Follow the Author
Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World Paperback – 30 May 2019
|Paperback, 30 May 2019|| |
Save Extra with 3 offers
Explore your book, then jump right back to where you left off with Page Flip.
View high quality images that let you zoom in to take a closer look.
Enjoy features only possible in digital – start reading right away, carry your library with you, adjust the font, create shareable notes and highlights, and more.
Discover additional details about the events, people, and places in your book, with Wikipedia integration.
There is a newer edition of this item:
Enhance your purchase
Special offers and product promotions
- 5% Instant Discount up to INR 250 on HSBC Cashback Card Credit Card Transactions. Minimum purchase value INR 1000 Here's how
- No cost EMI available on select cards. Please check 'EMI options' above for more details. Here's how
- Get GST invoice and save up to 28% on business purchases. Sign up for free Here's how
Fabulous . . .If you are interested in champions' journeys, this is for you -- Judy Murray on Twitter
It’s a joy to spend hours in the company of a writer as gifted as David Epstein. And the joy is all the greater when that writer shares so much crucial and revelatory information about performance, success, and education -- Susan Cain, author of Quiet
An urgent and important book, an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance -- Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell is Human
A captivating read that will leave you questioning the next steps in your career―and the way you raise your children -- Adam Grant, author of Originals and co-author of Option B
Extraordinary ― Guardian
A goldmine of surprising insights. Makes you smarter with every page -- James Clear, New York Times bestselling author of Atomic Habits
Brilliant, timely, and utterly impossible to put down. If you care about improving skill, innovation, and performance, you need to read this book -- Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code
I want to give Range to . . . everyone who wants humans to thrive in an age of robots. Range is full of surprises and hope, a 21st century survival guide -- Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World.
The storytelling is so dramatic, the wielding of data so deft and the lessons so strikingly framed …[it’s] a pleasure to read . . . Range offers such a wealth of thought-provoking material ― New York Times Books Review
Range elevates Epstein to one of the very best science writers at work today. The scope of the book―and the implications―are breathtaking -- Sebastian Junger, filmmaker and author of The Perfect Storm
One of the most thought-provoking and enlightening books I’ve read -- Maria Konnikova, poker player and author of The Confidence Game
A fresh, brisk look at creativity, learning, and the meaning of achievement ― Kirkus Reviews
An assiduously researched and accessible argument for being a jack of all trades -- O Magazine, Best Nonfiction Books Coming in 2019
Range is a convincing, engaging survey of research and anecdotes that confirm a thoughtful, collaborative world is also a better and more innovative one -- NPR.org
As David Epstein shows us, cultivating range prepares us for the wickedly unanticipated . . . a well-supported and smoothly written case on behalf of breadth and late starts ― Wall Street Journal
A clear and unfussy writer . . . this book is likely to resonate strongly with most teachers -- tes.com
Anyone contemplating a change of career late in life will find Range immensely reassuring. If you calculate that you don't have 10,000 hours left in which you can reasonably practice, you can use your range to connect ideas and use your varied experience. ― Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
Masterful.Perfect holiday reading -- Dr Adam Rutherford
The most important business – and parenting – book of the year ― Forbes
An important book -- Ed Smith's Book of the Year, New Statesman
From the Back Cover
What if everything you have been taught about how to succeed in life was wrong?
From the ‘10,000-hours rule’ to the power of Tiger parenting, we have been taught that success in any field requires early specialization and many hours of deliberate practice. And, worse, that if you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up with those who got a head start.
This is completely wrong.
‘For too long, we’ve believed in a single path to excellence. Start early, specialize soon, narrow your focus, aim for efficiency. But in this groundbreaking book, David Epstein shows that in most domains, the way to excel is something altogether different. Sample widely, gain a breadth of experiences, take detours, and experiment relentlessly. Range is an urgent and important book, an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance’
Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive
- Publisher : Macmillan (30 May 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1509843507
- ISBN-13 : 978-1509843503
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 439 g
- Dimensions : 15.3 x 2.9 x 23.4 cm
- Net Quantity : 1.00 count
- Best Sellers Rank: #72,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in India on 14 November 2020
Reviews with images
Top reviews from India
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
If Epstein’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably for his previous book, “The Sports Gene,” which examined the science of athletic excellence. This book’s introduction sets up the discussion with a pair of sports-based examples. The first is Tiger Woods, a golfing legend who is one of the dominate forces in his sport. Woods is the poster-child for obsessive specialization and the frequently-cited (if greatly misunderstood and over-applied) 10,000-hour rule. [An idea that -- on average -- one needs about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery of an activity. It turns out to be demonstrably wrong when applied to many activities, and seems to have contributed to a lot of repetitive stress injuries, if not mental health issues, owing to fanatical parents and coaches who bought into the idea hook, line, and sinker.] From his earliest childhood, Woods’s life was built around the game. The Woods case seems to bolster the idea that children who wish to be world-class elite athletes must focus their efforts on one sport as soon as possible. Until, however, it is juxtaposed to the story of Roger Federer, an athlete who has also been at the top of his sport (tennis,) but who took a much more meandering and varied route to becoming a champion.
The book consists of twelve chapters that seek to illuminate different dimensions of the specialist-generalist divide. The first chapter doesn’t dive into the arguments for generalization and well-rounded training as one might expect, but rather it shows how the idea that specialization is essential to success gained hold. The case that Epstein takes up to explain this tendency is that of the Polgar sisters, a trio of Hungarian siblings who became globally-recognized chess masters. Their father fought to be able to homeschool the girls (this was Cold War Eastern Europe -- so doing one’s own thing wasn’t something one just decided to do and then did,) arguing that he could achieve greatness, launching his girls to the top of their field. The fact that Polgar succeeded could be taken as further iron-clad evidence for the virtue of specialization, but what it really does is to set up a discussion of how we might might go about differentiating fields where intense specialization is beneficial from those where it isn’t. It is convincingly argued that chess is not universally analogous to many other activities.
Chapter two explores the topic of cognition, and the effect that a general education has had on humankind’s thinking. The discussion centers on the “Flynn Effect” a steady rise in test scores that are supposed to measure innate intelligence (e.g. IQ tests,) but the fact that there has been a steady improvement on tests suggests there is something more at play than innate intelligence. It’s the third chapter that finally explicitly delves into the case for generalization, and it does so through through the fascinating case of a Venetian Women’s musical group that became legends despite the fact that: a.) they were only allotted a quite limited amount of time for music study given the competing requirements of their chores, general education, and other obligations; b.) even within the domain of music, they were famous for being able to switch instruments mid-act, or to serve as both vocalist and instrumentalist.
Chapter four completely changed my perspective on “new math.” I’d always shared in the widespread curmudgeonly attitude towards it, as if it were purely to accommodate the laziness of the youth, but I came away thinking about the topic very differently. The argument Epstein advances is that in a rush to teach the subject as quickly as possible, students of my generation were taught to memorize a massive number of rules and strings of sequences needed to solve problems. Because of this, such students had no intuition for why said sequences of operations worked – not to mention very little love for the subject of mathematics, which seemed both difficult and pointless [a deadly combination – either one of those characteristics will meet with limited resistance, but together they spell doom.] Chapter five investigates how use of analogies from outside a discipline can open up pathways to solutions that weren’t found from within. Chapter six shares a unique view on “grit,” the ability to keep digging through all the challenges to achieve a desired goal. Grit is typically perceived as an excellent trait, but Epstein shows that too much of some types of grit can trap people in the wrong academic field or line of work. There is a fascinating discussion of the US Military Academy and the Army’s attrition problem. They kept getting high-grit people who would power through the challenging parts of selection, but who [after great investment by the Army] would leave as soon as their minimum service requirement was met. It turned out the people they were paying the most to get into service were the least likely to stay, and the process they thought would weed out those who weren’t career material didn’t work at all.
Chapter seven tells the story of Francis Hesselbein, a housewife turned CEO, and how the exploration of one’s possible selves can help one achieve great and unexpected things. Chapter eight investigates a number of cases in which outsiders with broad knowledge bases were able to achieve what experts could not. Chapter nine discusses Nintendo’s path from a middling playing card manufacturer to one of video-gaming’s top names. They hired an engineer (a self-proclaimed tinkerer) to do maintenance of their equipment and he – ultimately -- developed a principle that would turn into the company’s core innovation philosophy. It was called “lateral thinking with withered technology” and it utilized existing technology for entirely new purposes with respect to game play [e.g. the technology from calculators was put to use in making handheld videogaming units – i.e. the “Gameboy.”] This approach allowed Nintendo to produce at very low cost and to dominate the market at their price-point.
Chapter ten examines the fascinating phenomena whereby experts in a field are often notoriously bad at making predictions about future happenings within their area of expertise. The concept of “foxes v. hedgehogs” in forecasting is discussed at length. Specialist experts tend to be hedgehogs, they build their forecasts around a pet hypothesis and then dig in and are quite reluctant to adjust to changing information. [Foxes look at many types of information and approaches, and quickly adjust to changing information.] The penultimate chapter uncovers another common defect among specialist experts, attachment to familiar tools. The central case of this discussion involves NASA engineers disregard of evidence of a potential danger that couldn’t be put in terms of quantitative data. A secondary example is provided by firefighters who literally couldn’t drop their tools [chainsaws, axes, etc.] when they needed to run to escape advancing wildfires. [I could see another example from my training in the martial arts. In learning weapon disarms and retention, it often takes some hard lessons for martial artists to not maintain a white-knuckle grip on a weapon that they don’t control and can’t immediately put to use – all the while they are tying up their hands, they are also taking a beating. Knowing when to let go, and change one’s tactics, doesn’t come easy.]
The last chapter offers some examples of generalists who achieved greatness by applying a broader understanding than others. The people who learn less and less about more and more on the way to knowing nothing about everything have their purpose in this world. There’s a conclusion that lays out some basic ideas for applying the concepts from the book. The Kindle edition that I read had a substantial “Afterword” that was introduced with the paperback edition and which examined some different cases to clarify the generalist advantage.
I found this book to be an enlightening read. It used many fascinating cases to make clear where generalists have particular value. If you are interested in where the jack-of-all-trades will excel, this is an excellent book to give a read. Along the way, it also lends insight into learning, innovation, and creativity.
Content - good and relevant content. However it’s too lengthy and unnecessarily re iterates the same point too many times without any new ideas. Could have easily been 70% of the original number of pages and still conveyed the same message and with better impact. Just read half the book and the last 2 chapters and you are all good.
Would want to give 3.5 stars ideally but giving a generous 4 star
Top reviews from other countries
Unfortunately at around 100 pages or so - Chapter 5 or thereabouts - the quality of writing deteriorated significantly with normal conventions on grammar and punctuation seemingly ignored. I gave up soon after that as the writing became so disjointed and irritating.
I tried dipping in to later chapters and the quality of writing had seemed to improve but there was so much rambling that by the time the point of each description had been reached I didn't care.
I was disappointed since I have long been a believer in what was said in the early pages but the book just didn't do it justice.
Naturally I was curious to read responses to their findings, to get a wider appreciation for the topic of learning.
Unfortunately 70% of 'Range' turned our to be annecdotal. If studies are used to inform statements, most aren't referenced. It feels like the author recieved some advice to couch his lessons within stories and took it to an almost satirical extreme.
Every chapter starts with a story more suited to a fiction or narrative-history novel than a scientific text. I bought the book to learn more about the contemporary scientific discoveries around generalisation vs specialisation as advertised in the book's marketing. If I wanted 8 pages of highly subjective descriptive writing for every actual insight I'd read a sci fi novel.
It's frustrating because I do believe there might be valuable insight here, but because most of it is packed within contextually-bare stories highly edited to fit a narrative, it's nigh impossible to weed fact from assumption.
I recommend just reading each chapter heading and then skipping straight to the last two pages of each, to get a brief summary of the argument without wasting your time on the fluff. Then use those topics as jumping-on points for futher study.
Still, it's well edited, the writing flows and there are some interesting points to chew on floating in a soup of pointless filler so two stars overall.
First: 10,000 hours is a long time, requiring a lot of dedicated work. So, you need to be engaged with the topic: if you have not instantly picked your specific area (chess, golf, piano, whatever), you should spend some time surveying the field to discover what you want to do. Epstein give examples of world class sports people who engaged in several different sports initially, and world class musicians who played several instruments at first, before they focussed on one. These people at least had a field, and were just deciding which particular subgenre was for them. He also gives examples of people who tried a much broader range of occupations before discovering their vocation: flitting from job to job, never succeeding, giving up and moving on, until finally they found their life’s work; van Gogh is the best known example given here.
Second: the fields where 10,000 hours of focussed practice works are relatively simple: the practitioner gets immediate feedback on how successful they are, and the topic is constrained, so it is clear where to focus the effort and expertise. However, many disciplines today involve wicked problems: there are no immediate or clear markers of success, the boundary of the problem is ill-defined, and expertise can become constraining, limiting the solution approaches considered. In these circumstances, breadth of experience is an advantage.
Some depth is also needed, of course: too much breadth, and you end up knowing nothing about everything, as opposed to too much depth, where you know everything about nothing. So what are needed are T-shaped people: depth in some area, but breadth across areas, too. I am interesting in interdisciplinary working, and also use this metaphor of T-shaped expertise: in successful interdisciplinary teams, the ‘arms’ of the T join up to bridge between the different areas of expertise.
The book is engagingly written, with many fascinating examples, and covers a broad range of ideas, from the Flynn effect of increasing IQ, to where outsiders have provided insight, to why too much grit may not be a good idea. This latter example discusses a problem with many suggested techniques for success: survivor bias. ‘All CEOs do X’, trumpet these works, implying that if you simply also do X, you too can become a CEO. But to evaluate this claim, you also need to know how many unsuccessful people also do X. After all, presumably all CEOs brush their teeth, eat food, and wear clothes, yet these are not the (sole) reasons for their success. In the case of grit, the successful people studied have indeed grittily persevered, yet Epstein provides examples of others who instead gave up, yet also succeeded, just in something different that fits them better.
And, of course, this book itself also suffers somewhat from survivor bias: showing successful people who nevertheless flitted from job to job before their final success again does not imply that flitting from job to job will result in success. However, there is much interesting material here, and certainly it paints an interestingly different picture from the more mainstream view of the need for specialisation.
Range is a very welcome antidote - well argued and looking at a range of research as well as illustrative stories: offsetting Tiger Woods with Federer or the German Football team, creativity in science, mastery of multiple instruments.
I was fascinated to read for example how Darwin was a massive collaborator, not just the barnacle super-specialist I had assumed; or the struggles of Kepler as he reached to conceive of new possibilities.
A really good book, and I hope it has the impact it deserves.