Radiococo Broadcast 07_2022
Kids are the OG generalists
I finished reading (listening to) David Epstein’s Range recently. The book's subtitle summarises it well: How Generalists triumph in a Specialized World. He talks about how invaluable being able to think across domains is. How many innovations don’t typically come from someone in a highly specialised field because experts tend to have blinders on. They get too comfortable in their own expertise and knowledge, making it hard to see things differently. Something I am sure we all fall prey to even in varying levels of expertise. He gave the example of Nintendo, everyone’s favourite gaming company that had early beginnings in selling playing cards. Gunpei Yokoi, a tinkerer, hired to maintain the card-making machines, planted the seeds that grew Nintendo into what it is today. Yokoi had a degree in electronics but he also engaged in various hobbies like piano, ballroom dancing, model trains etc. Between maintenance work, he would play around with the company’s equipment, making various contraptions. He would go on to create Nintendo’s first handheld electronic game, making way for the beloved Game Boy 9 years later. “The heart of his philosophy was putting cheap, simple technology to use in ways no one considered.”
Also known as lateral thinking.
This is also what my kids do so supremely well.
Especially at the ages of 4-7 (the age group I work with the most), when they are learning across multiple domains at once. They are prioritising breadth over depth. It is how they come up with the most wondrous and absurd ideas. They are not fixated on long-established notions of what is or should be. Instead, they link art and science, magic and realism, tech and biology. For them, the world may be compartmentalised, but it is more a cabinet of curiosities than a clearly classified specimen drawer. That’s how things like pizza delivery caterpillar, ketchup on clouds, and movie mars rover exist in their world. And what a beautiful world that is.
In case it wasn’t clear, I agree that there is definitely a need for specialists. My closest colleague is one; and he is the ketchup to my cloud. But it is important to not grow out of the open-mindedness that comes with the generalist mindset. After all, as mathematician Freeman Dyson said, the world is both broad and deep!
Thank you for tuning in this month!
This month’s play-list
Emoji remix! This is such a surprising silly fun thing please try it.
For days when you wfh and miss the sounds of your colleagues
This teacher assigned her students to combine memes + US history