Range by David Epstein


Being able to think and solve problems in a general sense allows for innovative breakthroughs and discoveries in a niche field.

My Top Two Takeaways

  1. Before determining a solution to a problem, make sure to completely understand the type of problem it is. Not all problems are as they seem on the surface.
  2. Don't measure someones work-ethic or 'grit' based on an observation in a specific field. For example, the worst thing someone can do is base one's entrepreneurial spirit and drive on their homework scores. They're two completely different fields and one is not parallel to the other.

Chapter 4: Learning, Fast and Slow

  • One of the best ways to produce real, long lasting learning is practicing retrieval.
  • The Generation Effect - Struggling to answer on your own, even a wrong on, enhance subsequent learning
  • Deliberate Difficulties - Making your study sessions or practice harder and harder in increments
  • Test taking cannot be an accurate measurement of long-term lasting learning. Real learning is hard to do quickly, like most schools expect during a week of new curriculum, but fleeting knowledge is easy.
  • Fleeting learning is based on before your eye progress - while deep learning is not. Deep learning cannot be measured in hours, more like days and weeks
  • Before determining the solution to the problem, you must figure out what problem you're solving. Not all problems are what they seem.
  • Far Transfer - When a knowledge structure is so flexible that it can be applied effectively even in new domains or extremely novel situations.

Chapter 5: Thinking Outside Experience

  • Analogical Thinking - The practice of recognizing conceptual similarities in multiple domains or scenarios that may seem to have little in common on the surface.
  • Takes the new and makes it familiar, or takes the familiar and makes it new
  • "If you need a large force to accomplish some purpose, but are prevented from applying such a force directly, many smaller forces applied simultaneously from different directions may work just as well" Karl Duncker
  • Taking the Inside View - When you make judgements based narrowly on the details of a particular project that are right in front of us.
  • The most successful problem solvers are the ones who can identify the deep structure of the problem before they proceed to match a strategy to it.
  • Retrograde Motion - The movement of Mars when it reverses direction in the sky, does a little loop, and then continues on in the same direction.
  • Dunbar, a scientist, saw that the labs most likely to take unexpected findings into new knowledge for humanity made a lot of analogies, and made them from a variety of base domains.

Chapter 6: The Trouble With Too Much Grit

  • Peregrinations - Travel or wander around from place to place
  • Match Quality - The term economists use to describe the degree of fit between the work someone does and who they are- their abilities and proclivities
  • Learning things is not as important about learning about oneself.
  • Every single person before taking on a new endeavor should identify terms under which they should quit.
  • If I start this business, and I lose more than $2,000 in the first year
  • The trouble with grit is that it isn't an accurate measure - grit is subjective to the person and what they love/what they're trying
  • Sunk Cost Theory - The more we have invested and even lost, the longer we will keep going and say, 'almost there' even though it's obviously failing. We don't want to lose the investment we gained by quitting.

Chapter 7: Flirting With Your Possible Selves

  • Aviatrix - A female pilot
  • Leadership training is as simple as looking at any situation and asking, "what would teach me the most in this situation and how can I be of service?"
  • Be a Dark Horse in Life - Look at life and say, 'this is who I am. These are my motivations. I need to do this, that, and this to be there.'
  • All Dark Horses have short-term goals - don't think too far in the future
  • Our preferences for work and life are not going to stay the same as we age, because we don't stay the same. It's okay to move on. It's okay to switch careers - especially in today's day and age.
  • Instead of asking if someone is gritty, ask when are they gritty. This will reveal passions and motivational situations.
  • One way to make decisions is to not think too far in the future - look at all the possible options and choose the one that will give you the most options afterward
  • Ibarras Aphorism - I know who I am when I see what I do
  • Bad things could end up good, and good things could end up bad. You don't know what is until it's over. Don't react before the situation ends.
  • Want to find your talent? Try things.

Chapter 8: The Outsider Advantage

  • Outside-In Thinking - Finding solutions in experiences far outside of focused training for the problem itself.
  • Viewing a problem in your industry, through the lens of all your experiences in that industry can sometimes lead to a brick wall. To come up with creative solutions to problems, frame the problem in a more general sense, not specific to the industry its happening in.
  • Einstellung Effect - A psychology term for the tendency of problem solvers to use only familiar methods even if better ones are available
  • Clandestinely - Secretly; Kept a Secret

Chapter 9: Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology

  • Lateral Thinking - A term coined in the 60s' for the reimagining of information in new contexts, including drawing parallels between to seemingly disconnected or unrelated ideas that can give them new uses
  • Functional Fixedness - A tendency people have to consider only familiar uses for objects
  • The more uncertainty there is to a problem, the more important having a analogical, lateral thinker on the team of problem solvers
  • Serial Innovators can be defined as people who are/have: a high tolerance for ambiguity; systems thinkers; repurposing what is already available; synthesizing ideas from many different sources.
  • When we expect a hyperspecialist, because of their expertise in a narrow area to magically be able to extend that knowledge to a new area, the results can be disastrous.
  • A specialist in dog food advertising, can not be given the job to work as a fast-food advertiser.

Chapter 10: Fooled By Expertise

  • Hedgehogs - People who know one big thing
  • Foxes - People who know many little things
  • Foxes see complexity in what others mistake as just simple cause and effect
  • Most cause and effect relationships are not deterministic, they are probabilistic. There are variables, and things do not always repeat as precisely as they once did or have before. Foxes understand that they are always in a new learning environment and not everything is as it seems.

Chapter 11: Learning To Drop Your Familiar Tools

  • Sometimes decisions can be made based off of the wrong data. Not all data is useful, and sometimes the data you have can be not enough. Before making a decision based on data, ask, 'Is this the data we need to make the decision we need to make.?'
  • When The Challenger exploded, there was a very simple warning that could have been analyzed, and fixed by the NASA scientist. Only problem was they were missing the data necessary to make the proper decision, but no one caught it.
  • Dropping the familiar tools you use to solve familiar problems is what you need to do when solving unfamiliar problems. Different problems require different tools.
  • Over Learned Behavior - Doing the same thing over and over again in response to the same challenges until the behavior has become so automatic that they no longer recognize it as a situation-specific tool. That answer now becomes the answer to every problem instead of just the situations in which its supposed to be used.
  • The most effective leaders and organizations had range; they were paradoxical. They could be demanding and nurturing, orderly and entrepreneurial. They embraced ambiguity and clear cut systems.
  • There is a difference between the Chain of Command and the Chain of Communications
  • Most organizations make these one in the same - the CEO talks to the executives, who talk to the middle managers, who talk to the managers, who talk to their teams.
  • Successful and healthy organizations have an established Chain of Command, but not a chain of communication. The engineers can talk to the executives whenever something comes up, and no one bats and eye - that's actually encouraged.

Chapter 12: Deliberate Amateurs

  • Take the skills you have in one domain, and apply them to a different problem in a different domain.
  • "A paradox of innovation and mastery is that breakthroughs occur when you start down one road, but wander off for a ways and pretend as if you have just begun.'


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