The author's refreshing viewpoint is based on deep research into what characterizes successful professional performance ... All readers eager to look into the next trench over for innovative ideas to solve their problems will welcome this remarkable, densely packed work that will prove essential for all university libraries supporting AAA level athletics programs, colleges of business, and human resource development.
So what is the evidence for this happy thesis? Epstein serves up a feast of it, displaying his own impressively wide range of interests: art, classical music, jazz, science, technology and sports ... Although the book unfolds according to a formula that has become familiar—story, study, lesson; rinse and repeat—the storytelling is so dramatic, the wielding of data so deft and the lessons so strikingly framed that it’s never less than a pleasure to read. Indeed, so smooth and persuasive is Epstein’s marshaling of evidence that I almost failed to notice an ambiguity lurking at the heart of his case ... What worries me is that this emphasis—what social scientists call 'restriction of range'—might skew Epstein’s moral just a bit. Let’s say, as a crude approximation, that Success = talent + practice + luck. Those who are richly endowed with talent may find it easy to excel in multiple domains, to be Renaissance men and women, to be decathletes of life. (The example of Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind.) The rest of us, however, must lean heavily on the practice part of the equation.
In his latest book...Mr. Epstein makes a well-supported and smoothly written case on behalf of breadth and late starts ... The chapter titled 'Deliberate Amateurs' is a delight, permitting us to spend time with some exemplars in science and medicine who have stepped outside of their cozy professional nests ... as David Epstein shows us, cultivating range prepares us for the wickedly unanticipated.
[Epstein's] claim extends from individuals to systems, and he includes some striking anecdotes and evidence in the introductory chapter of the book ... These are compelling points, but they have that slippery feel that can appear in social science books. In this case, their perfect fit and a lack of cited counterargument signals that things may be falling together too easily. Throughout Range, however, Epstein is meticulous and spends a great deal of time giving credit to dissenters where credit is due ... Where Epstein's argument stumbles is in more artistic fields. The objective measures that he had been relying on to make his points are no longer as relevant, and they're less convincing as a result ... On top of this, Range makes the same compromises that many books of social science make. Many studies are cited, but the size or repeatability of them is not mentioned. There are notes in the back for the more studious readers, but more rigorous in-text citations should be encouraged. Despite these flaws, Range is a convincing, engaging survey of research and anecdotes that confirm a thoughtful, collaborative world is also a better and more innovative one.
Range, an engaging new work...[is] a diverting grab bag filled with gee-whiz tales of human ingenuity and counterintuitive social sciences findings. And although author David Epstein doesn’t make a terribly coherent case for his big idea, that’s no reason to disregard the important insight he has latched onto ... Although it’s not clear to me which way the arrow of causality points—isn’t it possible the most creative scientists simply have so much talent that it spills over into other creative fields?—it’s hard to believe that cultivating an avocation would hurt most business leaders. And it might well contribute to clearer thinking, better imagining, and greater understanding. In its haphazard way, Epstein’s book does likewise.
Anyone who has given up graduate school for Grub Street will be comforted by Epstein’s conclusion, which is buttressed by copious scientific research, that knowing when to quit or being willing to switch path can often be strategic advantages in one’s career. 'Switchers,' he says, 'are winners.' Yet Range is not merely a vindication of his decision to leave academia’s cult of specialisation behind. As the book’s subtitle puts it, the author is attempting to explain why and how foxy generalists can 'triumph in a specialised world' ... He examines a study in which the psychologist James Flynn compared the grade point average of seniors at an American university with their performance in a critical thinking test ... Neuroscience and business majors did worst, while economics majors performed best overall ... Epstein attributes this success to the ability of economists to apply their principles 'outside their area' ... But it seems not to occur to him that this extension of the writ of economic reasoning where previously it hadn’t run could be anything other than benign. Maybe, as Berlin observed of Tolstoy, in every fox there’s a hedgehog struggling to get out.
Journalist and self-identified generalist Epstein...delivers an enjoyable if not wholly convincing work of Gladwellian pop-psychology aimed at showing that specialization is not the only path to success ... Epstein’s narrative case studies are fascinating, but the rapid-fire movement from one sketch to the next can create the impression of evidence in search of a thesis. While this well-crafted book does not entirely disprove the argument for expertise, Epstein does show that, for anyone without 10,000 hours to devote to mastering a single skill, there is hope yet.