We know that early sampling is key, as is diversity.
... the bigger the picture, the more unique the potential human contribution.
When narrow specialization is combined with an unkind domain, the human tendency to rely on experience of familiar patterns can backfire horribly.
"To him who observes them from afar, it appears as though they are scattering and dissipating their energies, while in reality they are channeling and strengthening them." Santiago Ramón y Cajal
This breadth often supports insights that cannot be attributed to domain-specific expertise alone.
"It just happened that no one else was familiar with both those fields at the same time."
They must be taught to think before being taught what to think about.
They were perfectly capable of learning from experience, but failed at learning without experience.
The more constrained and repetitive a challenge, the more likely it will be automated, while great rewards will accrue to those who can take conceptual knowledge from one problem or domain and apply it in an entirely new one.
... breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer. That is, the more contexts in which something is learned, the more the learner creates abstract models, and the less they rely on any particular example. Learners become better at applying their knowledge to a situation they’ve never seen before, which is the essence of creativity.
... creativity may be difficult to nurture, but it is easy to thwart.
Struggling to generate an answer on your own, even a wrong one, enhances subsequent learning.
The more confident a learner is of their wrong answer, the better the information sticks when they subsequently learn the right answer. Tolerating big mistakes can create the best learning opportunities.
Training without hints is slow and error-ridden. It is, essentially, what we normally think of as testing, except for the purpose of learning rather than evaluation — when "test" becomes a dreaded four-letter word.
Space between practice sessions creates the hardness that enhances learning.
Short-term rehearsal gave purely short-term benefits. ... Frustration is not a sign you are not learning, but ease is.
... it is difficult to accept that the best learning road is slow, and that doing poorly now is essential for better performance later.
... "blocked" practice. That is, practicing the same thing repeatedly, each problem employing the same procedure. It leads to excellent immediate performance, but for knowledge to be flexible, it should be learned under varied conditions, an approach called varied or mixed practice, or, to researchers, "interleaving." ... Whether the task is mental or physical, interleaving improves the ability to match the right strategy to a problem.
Desirable difficulties like testing and spacing make knowledge stick. It becomes durable. Desirable difficulties like making connections and interleaving make knowledge flexible, useful for problems that never appeared in training. All slow down learning and make performance suffer, in the short term. That can be a problem, because like the Air Force cadets, we all reflexively assess our progress by how we are doing right now.
... if programs want to impart lasting academic benefits they should focus instead on "open" skills that scaffold later knowledge. Teaching kids to read a little early is not a lasting advantage. Teaching them how to hunt for and connect contextual clues to understand what they read can be. As with all desirable difficulties, the trouble is that a head start comes fast, but deep learning is slow.
Analogies were all he had. ... Deep analogical thinking is the practice of recognizing conceptual similarities in multiple domains or scenarios that may seem to have little in common on the surface.
Analogical thinking takes the new and makes it familiar, or takes the familiar and puts it in a new light, and allows humans to reason through problems they have never seen in unfamiliar contexts. It also allows us to understand that which we cannot see at all.
The current world is not so kind; it requires thinking that cannot fall back on previous experience.
deep structural similarities.
The outside view is deeply counterintuitive because it requires a decision maker to ignore unique surface features of the current project, on which they are the expert, and instead look outside for structurally similar analogies.
Focusing narrowly on many fine details specific to a problem at hand feels like the exact right thing to do, when it is often exactly wrong.
Instead of predicting what you might like, they examine who you are like, and the complexity is captured therein.
... the more distant the analogy, the better it was for idea generation.
... successful problem solvers are more able to determine the deep structure of a problem before they proceed to match a strategy to it.
... the labs most likely to turn unexpected findings into new knowledge for humanity made a lot of analogies, and made them from a variety of base domains.
That could be a problem of grit, or it could be a decision made in response to match quality information that could not have been gleaned without giving it a try.
Persevering through difficulty is a competitive advantage for any traveler of a long road, but he suggested that knowing when to quit is such a big strategic advantage that every single person, before undertaking an endeavor, should enumerate conditions under which they should quit. The important trick, he said, is staying attuned to whether switching is simply a failure of perseverance, or astute recognition that better matches are available.
I just learned by doing what was needed at the time.
Ogas uses the shorthand "standardization covenant" for the cultural notion that it is rational to trade a winding path of self-exploration for a rigid goal with a head start because it ensures stability.
Career goals that once felt safe and certain can appear ludicrous, to use Darwin’s adjective, when examined in the light of more self-knowledge.
From teenagers to senior citizens, we recognize that our desires and motivations sure changed a lot in the past (see: your old hairstyle), but believe they will not change much in the future. In Gilbert’s terms, we are works in progress claiming to be finished.
Qualities that feel immutable changed immensely. Core values — pleasure, security, success, and honesty — transformed.
... an individual’s nature influences how they respond to a particular situation, but their nature can appear surprisingly different in some other situation. .. the one who melts with anxiety in the doctor’s office may be a calm mountain climber; the risk-taking entrepreneur may take few social risks.
Instead of asking whether someone is gritty, we should ask when they are. "If you get someone into a context that suits them," Ogas said, "they’ll more likely work hard and it will look like grit from the outside."
Because personality changes more than we expect with time, experience, and different contexts, we are ill-equipped to make ironclad long-term goals when our past consists of little time, few experiences, and a narrow range of contexts. Each "story of me" continues to evolve.
We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.
At first, all career changers fell prey to the cult of the head start and figured it couldn’t possibly make sense to dispense with their long-term plans in favor of rapidly evolving short-term experiments. Sometimes they tried to talk themselves out of it. Their confidants advised them not to do anything rash; don’t change now, they said, just keep the new interest or talent as a hobby. But the more they dabbled, the more certain they were that it was time for a change. A new work identity did not manifest overnight, but began with trying something temporary, Hesselbein style, or finding a new role model, then reflecting on the experience and moving to the next short-term plan. Some career changers got richer, others poorer; all felt temporarily behind, but as in the Freakonomics coin-flip study, they were happier with a change.
Rather than expecting an ironclad a priori answer to "Who do I really want to become?," their work indicated that it is better to be a scientist of yourself, asking smaller questions that can actually be tested — "Which among my various possible selves should I start to explore now? How can I do that?"
Be a flirt with your possible selves.
I propose instead that you don’t commit to anything in the future, but just look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward.
I was paying attention, and I noticed that the most clever solution always came from a piece of knowledge that was not a part of the normal curriculum.
... as specialists become more narrowly focused, "the box" is more like Russian nesting dolls. ... Even if they get outside the small doll, they may get stuck inside the next, slightly larger one.
Knowledge is a double - edged sword. It allows you to do some things, but it also makes you blind to other things that you could do.
Swanson felt that if this big bang of public knowledge continued apace, subspecialties would be like galaxies, flying away from one another until each is invisible to every other.
The more information specialists create, the more opportunity exists for curious dilettantes to contribute by merging strands of widely available but disparate information — undiscovered public knowledge, as Don Swanson called it.
In a race to the forefront, a lot of useful knowledge is simply left behind to molder.
That presents another kind of opportunity for those who want to create and invent but who cannot or simply do not want to work at the cutting edge. They can push forward by looking back; they can excavate old knowledge but wield it in a new way.
monozukuri — literally, "thing making."
With that, and Drive Game, in mind, Yokoi embarked on an approach he called "lateral thinking with withered technology." Lateral thinking is a term coined in the 1960s for the reimagining of information in new contexts, including the drawing together of seemingly disparate concepts or domains that can give old ideas new uses. By "withered technology," Yokoi meant tech that was old enough to be extremely well understood and easily available, so it didn’t require a specialist’s knowledge.
The heart of his philosophy was putting cheap, simple technology to use in ways no one else considered. If he could not think more deeply about new technologies, he decided, he would think more broadly about old ones. He intentionally retreated from the cutting edge, and set to monozukuri.
What its withered technology lacked, the Game Boy made up in user experience. It was cheap. It could fit in a large pocket. It was all but indestructible. If a drop cracked the screen — and it had to be a horrific drop — it kept on ticking. If it were left in a backpack that went in the washing machine, once it dried out it was ready to roll a few days later.
... as functional fixedness.
The shortcut [ for a lack of ideas ] is competition in the realm of computing power.
Over the course of their careers, the polymaths ’ breadth increased markedly as they learned about "the adjacent stuff," while they actually lost a modicum of depth.
"As ambiguity and uncertainty increases, which is the norm with systems problems, breadth becomes increasingly important."
The problem is that we often expect the hyperspecialist, because of their expertise in a narrow area, to magically be able to extend their skill to wicked problems.
... accept ambiguity and contradiction ...
Viewing every world event through their preferred keyhole made it easy to fashion compelling stories about anything that occurred, and to tell the stories with adamant authority. In other words, they make great TV.
He tried on ideas like Instagram filters until it was hard to tell which he actually believed. :)
It is not that we are unable to come up with contrary ideas, it is just that our strong instinct is not to.
... roam freely, listen carefully, and consume omnivorously.
... it is not what they think, but how they think.
... that most cause-and-effect relationships are probabilistic, not deterministic.
... depart from the problem at hand to consider completely unrelated events with structural commonalities rather than relying on intuition based on personal experience or a single area of expertise.
If they make a bet and lose, they embrace the logic of a loss just as they would the reinforcement of a win.
"Dropping one’s tools is a proxy for unlearning, for adaptation, for flexibility," Weick wrote. "It is the very unwillingness of people to drop their tools that turns some of these dramas into tragedies."
Weick saw that experienced groups became rigid under pressure and "regress to what they know best."
bending an unfamiliar situation to a familiar comfort zone, as if trying to will it to become something they actually had experienced before.
Dropping familiar tools is particularly difficult for experienced professionals who rely on what Weick called overlearned behavior. That is, they have done the same thing in response to the same challenges over and over until the behavior has become so automatic that they no longer even recognize it as a situation-specific tool.
She found that the most effective leaders and organizations had range; they were, in effect, paradoxical. They could be demanding and nurturing, orderly and entrepreneurial, even hierarchical and individualistic all at once. A level of ambiguity, it seemed, was not harmful. In decision making, it can broaden an organization’s toolbox in a way that is uniquely valuable.
... that cultures can build in a form of ambiguity that forces decision makers to use more than one tool, and to become more flexible and learn more readily.
... an effective problem-solving culture was one that balanced standard practice — whatever it happened to be — with forces that pushed in the opposite direction. ... An occasionally confusing but effective mix of strong formal and informal culture.
Incongruence, as the experimental research testified, helps people to discover useful cues, and to drop the traditional tools when it makes sense.
"On Saturday," as Smithies put it, "you don’t have to be completely rational."
Be careful not to be too careful, Delbrück warned, or you will unconsciously limit your exploration.
... the mental meandering along with the wisdom of deep experience.
To recap: work that builds bridges between disparate pieces of knowledge is less likely to be funded, less likely to appear in famous journals, more likely to be ignored upon publication, and then more likely in the long run to be a smash hit in the library of human knowledge.
When you push the boundaries, a lot of it is just probing. It has to be inefficient.
Original creators tend to strike out a lot, but they also hit mega grand slams. ... breakthrough and fallacy look a lot alike initially.
... what appeared scattered at first blush became something completely different.
... rather than hiding diverse experience, explain it.
In my mind, a system that leads people to downplay previous experiences, as if they were entirely wasted, is a counterproductive one. We shouldn’t be ashamed of broad experience, or of needing time to find match quality.
"But before specialization comes sampling, the exploration of possibilities that, really, you cannot know anything about until you try them.... Don’t confuse the healthy development of a work ethic with the premature commitment to a singular passion."
"I don’t understand how something that’s dead can make me feel so alive". Titus Kaphar