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Book Review – Outliers – The Story of Success
Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of The Tipping Point and Blink. His latest book, Outliers, has been on The New York Times bestseller list for eight consecutive months since it was published in November 2008. Gladwell’s engaging, journalistic writing style and his talent to simplify complex issues, I think, are theirs. secrets of success And these are the reasons why his books are both controversial and popular. His latest book is no exception.
Outliers tries to explain the secrets of successful people; proposes that intelligence (IQ) alone is no guarantee of success in life. However, this view is a well-known fact that has been established during the 1990s by a series of academic studies that discovered that success requires additional competencies, known as emotional intelligence (EI). Unfortunately, Gladwell does not outline, or even refer to, the growing body of literature on EI.
Instead, Gladwell focuses on several other significant and equally important ingredients of success. Indeed, his book naturally complements EI studies and explains the “secrets” of success from a different perspective: taking into account the personal, environmental and cultural contexts of success.
In this book review, I will highlight the main success secrets covered by Outliers starting with the advantage (or luck) of being born at the right time of year. One example Gladwell points to is Canadian hockey players and Czech soccer and hockey players who are born in the first six months of the year and have a distinct age and maturity advantage over their teammates. This is due to the January 1 eligibility cut-off age in these countries. As Gladwell explains, “A child who turns ten on January 2, then, might be playing next to someone who doesn’t until the end of the year, and at that age, in preadolescence, a difference in twelve months of age represents an enormous difference in physical maturity.”
What about birth year? This also explains the implications of being there at the right time, at the right age. Gladwell cites Silicon Valley moguls who were born between 1953 and 1956 and were therefore the perfect age in 1975 to take advantage of the personal computer revolution. Here are the names and birth years of some of these successful men: Paul Allen (1953), Bill Joy (1954), Scott McNealy (1954), Steve Jobs (1955), Eric Schmidt (1955), Bill Gates (1955), and Steve Ballmer (1956). Gladwell later argues that New York lawyers born in the early 1930s also had an enormous advantage when the boom in the number and size of corporate mergers, hostile takeovers, and litigation took place during the decade. of 1970, mainly due to the relaxation of federal regulations.
Gladwell proposes that it is the “10,000 hour rule” of hard work and practice that explains why many people achieve success. Provides examples of Bill Joy’s contributions to UNIX, Java, and the Internet; Mozart’s masterpiece was composed when he was twenty-one, although he began writing music at the age of six; the Beatles and their experience in Hamburg of playing music eight hours a day, seven days a week between 1960 and 1962; and Bill Gates who devoted thousands of hours of computer programming from the age of thirteen. Besides being smart, these people achieved success by doing 10,000 hours of practice before they became great at what they did.
Two other “secrets” are discussed extensively in Outliers: culture and education. Gladwell compares the safety record of airliners in the 1990s and notes that Colombian captains (Avianca) and Korean captains (Korean Air) in certain cases could have avoided plane crashes if their culture allowed subordinates ( co-pilots and flight engineers) speak and warn captains of impending disasters. Both of these cultures place a high value on power distance, meaning that subordinates defer to their superiors even when those superiors may be wrong. In short, subordinates were reluctant to speak out of fear and/or respect; a very dangerous cultural “dimension” when flying a passenger plane! Indeed, Gladwell argues that it matters where you were born and what culture you grew up in.
Citing culture again, Gladwell attributes the high math test scores in countries like China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan to the strong work ethic and demanding nature of these agriculturally important countries. wet rice Again, Gladwell fails to mention that rice is also grown in other countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, whose populations are not necessarily known for high math test scores. Nor does Gladwell mention the Protestant ethic of hard work that may have contributed to the rise of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, or the fact that growing tobacco used to be as demanding as working in the rice paddies.
Finally, Gladwell links the quality of education to success. Citing the longest high school days and hours in Japan and South Korea, “the school year in the United States is, on average, 180 days. The school year in South Korea is 220 days. The school year Japanese is 243 days. long.” Finally, Gladwell mentions the great advantages and opportunities offered by the KIPP Academy high schools that were started in the South Bronx, one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. KIPP students excel in math and reading, and a large percentage of them go on to college and “in many cases are the first in their family to do so.” KIPP school days begin at 7:25 and run until 5:00 p.m. All students take classes in thinking skills, English, science, math, social studies, music and orchestra. KIPP offers its students the opportunity to work very hard and excel.
Although written with a journalistic rather than an academic approach, Outliers has certainly contributed to ongoing thinking about success in the corporate world. It highlights the importance of hard work, determination, opportunity and luck, family upbringing, personal circumstances and culture.
Despite its shortcomings, primarily its lack of academic rigor, Outliers is a highly recommended book for those who want to explore the “secrets” of success beyond IQ and EI.
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