Range by David Epstein.

Roger Federer and Tiger Woods are two very different kinds of athletes. Each has achieved outstanding success in his field, but they took very different paths to get there: While Tiger Woods started playing golf before he could walk, Roger Federer experimented with a wide variety of sports before honing in on Tennis at a rather late age.

David Epstein uses the stories of Roger and Tiger to start his book Range, in which he builds the case for shunning the "early specialization cult", as he puts it. The initial example is a two-edged sword though, as it doesn't really help to underpin his point. It rather illustrates two instances of highly successful athletes with very different backgrounds.

Later in the book though, we learn about many different professionals and athletes who's success is built not upon early and deliberate specialization in a single field, but rather on a broad base of knowledge from vastly different areas. Those "late specializers" or "broad integrators" range from Vincent van Gogh to Charles Darwin and a former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America, Frances Hesselbein. The moral of their stories is surprisingly simple: Try as many different things as possible before honing in on what you truly excel at. Not only will that allow you to pick the exact right specialization for you, it will also make you better at whatever field you chose to specialize in.

"Lateral Thinking", an approach that tries to come up with new solutions by looking at structurally similar problems from other fields (as opposed to similar problems in the field) is a lot easier if one has broad experiences. The author recites examples from InnoCentive, an online crowd sourcing platform renown for bringing outside knowledge to problems that corporate R&D experts have deemed unsolvable.

Finally, the author looks at cognitive biases that occur primarily when one is too focused on this or her field of specialization: "Parallel trenches" in science for example are cited as one of the biggest challenge that humanity needs to overcome to continue making significant scientific progress overall, not just tiny advances in closed fields.

The book reads quite well, though many of the examples are described in a bit too much detail. I certainly agree with the overall point the author is trying to make, but that point could probably have been made in a more concise manner as well. Or, maybe I just think that because I recently finished "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown, the key message of which is: "Less, but better"… :-)