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Why specialization can be a downside in our ever-changing world



 

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Popular wisdom drives home the importance of a head start and specializing early. Not so fast, advises journalist David Epstein.


After Epstein wrote about the famed 10,000-hour rule in his first book, The Sports Gene, he was invited to debate Malcolm Gladwell, whose book Outliers had brought the rule into the mainstream. To prepare for the debate, Epstein gathered studies that looked at the development of elite athletes and saw that the trend was not early specialization. Rather, in almost every sport there was a “sampling period” where athletes learned about their own abilities and interests. The athletes who delayed specialization were often better than their specialized peers, who plateaued at lower levels.


Epstein filed this information away until he was asked by the Pat Tillman Foundation to give a talk to a group of military veterans. These were people who were changing careers and having doubts that are familiar to many: whether they were doomed to always be behind because they hadn’t stuck to one thing. Epstein became interested in exploring the benefits of being a specialist versus a generalist, and ended up writing Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (Penguin Random House).


The Verge spoke to Epstein about “kind” versus “wicked” environments, the importance of doing instead of planning, and the difference between having range and being a dilettante...

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(To read the entire article and the interview, please click on the image below)



























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