I love Malcolm Gladwell. He offers us just the right amount of interesting business reading tossed with a large dose of off-the-wall research. Each time I read one of his books, I always learn something. “Tipping Point” gave us the circumstances that led to powerful change in cities and companies over the years. In the case of “Outliers” I was stuck by several powerful facts:
1. Your Culture can make a significant difference in your personal story of success. Culture can be an advantage, or a disadvantage or a disadvantage that leads to an advantage.
2. The amount you practice a skill is extremely significant. 10,000 hours seems to be the magic number. Gladwell estimates that many enormously successful people have all had at least this critical amount of practice. He cites the Beatles journey to Hamburg as a key element to their growth and development. Playing 5-7 hours a day seven days a week over a year and a half gave them the practice hours they needed to get really good.
3. The right place at the right time seems to be very significant in Gladwell’s research as well. Jobs and Gates were the beneficiaries of several circumstances that led to their success but one of the elements was their age in 1975 during the computer revolution: “young enough to be a part of it but not old enough to miss it”. Both were born in 1955 (as well as Eric Scmidt of Google). See my early blog on Digital Immigrants.
The book debunks a lot of “Horatio Alger pull-yourself-up-by-your-boot-strap-stories” with some extraordinary facts about both the successful and not so successful. He also debunks other common ideas. Of particular interest for me were the studies of a large sample of genius level kids conducted by Lewis Terman and reported extensively in Gladwell’s chapters “The Trouble with Geniuses”.
I am a research Junkie and I love what Gladwell has written here. My takeaway though is less than hopeful according to the statistics: Born in the wrong culture; at the wrong time (too early).
I do have a ton of practice in marketing/communications: 30 plus years at 8 hours per day equals at least 62,400 hours. So pick up the phone and give me a call!