Range

Range

Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

David Epstein

Yokoi had no desire (or capability) to compete with electronics companies that were racing one another to invent some entirely new sliver of dazzling technology. Nor could Nintendo compete with Japan’s titans of traditional toys—Bandai, Epoch, and Takara—on their familiar turf. With that, and Drive Game, in mind, Yokoi embarked on an approach he called “lateral thinking with withered technology.” Lateral thinking is a term coined in the 1960s for the reimagining of information in new contexts, including the drawing together of seemingly disparate concepts or domains that can give old ideas new uses. By “withered technology,” Yokoi meant tech that was old enough to be extremely well understood and easily available, so it didn’t require a specialist’s knowledge. The heart of his philosophy was putting cheap, simple technology to use in ways no one else considered. If he could not think more deeply about new technologies, he decided, he would think more broadly about old ones. He intentionally retreated from the cutting edge, and set to monozukuri.

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