Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Book Review: Outliers

When you mix a plethora of wine with a group of highly opinionated New Yorkers who share a love of reading you come up with the group Reading Under The Influence. Every month we put down our blackberries and for an hour attempt to stop multitasking and engage in a thoroughly critical discussion of a selected work. Malcolm Gladwell’s newest work “Outliers” was chosen for January’s meeting of RUI.

Personally, I adore Gladwell’s writing style. It’s unusually clean yet drenched in details and facts. It’s thought provoking yet very comprehensive. I was surprised with the direction Gladwell took with "Outliers". A manifesto of sorts, “Outliers” is a sharp contrast to “The Tipping Point” and “Blink” which focus more on marketing, media, and the social psychology of our population. We also (for the first time) get a glimpse into the life and upbringing of Gladwell. Yet, “Outliers” left me wanting more and quite frankly a bit discourage. Gladwell concludes that without Vegas style chance or schmoozing up to that friend or family member that happens to have all the right connections, us normal people are basically shit out of luck. We’ll never see the success those fortunate Outliers have. The most we can do is work hard and hope for a little piece of the big pie one day.

“Outlier” is most adequately described as a funnel; with an overwhelming amount of usable content that is funneled down through to only the most relevant facts and people make the cut. Unfortunately, for that reason Gladwell avoids discussing counter research and a broader range of individuals which ultimately casts a shadow of doubt upon his theories.

For the purpose of RUI, Outliers could not have been a better fit. Our group consists of professors, artists, psychologists, finance and real estate gurus, as well as many more brilliant minds that all approached Malcolm’s theories differently. Quite quickly a one hour discussion and two bottles of wine turned into three hours and 8 bottles of wine. A discussion so rich in concepts and questioning, I believe we all left feeling refreshed and exhilarated. That is until we all awoke with the infamous red wine headache the following morning.

Below is an interesting Anderson Cooper interview with Malcolm Gladwell. Check it out.

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