Range

Range

Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

David Epstein

University of Utah professor Abbie Griffin has made it her work to study modern Thomas Edisons—“ serial innovators,” she and two colleagues termed them. Their findings about who these people are should sound familiar by now: “high tolerance for ambiguity”; “systems thinkers”; “additional technical knowledge from peripheral domains”; “repurposing what is already available”; “adept at using analogous domains for finding inputs to the invention process”; “ability to connect disparate pieces of information in new ways”; “synthesizing information from many different sources”; “they appear to flit among ideas”; “broad range of interests”; “they read more (and more broadly) than other technologists and have a wider range of outside interests”; “need to learn significantly across multiple domains”; “Serial innovators also need to communicate with various individuals with technical expertise outside of their own domain.”

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