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David  Epstein

David Epstein

#1 NYT Best-Selling Author of Range, Expert on the Science of High Performance


Range is an urgent and important book, an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.” –Daniel Pink

“David Epstein manages to make me thoroughly enjoy the experience of being told that everything I thought about something was wrong.” –Malcolm Gladwell

“I want to give Range to any kid who is being forced to take violin lessons — but really wants to learn the drums.” –Amanda Ripley, Author of The Smartest Kids in the World

New York Times best-selling author and science writer David Epstein has made it his mission to uncover the keys to achieving high performance in any domain, and to debunk popular myths along the way. His New York Times best-seller, The Sports Gene, took readers inside the surprising science of extraordinary athletic performance. (It has been translated in 21 languages, and was read by both President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.) In his latest book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, which is on the top ten New York Times bestsellers list, named one of Amazon's best business books of 2019, Inc.’s 2019 Must Read Books for Entrepreneurs and #2 out of 100 of the Best Social Psychology Books of All Time by BookAuthority, Epstein examines the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and Nobel laureates. Named as one of Wharton professor Adam Grant’s “New Leadership Books to Read in 2019,” the Washington Post’s “10 Leadership Books to Watch For,” Apple's Best Audiobooks of 2019, selected for the JP Morgan Summer Reading List, honored on the Longlist for the 2019 Outstanding Works of Literature at BookPal as well as the 2019 Porchlight Business Book Awards Longlist and Porchlight/800CEOREAD’s #4 business book of 2019, Range has received rave reviews from the likes of Daniel Pink and Malcolm Gladwell, and best-selling author Susan Cain as well as praise from the Wall Street JournalNew York Times and NPR. Read More >

Epstein brings bold new insights to business, education, technological innovation, healthcare and other industries on the best approach to career development. His conclusion: In most fields, especially those that are complex, unpredictable, and difficult to automate, generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Sharing fascinating examples from the career trajectories of Duke Ellington and Roger Federer to a preeminent CEO who took her first job around the age her peers were retiring, Epstein shows that at every stage of life, from the development of children in math, music and sports to students fresh out of college trying to find their way, to midcareer professionals in need of a change and would-be retirees looking for a new vocation after moving on from their previous one — generalists triumph as the world around them becomes increasingly specialized.

Epstein has spoken on the science of high performance and novel uses (and misuses) of data on five continents, to organizations from NASA to the Pat Tillman Foundation and at a diverse array of events from the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul to the open-source software community’s Hadoop Summit. In 2014, his main stage TED Talk was one of the 20 most viewed of the year and has since been viewed over twelve million times. It was recently touted by Bill Gates.

Epstein’s writing has appeared in numerous national and international publications, from The New York Times and The Atlantic to National Geographic. He was previously an investigative reporter at ProPublica, where his work ranged from an investigation into the DEA’s complicated pursuit of Chapo Guzman’s rivals, to a This American Life episode about a woman with muscular dystrophy who discovered that she shares a mutated gene with an Olympic medalist.

A former Sports Illustrated senior writer, Epstein authored or co-authored several of their most high profile investigative pieces, including the 2009 revelation of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez’s steroid use. He has master’s degrees in environmental science and journalism from Columbia University, and was twice NCAA All-East as an 800-meter runner

Merging stories from the worlds of sports, business, medicine, and education, Epstein sheds light on the paths to peak performance. From how to best prepare for our specialized world to how to optimally incorporate AI into our workplaces, Epstein unpacks the science of success — leaving audiences with actionable takeaways to improve how they live, work, and prepare for the future. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TEDx: How Falling Behind Can Get You Ahead

Virtual Keynote: Leading Through the Unknown, Coronavirus, and Beyond

Epstein and Gladwell discuss “Range” at MIT

Lateral Thinking With Withered Technology

Keep Experimenting

CLSA Investors' Forum 2014

An Introduction to “Range”

TEDTalk: Are Athletes Really Getting Faster, Better, Stronger?

Lateral Thinking: The Reason You’ve Heard of Nintendo and Marvel

CBS This Morning: "Range" Generalization Over Specialization

Juggling Through Implicit Learning

Speech Topics

The Power of Range: The Secret to Success in Any Domain

What’s the most effective path to success in any domain? It’s not what you think. Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule. Best-selling author on the science of performance David Epstein has examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields—especially those that are complex, unpredictable, and difficult to automate—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see. Read More >

Drawing from his new book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, which has attracted praise from thought leaders like Adam Grant, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, and Susan Cain; Epstein shares how individuals, teams and organizations of all kinds can harness this under-recognized superpower. As Gladwell put it: “For reasons I cannot explain, David Epstein manages to make me thoroughly enjoy the experience of being told that everything I thought about something was wrong.”

David Epstein customizes his content for specific audiences, including:

Business: No matter the industry, every business thrives or dies on educated guessing about what the future holds. In a tour of fascinatingly counterintuitive research, David explains how specialists often develop worse judgment about the future as they gain knowledge and credentials in a particular domain, and how interdisciplinary thinkers can reverse that troubling trend.

Human Resources/Management: Employing studies of “serial innovators,” David explains how HR policies at mature companies often accidentally screen out employees with the highest potential for creative contributions, and what recruiters and hiring managers can do to counter that. But the power of range doesn't stop with recruiting; David shares research on how employees with diverse work experience can make an organization more competitive, more agile, and better prepared for the unexpected.

Healthcare: Increasing specialization in healthcare has been necessary, but also means that individual providers now see a smaller piece of the total health puzzle than ever before—a trend that has led to some eyebrow-raising outcomes. David discusses how generalists can enhance specialized environments, and how healthcare organizations can hire, develop, and cross-train to improve performance and the patient experience.

Investment/Financial Services: As information becomes more rapidly disseminated, it is increasingly difficult (read: expensive, in time and money) to gain an information advantage. However, more information means more opportunity to take advantage of analytical inefficiencies in a market. Who is best suited to analyze the same information that everyone else has? People with range. David shares surprising research on the habits of mind that can lead to an analytical competitive advantage in an information-rich market.

Educators: Drawing on the latest research, David shares how learners of all ages, and their educators, can thrive in an increasingly complex world — not by picking a single specialty and mastering it, but by sampling many areas, changing (and failing) often, and focusing on the kind of analytical thinking skills that transfer between domains. His talk explains how to learn, teach, and create educational institutions primed for the 21st century.

Technology Innovators: In an age of rapid technological change, it can feel like hyperspecialization is a necessity for reaching the cutting edge, never mind pushing it. But in fact, there has never been more opportunity for “lateral thinking” generalists to drive technological progress. David discusses the habits of mind that lead generalists to make connections that their more specialized peers miss, and how organizations can be structured so that specialists and generalists enhance one another's performance.

Students & Parents: As any graduation speech will tell you, the key to success is knowing where you want to be years from now and determining the steps to get there. Except, research shows that’s precisely the opposite of how most successful and fulfilled people develop their lives and careers. David discusses work showing that top performers assiduously avoid rigid long-term planning and premature specialization. Along the way, he shares how anyone can adopt habits that will help them work toward an optimal fit between who they are and what they do. Read Less ^

Leading Through the Unknown: Coronavirus & Beyond

It goes without saying that no one hopes for a crisis. And yet, responsible leaders prepare for the unknown and the unprecedented. Organizations that survive — or even thrive — in crisis wield two crucial competencies: the ability to make reasoned decisions under uncertainty, with imperfect data and unyielding deadlines; and the ability to improvise. The most effective leaders are constantly updating their mental models and abandoning strategic plans and solutions that worked in the past — especially when navigating through turbulent times and uncharted waters. Read More >

David Epstein draws on his #1 New York Times best seller Range to share surprising research and suspenseful stories of adaptation, innovation and improvisation triumphing over adversity. He explains why one of the most critical — and most difficult — aspects of navigating and leading through a crisis is getting experienced professionals to “unspecialize” and adapt in real time. Through powerful examples of creativity and insights into unleashing the “range” of your team,  David explores how difficult times can not only make us stronger, but can actually spur innovation and unique opportunities. Read Less ^

Lessons from Range: Developing High Performance Teams

In his new top ten New York Times best-seller, Range, performance expert David Epstein shares insights that changed the mindset of Malcolm Gladwell and garnered high praise from  Daniel Pink and Adam Grant. This deeper dive into Range reveals how generalists not only triumph as individuals, but are essential to high performance teams. In this game-changing talk, which can be adapted to a variety of industries, audiences and applications, Epstein examines what it takes to create teams with the diverse skills and experience to drive success in any field. Read More >

Topics include: Read Less ^

  • Developing “match quality” (the fit between abilities, interest and role)—key to motivation, performance and persistence
  • The habits of mind that create effective team collaborators that drive everyone’s performance
  • Making breadth the ally of depth (rather than its zero-sum opponent) in creative problem solving
  • Strategies for diversifying organizational culture and creating “learning organizations.”
  • Identifying (and not screening out) so-called “serial innovators” with potential for major creative contributions and team leadership

Hiring, Cultivating & Retaining the Workforce of the Future

In today’s fast-changing world, organizations are looking to do more with less people—supplementing and even replacing narrow specialists with skilled generalists that can work easily across multiple disciplines. What is the secret to finding, cultivating and retaining an agile workforce with this mindset and potential? And once you find them, how do you match generalists, experts and, increasingly, AI to form optimal teams hardwired for impact and innovation? In this essential talk, David Epstein expands on his #1 best-seller, Range to reveal what it takes to recruit, build and retain the workforce of the future. Read More >

David’s customized presentations provide research-based strategies to: Read Less ^

  • Make your organization more competitive, agile and better prepared for the unexpected
  • Find and recruit skilled generalists equipped for “wicked learning” environments
  • Identify candidates that are hardwired for impact and innovation
  • Improve “match quality” (the fit between abilities, interest and role)
  • Spot and cultivate future leaders and serial innovators—and eliminate practices that screen them out
  • Form optimal teams in which depth and breadth complement each other
  • Re-invigorate existing teams and foster ingenuity with outside perspectives
  • Use AI to enhance, rather than supplant, human intelligence
  • Foster idea diversity and a culture of continuous improvement
  • Cultivate, motivate and retain employees with the greatest potential for impact and innovation

Avoiding the “Curse of Expertise”

The curse of expertise is the cognitive bias that comes from knowing too much about a particular project or investment. In the financial world, it can bedevil those making decisions or predictions. In this essential talk, #1 New York Times best-selling author David Epstein reveals how to use full range thinking to avoid this common pitfall and triumph in a fast-changing world.  Read More >

David also reveals: Read Less ^

  • Simple strategies that lead to more accurate forecasts
  • Why “idea diversity” is a staple of superior investors
  • How to form teams of collaborators that enhance each other’s judgements for better predictions
  • Imparting skills that are in the vein of Charlie Munger’s “mental models” approach
  • How AI supplements, rather than supplants, human intelligence
  • The surprising strategies for cultivating, motivating and retaining employees with the greatest potential for innovation and impact

0.5%: The Margin between Good & Great, & How to Find It

As sports have become high stakes, global competitions, the performance margins that differentiate good, great and legendary have shrunk dramatically. Fortunately, cutting edge science has shone a light on the best path to peak performance, and it contradicts the most popular notions about skill acquisition, like the famed “10,000-hours Rule.” That argument says that only accumulated hours of practice matter to success. In fact, though, future experts start off practicing less in their eventual discipline than their peers. David Epstein explains just what it is that future elites are doing during that time that primes them for later (and greater) success. He also dissects how — once at the top competitive level — athletes are using “small data” to find what factors most matters for performance, and which of those they can change in the pursuit of the final 0.5% of performance. The conclusions from elite sports can guide any individual or team in the search to find their personal 0.5%.