young age is the best way to achieve success.
Epstein argues that groundbreaking ideas don’t typically originate from a single individual or function but rather at the point where different skills (or people) intersect. He suggests that individuals with a broad range of interests and skills, or what he refers to as “generalists,” are better suited to tackle complex, poorly defined problems than those who specialize early and narrowly. These generalists not only possess the skills to solve complex problems but are also more comfortable with volatility and unpredictability and can construct compelling narratives of the future.
Epstein presents subjective evidence from various fields, including sports, music, and science, to illustrate how people with diverse interests and experiences tend to have more creativity, flexibility, and adaptability in problem-solving.
Recommendation: Quick read Range. Epstein’s anecdotes often present a universal view in favor of generalists. Without adequate empirical evidence to support his claims, his hypothesis favors, at a minimum, sampling a variety of interesting fields before committing to a particular specialization.
The most coveted jobs today are in complex and unpredictable fields, requiring employees to have broad and flexible knowledge. Moreover, in a world where people are inundated with information but crave wisdom, there’s a pressing need for synthesizers who can gather the right information, think critically, and make informed decisions.