Range

Range

Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

David Epstein

In kind environments, where the goal is to re-create prior performance with as little deviation as possible, teams of specialists work superbly. Surgical teams work faster and make fewer mistakes as they repeat specific procedures, and specialized surgeons get better outcomes even independent of repetitions. If you need to have surgery, you want a doctor who specializes in the procedure and has done it many times, preferably with the same team, just as you would want Tiger Woods to step in if your life was on the line for a ten-foot putt. They’ve been there, many times, and now have to re-create a well-understood process that they have executed successfully before. The same goes for airline crews. Teams that have experience working together become exceedingly efficient at delegating all of the well-understood tasks required to ensure a smooth flight. When the National Transportation Safety Board analyzed its database of major flight accidents, it found that 73 percent occurred on a flight crew’s first day working together. Like surgeries and putts, the best flight is one in which everything goes according to routines long understood and optimized by everyone involved, with no surprises.

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