V.Veerapadmanaban, IOCL


“Maximum minus Minimum” – quite obvious definition that every Engineer / MBA out there would tend to give for ‘Range’, out of the brains designed to internalize the theories, theorems, formulae and definitions, of course, thanks to our age-old academic system focusing on specialization (Depth) rather than generalization (Breadth). Believe me; after reading this book, our brains can see a multitude of things with a BROADER RANGE across functions, disciplines, and what not. This book strongly echoes that, specialization is not the way to advance in today’s VUCA world.

If you are the one who thinks ‘Specialization is boring?’ and likes to keep wandering, exploring new things, experiment, and of course ready to fail lots of times, then ‘Range – How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World’ by David Epstein is surely a great read for you. 

In the current corporate world where the general assumption of ‘narrow is the king’ is still working, it is not in fact a bad lesson to learn that ‘broad can have its benefits too’. The prevailing education system hands us over the disappointment of pushing specialization, rather than generalization that evolves out of initial conceptual learning, as reinforced by the author. This book helps you to challenge the existing educational scheme through loads of studies based on facts and findings from Champions’ journeys that are assiduously researched and accessibly argued. Studying the world’s most successful scientists, inventors, athletes, musicians and artists, the author demonstrates why in most fields – especially those that are very complex and capricious – generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. 

‘Range’ is also an apt read for people from all ranges of age. If you are a parent and are inclined towards simply manufacturing a ‘future-ready product (child)’ with the “rage to master”, you would certainly comprehend from this book that the best strategy would be exposing children to an array of activities and seeing if one happens to light their fire. On the other hand, you are someone like me, who is still not quite sure what you are going to be, even after growing up (as others refer to, especially during scolding), the book prescribes Christopher Nolan’s model of “it’s all about trying new things”; because, if we are going to write, we want to read a lot before we write, without any purpose. Of course, the purpose is to find something that stimulates us but that we couldn’t have known to look for – an interest we didn’t know we had. Through classic examples, the author reasserts that the head starts are overrated.

Throughout the book, the author never fails to astonish us through chapter to chapter, by revealing the hidden talents of famous sports stars. The Williams sisters participated in ballet, gymnastics, taek-wondo, track, field; they both threw a football to develop the motion for a powerful serve, a habit they continue even now as professionals.

If you are a self-proclaimed tech geek and think that this book is going to be a boring read and it is for only HR managers or parents or L&D professionals thinking about NLP and neuroplasticity, you are completely wrong. The NASA Challenger’s O-ring failure case study and its linkage with a quantitative assessment model based on Race Car Engine Gasket will take you for a roller-coaster ride, making you bite your nails like in a horror movie.

In essence, ‘Range’ by David Epstein is a beautiful blend of Technical case studies and psychological experiments together focusing on unique management outcomes challenging our customary beliefs in a more convincing tone through engaging innovative research surveys.

Dedicated to all my folks who like to be called as ‘Jack of all Trades’.

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