There are some key points in the book, “Range, How Generalists Triumph in A Specialized World” by David Epstein, that really caught my eye. Many are applicable to the way innovation is managed.
First was “to use a common metaphor, premodern people miss the forest for the trees; modern people miss the trees for the forest.”
Another interesting learning was that “like chess masters and firefighters, premodern villagers relied on things being the same tomorrow as they were yesterday. They were extremely well prepared for what they had experienced before, and extremely poorly equipped for everything else. Their very thinking was highly specialized in a matter that the modern world has been telling us is increasingly obsolete. They were perfectly capable of learning from experience, but failed at learning without experience. And that is what a rapidly changing, wicked world demands, conceptual reasoning skills to connect new ideas and work across contexts.”
An interesting statistic that caught my eye was an Oxford business school study that “showed that around 90% of major infrastructure projects worldwide go over budget by an average of 28% in part because managers focus on the details of their project and being overly optimistic.”
When it comes to improving algorithms for recommending what people might enjoy it, Netflix came to the conclusion that “decoding movie trades to figure out what you like was very complex and less accurate than simply analyzing you to many other customers with similar viewing histories instead of predicting what you might like, they examine who you are like, and the complexity is captured therein.”
In a study of successful business leaders, it was found that “each one had a novel journey, but a common strategy. They all practice short-term planning, not long-term planning. Even people who look like consummate long-term visionaries from afar usually looked like short-term planers up-close.”
On the personal side there is an interesting observation on the “end of history illusion. In these studies, from teenagers to senior citizens, it was recognized that our desires and motivation sure changed a lot in the past, but people believe they will not change much in the future. Research showed this was not true. We are works in progress claiming to be finished. People expected that they would change very little in the next decade, and reported having changed a lot in the previous one. Qualities that felt immutable changed immensely. Core values such as pleasure, security, success, honesty all transform.”
When looking at ourselves “social psychology argues persuasively that we are each made up of numerous possibilities. We discover the possibilities by doing, by trying new activities, building new networks, finding models. We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.”