TED & Talks

Why divergent thinkers beat geniuses in the real world | David Epstein

Don’t take the prodigy pathway. David Epstein says become a broad thinker instead.

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The idea for Nintendo’s Game Boy system was born from a philosophy that had a much less catchy name: lateral thinking with withered technology.

The term was coined by Gunpei Yokoi, a Nintendo employee who started at the company with a similarly dry job: machine maintenance worker. One day, a Nintendo executive noticed that Yokoi had built a simple extendable-arm-grabber toy in his free time. Let’s sell it, the executive said. It became a small hit.

Yokoi was eventually promoted to help build out the company’s video game business. But he recognized that he didn’t have the expertise to advance the cutting edge of the video game world. So he decided on a very specific strategy: take already well-understood knowledge and technology from different domains and combine them in unique ways to create new products. The result was the Game Boy.

In this interview with Big Think, David Epstein, author of the 2019 book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World,” explains how lateral thinking — a type of thinking where you approach problems from non-obvious angles — is a problem-solving strategy that’s surprisingly well-suited for our fast-changing world.

Read the video transcript ► https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/generalists/


About David Epstein:
David Epstein is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World and The Sports Gene. He has master’s degrees in environmental science and journalism and has worked as an investigative reporter for ProPublica and a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He lives in Washington, DC.


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