Our Society nourishes the myth of the one-sided talented child prodigy who follows his specialization at an early age. But generalism ends tunnel vision and leads to more Success.

Potential for success for generalists and lateral entrants: Just no child prodigy syndrome

Even top athletes often start specializing late

When I started my research, I came across both nuanced Criticism as well as blanket rejection. “That may apply to other sports,” fans often said, “but not to our sport.” The most vehement protests came from the community of the world's most popular sport, football. But then published one Team from German scientists ended as if on acclamation a study that proved that the members of the German national team, which had just won the World Cup, were usually athletes who had specialized late and until Age aged 21 or older had only played in an amateur league.

In their childhood and youth they had only played recreational soccer and played other sports. Another study of professional football published two years later tracked the athletic development of young players at the age of eleven for over two years. Those who played multiple sports and only played recreational soccer had made greater improvements over the two years than the comparison group.

Hyper-specialization as a marketing myth

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Similar results have now been reported in a wide variety of sporting disciplines, from hockey to volleyball. The alleged need for early hyper-specialization forms the core of a vast, successful, and occasionally well-intentioned marketing machine - in sport, but also in other areas. In truth, there are far more top athletes who started out as generalists than highly focused child prodigies. In general, however, the former are not so effective - if they are ever known. You probably know some big names, only their backgrounds are unknown.

I remember a 2018 Super Bowl where a famous quarterback who was before his Jobs played baseball as a pro football catcher (Tom Brady), had an exciting duel with the opposing team's quarterback, who played football, basketball, baseball and karate in his youth and only decided between basketball and football in college (Nick Foles) .

The key is diversity and trying things out

Later that month, the Czech athlete Ester Ledecká was the first to pick up Ms. Gold in two different disciplines (skiing and snowboarding) at a Winter Olympics. In her younger years Ledecká had played a variety of sports (she still plays beach volleyball and indulges in windsurfing), but focused primarily on school and was in no hurry to win youth tournaments. In one Article, which appeared the day after her sensational double gold medal win, the Washington Post wrote: "In an age of athletic specialization, Ledecká is a passionate advocate of diversity."

Shortly after her great Performance Ukrainian boxer Vasyl Lomacheko won the world title in three different weight classes faster than any other boxer. Lolachenko, who took a four-year break from boxing training as a teenager to learn traditional Ukrainian dances, said: "As a boy I did a lot of different sports - gymnastics, basketball, football, tennis - and I think in the end all of them did different sports helped improve my footwork.« The prominent sports scientist Ross Tucker sums up the research in this area in one sentence: »The key lies in variety and experimentation.«

Late developers often find jobs that suit them better

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In 2014, I included some of the statements about late specialization in sports in the afterword of my first book called The Sports Gene. The following year I received an invitation to perform in front of an unusual Audience to present the results of this research – not athletes or coaches, but military veterans. During my preparation, I browsed scientific journals for articles about early specialization and career detours outside the world of sports. What I discovered amazed me. A study found that people who specialized early in their careers initially earned more after college than others who specialized later. However, this supposed starting advantage was offset by the fact that the late developers found work that better suited their skills and theirs Personality fit.

I came across tons of studies showing that technical inventors improve their creative accomplishments increase by first gaining experience in different areas, unlike other colleagues who immersed themselves fully in a topic early on. In fact, the best creative minds have benefited throughout their careers from voluntarily sacrificing a little profundity for a greater breadth of knowledge. A study of creative creators found almost identical results. Gradually I became clearthat the careers of some people whose artistic work I deeply admired from afar - from Duke Ellington (who skipped music classes as a child to focus on baseball and drawing) to Maryam Mirzakhani (who dreamed of becoming a novelist and instead becoming the first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, the most famous award in the field of mathematics) - more like the career path of generalist Roger Federer than the child prodigy development of a Tiger Woods.

Generalists in top positions

As I continued my research, I came across remarkable individuals who were successful not because of their breadth of experience and interests, but because of it: A female CEO who took up her first leadership role at an age when others are retiring; an artist who practiced five different professions before finding his calling and the World and an inventor whose homegrown anti-specialization philosophy turned a small 19th-century operation into one of today's most famous brands. As I had just started doing research on specialization in general Working world to occupy myself, I limited myself in mine Lecture before the military veterans on the sport. Although I only touched on the other results, my audience jumped at them immediately.

They were all people who specialized late or changed careers. After the lecture, one by one came up to me to introduce themselves, and I found that many were at least a little concerned about their professional lives and some were almost ashamed. They had been invited by the Pat Tillman Foundation, which, in the spirit of the late NFL football player of the same name, who had left professional football to become an Army Ranger, awards grants to veterans, active soldiers and their wives who are professionally involved reorient or go to school again.

Career changers are more successful

In this case, all grantees were ex-paratroopers and translators seeking second careers as teachers, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Although they burst with enthusiasm, there was a certain feeling underneath Anxiety felt because their LinkedIn profiles do not reflect a linear career pathspiegelthat employers, they had been drummed into, want to see. They were nervous and tense, sitting next to younger (sometimes much younger) students in the classroom, or taking one at an age when others are already firmly in the saddle career change because up to that point they had been busy acquiring an incomparable life and leadership experience. Somehow a unique advantage in her perception had turned into a disadvantage.

A few days after my presentation at the Tillman Foundation, a former member of the Navy SEAL, a special unit of the US Navy, who had contacted me immediately after the presentation, wrote me an e-mail with the following content: "We are all in ours Job switch. Several of us got together after your presentation and we shared how relieved we were at your words.«

Get out of the dangerous tunnel view

I was a little amused that a former Navy SEAL graduate with a bachelor's degree in history and geophysics, who was now pursuing a master's degree in business and administration at Dartmouth and Harvard, needed my confirmation of his life choices. Like everyone else in the auditorium, he had been implicitly and explicitly made to understand that it was dangerous to change horses in the middle of a race. My talk was so enthusiastic that the Foundation invited me to give a keynote speech at the 2016 annual conference and then speak to small groups in different cities.

Before each presentation, I read additional studies, spoke to additional researchers, and found additional evidence that the acquisition was broader Competencies and experience, both professionally and privately, takes a certain amount of time - which is often at the expense of early professional success - but that these detours are definitely worthwhile. I delved into research showing that highly skilled professionals can develop such tunnel vision that they actually get worse with experience, albeit with increasing confidence. That's a dangerous one Combination.

Slow learning is more successful

And I was deeply impressed when cognitive psychologists introduced me in our conversations to an overwhelming amount of often ignored literature that shows that a person achieves the greatest sustainable learning success when Things to Learn takes place in slow steps so that this Deselect can be set and recalled in the long term - even if it means that learners do poorly in short-term learning tests. In other words, the most effective way to learn is the one that at first glance appears the least effective and gives the impression that the learner is lagging behind others.

A professional Reorientation in the middle phase of life can be similar at first glance. Mark Zuckerberg famously said, "Young people are simply smarter." However, a person who starts a technology company in their mid-fifties has almost twice as much chance of success as a 20-year-old founder. Researchers from Northwestern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the US Census Bureau examined Technology-Startups and found that the fastest growing Company founded by people who, at the time of Foundation were 45 years old.

Older founders are more mature

Zuckerberg was 22 years old when he uttered his famous phrase. He naturally had an interest in this message just as youth sports league managers have an interest in the assertion that early laser focus on a particular sport is a necessary condition for success, even when there is evidence to the contrary. But the drive to specialize goes even further; it not only infects individuals, but determines entire systems, with the result that they fragment into silo-like groups of highly specialized blinders who only see smaller and smaller sections of the overall picture.

A revelation in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis was the extent of professional segregation within big banks. Legions of highly specialized financial experts who, blinkered, focus solely on optimizing the risks of their own tiny piece of the jigsaw puzzle from the big picture eventually produced the near-collapse of the entire system. Compounding the problem were responses to the crisis, which revealed staggering levels of specialization-induced perversity. A US program introduced in 2009 gave banks an incentive to reduce monthly mortgage payments for over-indebted homeowners who were still able to make partial payments.

Get out of the silo mentality

A nice one Idea, but in practice it worked like this: the bank's mortgage department cut monthly mortgage payments; the foreclosure department noticed that the homeowner was suddenly only making partial payments. She then noted the default and confiscated the property. "No one could have imagined that such a silo structure existed within the banks," said a government adviser later.

Over-specialization can lead to collective tragedy, even if each individual acts responsibly and sensibly on his own. Highly specialized doctors have developed their own version of the motto: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Cardiologists have become so used to inserting stents for any form of chest pain - These are small metal tubes that are mainly inserted into calcified veins and expand them to improve blood flow - that they do it reflexively, even in cases where extensive studies have come to the conclusion that they either are ineffective or even harmful.

The end of tunnel vision?

A recent study found that heart patients who were hospitalized during a cardiology convention when all cardiologists were away had a lower death rate. The researchers assumed that this could be due to the fact that standard therapies with dubious Effect would be applied. An internationally renowned scientist told me that increasing specialization has led to the urge to Innovation created a »system of parallel trenches«.

They all dig deeper and deeper in their own ditch, but rarely stand up to look over their earth wall into the neighboring ditch, even if they Solution to their Problem can be found there. Said scientist has become the Objective made to try that Vocational Training prospective researchers to despecialize. He hopes this Strategy eventually spread to all areas. In his own life he has benefited enormously from the broad development of knowledge and skills, although he too was under the pressure of specialization. Meanwhile, he's expanding his reach and horizons again, designing a training program in an attempt to give others a chance to break the path of early one-sided specialization.

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