Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell, ISBN 978-0-141-03624-3.
Another interesting read from Malcolm Gladwell. Full of statistical patterns, facts and insights from a variety of fields from hockey to air crash investigation.
- It takes 10,000 hours of doing something to master it. Both Bill Gates and The Beatles had about 10,000 of experience in their fields when their careers kicked off big time.
- Little advantages (from childhood on – such as being born earlier in the year) over time accumulate into larger and more significant advantages as we build upon each one.
- We are the sum of the opportunities life present to us, and our own hard work.
- IQ matters only up to a point, beyond which other factors like creativity. Social savvy and practical intelligence become significant. (In a business context, this would seem to mean that market research and business intelligence will only take you so far, and you need these other talents to move to the next step.)
- The cultures we grew up in affects our ability to succeed. Rice growing cultures tend to produce harder working people because rice cultivation is hard work and year-round. Wheat or corn growing cultures produce an education system with long summer breaks because wheat and corn cultivation demands the land be rested every year.
- Children who are concertedly cultivated, where their interests are actively nurtured, do better in life than those who are left to grow naturally (where they are generally left to do what they please outside of school hours).
- “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.”
- “If you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires.”
- Culture impacts organisational performance. Ignoring cultural can be fatal as in the case of Korean Air, where co-pilots dare not speak up to their captains even in face of pending disaster. The airline only became a success when it acknowledged the importance of its cultural legacy and took steps to change that.
- The typical plane accident involves seven consecutive human errors. “…invariably errors of teamwork and communications.” (What does this say about the value of teamwork and communications in business?)
- “Planes are safer when the least-experienced pilot is flying.” The more experienced pilot, in the co-pilot position, “isn’t going to be afraid to speak up.”
- Western communications has a “transmitter orientation” – the responsibility is on the speaker to make him/herself understood. Asian communications has a “receiver orientation” – the responsibility is on the listener to extract meaning from the communiqué. (How does this affect how your business communicates to its audiences?)
- ”Asians are better at maths because the numbers are more logical and transparent” – which means children learn to count earlier in life and take to numbers faster.
So what is the formula for success? Innate talent and IQ seem to have little to do with it. Given a certain level of talent and IQ, the major factors contributing to success seem to be: cultural factors, out-of-the-blue opportunities, serendipity (meeting the right people, being in the right place and right time), a belief in oneself (and the willingness and ability to assert one’s right to life and its opportunities), and hard work.
The many counter-intuitive and counter-conventional-beliefs observations are in themselves worth a read. If you are a parent or educator interested in giving children their best start in life, to maximise their potential over their lifetimes, this book also provides several interesting insights.
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