For the Book Club — Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

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If you’ve sat next to me in a meeting this month, you probably already know I’m reading this book. I can’t stop talking about it. The author debunks the common myth that specialization is the key to success using detailed evidence explained so anyone can understand. The experts’ consensus is that you need to devote 10,000 hours of practice to a field to be successful. But this book makes a strong case for people who are a mile wide and an inch (or a bit more) deep. Generalists can look beyond their own silo, to an unexpected, unrelated subject, seeing the bigger picture or an analogous situation that solves the problem. We should be advising our children (and employees) to study subjects beyond their jobs, get a hobby, quit a subject or job if it’s not a good match, and to play more. When their narrow solutions don’t work, single-silo experts too often double down and make problems worse, not comprehending why they keep failing. Examples impacting big health problems include scientists studying retroviruses that didn’t impact humans for years gave us a massive head start when HIV arrived, why the safest time to have a heart attack is when all the uber-specialized cardiologists are away at a conference, and the growing rate of retracted studies in journals.