How many of us wish we devoted more time to a task? To master a skill? How many hear of the 10,000 hour rule and wish (or push) our kids to practice, practice, practice? What if a better approach is to widely sample many things until the skills, abilities and interests start to align?
David Epstein explored those ideas (and discussed “kind” and “wicked” learning environments) in this new book, Range, Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.
A review of David Epstein’s new book, Range, at The Verge.
A deeper dive on the subject, an an extensive discussion with Russ Roberts on Econ-Talk can be found here
While my liberal arts (history) and legal background (litigation) predisposed to like those who espouse a generalist approach to knowledge and skills accumulation, I was particularly impressed by the discussion of “kind” v “wicked” learning environments.
Wicked domains, or wicked learning environments, are situations in which feedback in the form of outcomes of actions or observations is poor, misleading, or even missing.
In contrast, in kind learning environments, feedback links outcomes directly to the appropriate actions or judgments and is both accurate and plentiful.
A kind learning environment would be things like chess, or music (maybe mathematics). One practicing or leaning in a kind learning environment will get quick and accurate feedback on how well (or poorly) they are doing.
The wicked learning environment will give inaccurate feedback. It can trick the practitioner. The example given is of a doctor that was very adept at diagnosing typhoid by only examine the tongues of individuals. He would do an examination and predict that this one or that one would contract typhoid in the next few weeks. When this proved to occur, he was lauded for his observational and diagnostic skills. The problem? he was a carrier of typhoid. When he was doing the examination he was transmitting the disease to the patients. They were misreading the feedback. They were being tricked.
Not sure what any of this means, but I hope you find it interesting too.
October 11, 2014