Friday, July 10, 2009

"Outliers"- Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” is without a doubt the most enjoyable and impressive book I’ve read in 25 years since I first read Tom Peters “In Search of Excellence” around 1984.

It is very unusual for me to read a book inside a week but this is one that I genuinely couldn't wait to pick up and finish.

Gladwell tells in a persuasive way that the word ‘genius’ may be over used. He argues that outstandingly successful individuals owe more to being in the right place at the right time; working damned hard; and even being born at the right time of the year than some intangible, mystical ‘gift’ that is possessed by a few blessed individuals.

The way Gladwell tells stories is brilliant and I found myself completely engrossed in certain chapters – it felt like I was there.

Particularly impressive for me is the chapter on plane crashes. It turns out that poor communication rather than technical incompetence is probably a greater contributor to some plane crashes. The evidence in Mr Gladwell's book is very convincing.

This book is already a best seller and I imagine it could become an all-time great book. I heartily recommend it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Mark JF said...

Now, far be it from me to say "I told you so" but I do seem to remember some recent posts about John Lennon and my own comments about him (and others that were mentioned) not being a genius... It's not that the word 'may' be over-used, it is!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark – I kind of expected your comment :-)

Interestingly, Gladwell use the Beatles as one of his case studies. I think you would enjoy the book. He illustrates how many hours The Beatles put in by way of practice so that they honed their act and became much more proficient.

I have to say you were right all along Sir! – My no excuse is I hadn’t read Gladwell’s book until now – have a great weekend

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Ok, I guess I'll have to buy the friggin' thing - and add it to my collection of half-finished business books strewn all over my home. I like Gladwell's writing, but I have a quibble: he hasn't done his homework on the Beatles - i.e. he's grandly overstated the number of hours the Beatles played in Hamburg. That was my immediate reaction, which was later backed by Pete Best (who was actually there). But that shouldn't destroy Gladwell's overall thesis.

Genius means different things to different people of course. If person A calls an individual a genius because he/she satisfies person A's criteria for genius but person B has a more narrow set of criteria for the word genius, person B will say he/she is not a genius. But people almost never agree on the criteria so disagreement is inevitable. Except for Lennon & McCartney's genius of course. :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Sorry to burden you with yet more reading John. I’m just the same with books. I’m very good at starting to read books. Hence my great belief this book of Malcolm Gladwell is a winner with me cos I finished it inside a week!

Don’t know about The Beatles Hamburg research but his arguments are nevertheless persuasive.

I’ve always believed genius, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I guess what Gladwell has done for me is to make me question the word a more deeply. He is saying that hard work, opportunity, having the right people around you and a little good fortune can take you most of the way to becoming someone who is regarded as a ‘genius.’

Mark JF said...

Genius is in the eye of the beholder.

(And there are none so blind as them can see...)

Trevor Gay said...

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king :-)