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402 of 447 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Makes Success? A Little Blt of a Lot of Things. (A teacher's review), March 20, 2009
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This review is from: Outliers: The Story of Success (Kindle Edition)
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell seeks to disabuse us of the notion that genius and greatness are predominantly a function of innate ability and IQ. He rightly notes that while IQ is certainly a contributor, it reaches a "point of diminishing returns" after a while: once people score about 130, IQ becomes less important and "intangibles" (my term) become more important.

The book, then, focuses on what these "intangibles" are. Gladwell suggests that things like what income level, culture, and time of a child's birth are important contributors to success, as well as a person's tenacity and agility. As the last of these is the least conventional, think of it this way: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many other computer masterminds would likely not have distinguiished themselves were they born 10 years earlier (as they would not have been exposed to computers in high-school/college, and would have been in their mid-thirties by the time computers really took hold, likely already in other careers by that point in their lives.)

How does culture matter? Think about the discrepancy between how many days per year American children spend in school (180) versus Asian students (280), and how many more social expectaitons Asian students are borne into? Certianly this will affect academic and other achievement.

Now, I should point out that Gladwell is quite adept at anecdotal story telling and is much less adept at statistical analysis. As such, he could be justly accused of overstating his case (and maybe even finding patterns where he wants to see them, rather than where they exist.) Gladwell is definitely writing for the popular market so anyone wanting good "back up" of his arguments may find themselves disappointed by his cherry-picking of examples.

That said, Gladwell's book contains some interesting and provocative ideas, especially for educators and those concerned with education. His last chapter - about the KIPP schools - is a fascinating plea for American schools to infuse more rigor (and quantity) to the educational school year. As a main part of Gladwell's thesis is that how hard one works (and is willing to work) is endemic to one's likelihood of success, we set students up for failure by not expecting them to work as hard as other countries expect of their students.

For a fun read which introduces some interesting ideas, Gladwell's "Outliers" is a decent book. Those who want a little more scholarly meat may come away disappointed.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 11, 2014 8:31:47 AM PDT
drbobo says:
This book is only $3.99 on iBooks (I guess due to Amazon-Hachette fight!) Isn't competition wonderful! http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/10/technology/writers-feel-an-amazon-hachette-spat.html

Posted on Oct 5, 2015 7:11:06 PM PDT
KTF says:
I couldn't agree more with this review. Thank you for such a good quality review, especially your honest critique of the support of his ideas. I really enjoyed the book, but I also felt it often times overstated its case of cherry picked its data. Having said that- as you've so carefully worded, the book "contains some interesting and provocative ideas" and is a great read.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2015 5:57:59 AM PDT
MS Smithy says:
I suspect that Gates and Jobs would have found ways to distinguish themselves whenever they were born.
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