New York: Riverhead Books, 2019.
352 pp. $28 (hardcover).
In recent years, many people have embraced specialization as the preferred method for cultivating elite performance in fields such as sports, medicine, music, and robotics. Parents, coaches, and teachers are pushing children at increasingly earlier ages to become specialists through lots of deliberate practice and repetition. Similarly, businesses are implicitly and explicitly promoting deep specialization by cultivating and seeking out candidates with an alphabet soup of esoteric credentials. Author David Epstein argues that the embrace of hyper-specialization as the universal linchpin for success “infects not just individuals, but entire systems, as each specialized group sees a smaller and smaller part of a large puzzle” (12).
Epstein, who has written for Sports Illustrated and ProPublica, published The Sports Gene in 2012, in which he discusses how people who specialize in a particular sport later in life are more successful in the long run than those who specialize earlier in life. He builds on that discussion in his latest effort, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. . . .
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1. For more on how Michelangelo relied on his painting and sculpting expertise in finishing St. Peter’s Basilica, see James S. Ackerman, The Architecture of Michelangelo (New York: Penguin, 1966), 96.