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David Epstein is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World and The Sports Gene.
He holds a Master's degree in Environmental Science and Journalism, and has worked as an investigative reporter for ProPublica and a senior writer for Sports Illustrated.
One of the reasons that David points out on why prodigy stories are so attractive is because we're used to thinking of everything as being a trajectory. Hence why it's intuitive to want to give a kid a head start.
The problem with that is we don't follow linear progressions.
"We are not wired correctly to interpret our own development, necessarily, 'cause we just want what comes the fastest when in many cases, slower development is actually the best in the long run."
We can think of the world as a learning environment, and the milieu in which you have to develop some kind of skill.
We can distinguish between two different learning environments:
In this type of learning environments, we find clear rules and patterns tend to repeat. The performed task doesn't change.
F.e. Think of chess, the grandmaster's advantage is essentially based on recognizing recurring patterns.
In wicked learning environments, we find these characteristics:
Most of the work we do nowadays is more toward the wicked end of the spectrum, where we can't just count on things being the same over and over or giving us perfectly accurate feedback.
For the wicked world, you want a really broad training base, what scientists call a sampling period, where you're forming conceptual frameworks and abstract ideas that you can bend to the activity as the activity itself changes.
In the 20th Century the biggest contributions came from Specialists. In the Information Age the biggest contributions started coming from Generalists.
Generalists are people who spread their work across various tech domains often taking something from one and bringing it to another area where it was seen as extraordinary.
Gunpei Yokoi didn't score well on his electronic university exams, resulting in him having to apply for a low tier job as a machine maintenance worker at a playing card company: Nintendo.
One day, Nintendo's president saw him playing around with an extendable arm called the Ultra Hand, and told him "Turn that into a toy, we're going to market." And it's sort of a success.
This resulted in Nintendo's president telling Gunpei: "All right, you're going to start a game and toy operation."
Gunpei wasn't equipped to work on the cutting edge, but there was so much information available that he could take it from different domains and merge it.
As a result, he developed this philosophy which he named Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology.
This is what he used for Gameboy. Nintendo still uses this philosophy nowadays.
"The more we work in a rapidly changing world, where we're not exactly sure what we should do next, or what work will look like next year or in five years or years, the more we want those people who have had a broad view and can kind of draw different stories of knowledge.
And one of the ways I think about operationalizing that is essentially having a short term mindset.
We're essentially telling someone to choose for a person they don't yet know who is gonna be working in a world they can't yet conceive.
Compare yourself to yourself yesterday and proceed that way"
I'm a 23 yo life-passionated living in Barcelona. I write about many different topic books I read, as well as TED Talks and many other content.
Through this video, the best-seller author, David Epstein, demonstrates why divergent thinkers (or generalists) beat prodigies in the actual changing world.
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