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David  Epstein

David Epstein

#1 NYT Best-Selling Author of Range, Host of “How To” Podcast, & Expert on the Science of High Performance

Biography

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

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

“Range is a goldmine of surprising insights. Makes you smarter with every page.” –James Clear, Best-selling author of Atomic Habits

“I want to give Range to any kid who is being forced to take violin lessons — but really wants to learn the drums. Range is full of surprises and hope, a 21st century survival guide.” –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 profession or fast-changing environment — knowledge that has become essential to educating, developing and retaining the workforce of the future. His New York Times best-seller, The Sports Gene, took readers inside the surprising science of extraordinary athletic performance. His latest book, #1 New York Times best-seller Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, examines the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and Nobel laureates. Only one of five titles to make Bill Gates' "Holiday Books 2020" list, Range was also named one of Wharton professor Adam Grant's "New Leadership Books to Read in 2019" and a finalist for the 2019 Financial Times/McKinsey business book of the year. Range has also been named one of Amazon's best business books of 2019, Inc.’s 2019 Must Read Books for Entrepreneurs and #1 out of 100 of the "Best Social Psychology Books of All Time" by Book Authority. The Washington Post named Range one of its “10 Leadership Books to Watch For,” and it was selected by Apple for its" Best Audiobooks of 2019" list. In Range, Epstein brings bold new insights to business, education, technological innovation, healthcare and other industries on the best approach to career development, hiring and retention. amid rapid technological change. His conclusion: In most fields, especially those that are complex, unpredictable, and difficult to automate, generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Epstein shares fascinating research and examples from career trajectories as varied as Roger Federer’s to that of the man who saved Nintendo, to a woman who took her first job around the age her peers were retiring — ­and who Peter Drucker called the greatest CEO in America. He shows that at every stage of life, from the development of children in math, music and sports, to young professionals trying to adapt to a changing work world, all the way to executives who urgently need to broaden their thinking and their skills — generalists triumph as the world around them becomes increasingly specialized. Read More >

Epstein recently took over the widely popular podcast, How To!, previously hosted by Charles Duhigg (author of the acclaimed book, The Power of Habit). Described as a Dear Abby but through the lens of an investigative reporter, the podcast takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask, but couldn’t.

Epstein’s two TED Talks have amassed more than 11 million views. He has spoken around the world  on the science of high performance and novel uses (and misuses) of data, to organizations from X (Alphabet’s “moonshot factory”), to NASA (humanity’s original moonshot factory), to Cisco and the Association for Talent Development, and at a diverse array of events from the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul to the open-source software community’s Hadoop Summit.

Epstein’s writing has appeared in numerous 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 the magazine’s 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, teach,  parent, and prepare for the future. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TED: Why specializing early doesn't always mean career success

Virtual Keynote| Lessons from Range: Developing High Performance Teams

Bill Gates’s Holiday Book 2020: Range

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 #1 New York Times best-seller Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, which has attracted praise from thought leaders like Bill Gates, Adam Grant, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, James Clear 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 hyper-specialization 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 ^

Hiring, Cultivating & Retaining the Workforce of the Future

In today’s fast-changing world, organizations should be looking for nimble thinkers and skilled generalists –those who can see around corners and adapt their skills in response to disruption and change. 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 agile and better prepared for the unexpected
  • Find and recruit skilled generalists equipped for fast-changing “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

Leading Remote Teams: Chain of Communication vs. Chain of Command

Why is it so important to differentiate the chain of communication from the chain of command? When information travels at the same path as the chain of command, it doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with rapid change or support impactful decisions. Even before COVID and remote work, leaders often found themselves in a proverbial “bubble,” with a slow-moving feedback loop to all levels of their organization. In many cases, this phenomenon has been intensified by remote work, which can reduce the flow of information and collaboration within an organization’s network of teams. Also gone are the serendipitous creativity and unplanned “water cooler moments” that occur in an in-person workplace. In this timely and popular talk, bestselling author and expert on the science of high performance, David Epstein comes to the rescue. He shares fascinating research and timeless case studies that address current challenges and will remain relevant, given that remote work is here to stay. Read More >

You’ll learn how to: Read Less ^

  • Differentiate the chain of communication from the chain of command—increasing information flow and collaboration from top to bottom and across your organization.
  • Ensure that decision-makers are getting information from all levels and that teams across the organization are seeing their role in the big picture.
  • Structure your culture to accelerate information flow.
  • Cultivate “serial innovators” who can connect the dots and information across the organization.
  • Leverage knowledge already in your network—especially when things are rapidly changing.
  • Work toward becoming a learning organization, comprised of teams that are skilled at creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge.

I.T. Leaders of the Future: From “I-Shaped” to “T-Shaped”

There may not be an “I” in “team,” as the aphorism goes, but the “I” in I.T. has traditionally been both literal and figurative. I.T. departments have long been led by so-called “I-shaped” professionals — decision makers with deep expertise in current technology, but little incentive to broaden their skills or build bridges to other departments. That was efficient in a work world where IT departments tended to be slow-changing cost centers that could function just fine as silos inside of organizations. But that work world is long gone. IT executives can no longer stay in the proverbial server room and expect to succeed. The IT leader of the future is a “T-shaped” professional who can connect their work to all levels of business strategy, from hiring and organizational culture development, all the way to change management and crafting how automation is implemented in order to liberate humans to do their best work. In this talk, David Epstein grounds fascinating research in gripping stories that will help leaders identify, develop, and retain the T-shaped IT professionals who can lead their teams into the fast-changing future.