I have been trying to include the books that I have read and what I have thought of them. For my last class in my MBA program we had to choose a book to read out of several options our professor gave us. I chose to read Gladwell’s Outliers. We then had to write a critical analysis on the book. So instead of rewriting what I thought about the book I thought I would just let you read my entire analysis that I turned in. Hope you enjoy!
Are you an Outlier?
A Critical Review of the book Outliers
Biographical Sketch of the Author:
Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist who has many accomplishments under his belt. He is the author of Outliers: The Story of Success, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Both The Tipping Point and Blink were number one New York Times bestsellers. In addition, he is a staff writer for the New Yorker. Gladwell’s books deal with research in psychology, sociology, and social psychology. Malcolm Gladwell shows competency in the above areas. Throughout the book I felt very confident and very trustworthy of what he was stating. In 2007, Gladwell received the American Sociological Association’s first award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues. Also in 2005 Time Magazine named Malcolm Gladwell as one of its 100 most influential people. Most people view Gladwell as one of the most successful journalist in the world.
Summary of Contents:
Gladwell states in the book: “This is a book about outliers, about men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary.” Outliers is a book that views why some people succeed in life while others do not. Malcolm continues on to state that he will argue that there is something wrong with the way we make sense of success. Malcolm examines this thesis through two different sections. Throughout the book Gladwell suggests that things like income level, culture, and the era in which the child is born are all important contributors to success. These contributors to success are seen throughout the nine chapters found in this book. Each chapter is dealing with a different aspect of what makes a successful person.
The first chapter discusses the Matthew Effect by looking at the success of hockey players. He examines why the majority of successful Canadian hockey players are born primarily in January. The explanation of this is that the cutoff date is January 1st. So someone born in January will be playing with someone who is months younger than them. This gives those born in January an initial advantage over the rest in their age group. The Matthew effect was named by the sociologist Robert Merton after the Gospel of Matthew scripture. This scripture states: “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”
The second chapter discusses the 10,000 hour rule. In this chapter he examines Bill Joy, one of the most influential people in the computing world. In the chapter he states: “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” Gladwell discuss why Bill Joy became successful. In the book an important theory for this chapter is “practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” In this chapter he goes on to discuss the success of Bill Gates as well as how when you were born makes a difference if you are successful or not.
Chapter 3 and 4 discusses IQs and geniuses and how it affects whether the person is successful or not. The first example he provides in these chapters is Chris Langan. Langan was a contestant on the reality show One Versus, One Hundred. The main point that Gladwell makes about Langan is that he has a higher IQ than Albert Einstein. During the show Langan decided at $250,000 to take the money that the risks were not worth it. The chapter goes on to view the work of Lewis Terman. Terman once said: “there is nothing about an individual as important as his IQ, except possibly his morals.” Terman believed that those with the highest IQs is where we will find the leaders who advance in the various fields of study. Gladwell goes on the show us that many of Terman’s ideas remain central to the way we think of success. Gladwell moves to show that intelligence has a threshold. This threshold is what many people call common sense. However the psychologist Robert Sternberg calls “practical intelligence.” To Sternberg, practical intelligence includes things like “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.”
In chapter 5, 6 and 7 Gladwell talks about where you and your family come from effects whether you will be successful or not. He does this through examinations of Jewish immigrants and their children and grandchildren, also the residents of Harlan, Kentucky and other Appalachian areas, as well as how PDI affects plane crashes. He states that, “People are products of particular places and environments.” In these chapters Gladwell makes a good point: “The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.” He goes on to state: “Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them.”
In chapter 8 and 9, Gladwell discusses how and why the Asian countries are so good at math and how working hard can present an opportunity to become an outlier. He uses the example of how the rice paddies farmers live and how they spend their days. He goes on to explain that in China the number words are much shorter than their American counterparts. This makes it easier for younger children to learn which means they learn at a younger age when means they progress faster as well. Gladwell states “That means when it comes to math, in other words Asians have a built in advantage.” Chapter 8 provides many examples that “success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard.” He continues by stating that “Outliers are those who have been given opportunities-and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”
I normally do not enjoy a book that I have to read for a class however I thoroughly enjoyed many aspects of this book. The author introduced new terms and theories that I wasn’t aware of and some that I have studied in the past. The new theories I had no prior knowledge of were well defined and because of this I am well aware of them and understand them.
I think overall there are some issues that need to be addressed with this book. First off the majority of the research presented in the book is not done by the author himself. The research presented is done by professionals in their selected fields of study however this presents a problem with the overall book. Because the research does not belong to Gladwell himself it means that he could pick and choose research that supported his thesis statement versus presenting a more rounded view of the research. It presents a problem with accepting his theories because of the lack of his own research. It also provides doubt in the overall theme of his book.
I think overall many people should benefit from reading this book. It continues to open people up to new ideas and gets the reader to seriously think about why they are successful or why they aren’t successful. The main audience for this book is business professionals, members of the educational stream, as well as psychological and sociological members of society. However anyone interested in the subject matter of success is perfectly able to read this book. There are many technical terms throughout this book however they are well defined where you don’t have to be familiar with the information to make sense of the book.
This book provides me a new perspective of how I will view my life and also how I will view opportunities in the future. It also provides a new view on what I have done in the past. This book is very thought provoking. I believe that after reading this book many people will view their lives very differently.
There were several points I found very interesting however one of my favorites is the 10,000 hour rule. In order to be the best at something you need to invest many hours and according to Gladwell’s book 10,000 hours to be exact. This point throughout the book was one of the easiest for me to accept because while I was growing up my parents always told me practice makes perfect. This is the point I believe Gladwell is trying to make. You want to be good practice and do it again and again. The 10,000 hour rule makes sense on so many different levels. He provides great examples to this rule and it is so easy to comprehend.
However my least favorite subject matter throughout the book was the chapter about rice paddies and mathematics. This chapter to me seems very stereotypical and could pose a problem to those of Asian descent. Yes most Asians are great in the educational stream as well as in Math specifically. However this is not true for every Asian. I think that the chapter would have been better if he would have presented more research on the subject versus just his views. I believe yes overall Asians tend to be better at math and are more disciplined as a whole in the educational system. However there are some who are not that well rounded or not good at Math. In addition stating that they are good in these areas because they work harder is one thing. I believe it would have been much better to state that because of the work ethic bestowed upon them and the hours they put into their education is why they are more successful. The one thing that I was very interested about in this chapter is the language differences in the numbers. The point that it is much easier for children in China to learn their numbers than children in the States is very interesting. I believe that the language difference is an initial advantage for the Chinese children however I believe in the average home it depends more on the parents and the child then the language.
The section on Marita and the reading gap between poor, middle class, and high class groups was also very interesting to me. It caused me to seriously think about the debates on the education system we are having today. It was very interesting that during the school year the scores were relatively close and only enlarged during the summer breaks. This presents a valid argument for why the educational system is failing our students. Gladwell presents a perspective on the education system that I think more people should be aware of and take into consideration. I think that people are catching on to this theory that the problem isn’t that our children have too much school but not enough. As someone who eventually wants to move into the education system this pose a problem for me. I would like not only the children I teach but also the children I have in the future to receive the best possible education they can. With schools moving to year round education with shorter breaks is one way that people accepted the thesis of this section. It is a shame we didn’t recognize it earlier.
In our Introduction to Psychology classes we all learned about IQs and geniuses. There is a fine line between being a genius, being normal, and then having medical issues because of your IQ. The author goes through this in the book. In psychology class this information was never really interesting and very hard to understand. However Malcolm Gladwell made a subject that many people don’t wont to examine interesting. It doesn’t take someone who is a genius to become successful. You can have a normal IQ and become a successful person. We commonly hear you are not smart enough to become a successful person however the chapters in Gladwell’s book dealing with this subject matter state otherwise.
Another issue that I had with the book is sometimes I felt like the author was going too far into the subject matter. He would state it one way then turn around and state it another way, then restate it as the complete story. When he did this it was hard to reread something that I just read and stay “into” the book. I think by stating this is the story without the opportunities and then this is the story with the opportunities would have resulted in the same feel. It would have had a much better flow as well as kept me and others drawn in at all times.
There are no right answers to many of the theories Gladwell has examined. Is it because Bill Joy stayed up to all hours of the night programming that he became a successful programmer, is it because he accomplished 10000 hours of programming that he became great, or was it because he was destined to be successful? There are many ways that the stories in this book can be examined however Gladwell’s points are knowledgeable and convincing. The author makes convincing arguments that hard work, determination, and persistence anyone can become successful!
In the Epilogue of the book, Gladwell describes how he became an outlier. To me this was the most important point he made in the book. It wasn’t because he was an outlier it was the he had the sense to recognize that he was successful because his parents and grandparents and the opportunities that were presented to them and eventually to him. He applied what he discussed throughout the entire book in this one section. I think one thing that separates true Outliers from those who believe they are “self-made” is the ability to accept it was the opportunities and the people around them who made them successful.
I truly enjoyed reading this book and have learned a lot of information that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about or would have been interested in. However now that I am done with this book I am very interested to see how Gladwell examines other issues of importance throughout his other books. I truly enjoyed learning new perspectives into subject matter I was already aware of as well as learning new subject matter. This book should be on everybody’s bookshelf. It doesn’t matter whether you necessarily believe what Malcolm Gladwell is describing, it matters that he gets you thinking. He points you to some solutions to problems. He describes it so that anyone could read it and understand it. A positive aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed is that the author cites that Outliers normally don’t come from Ivy League schools they can come from anywhere.
Success is not an easy journey and there are always particular events and factors that will enable it. No one is really self made, which is the point that Gladwell is trying to make. The author is clear that what makes someone successful is that opportunity and preparation coming together. This isn’t the first book on success and it will not be the last however it does give us many pointers that we may use to realize our opportunities.
The information in the biographical sketch of the author was taken from his page at Amazon.com
The summary and quotes were all taken from the book Outliers written by Malcolm Gladwell.