Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on January 17, 2010
This is a fine collection of Malcolm Gladwell's previous articles which appeared in "New Yorker" magazine. They cover things like:

1. Pitchmen, specifically Ron Popeil and the marriage of the message (Vegematic, Rotisserie) and the medium (TV).

2. Ketchup, why there is essentially only one kind of ketchup (hits 5 fundamental tastes together - salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami, the full bodied taste like in chicken soup) and one brand - Heinz (hits an 'amplitude' like Coke and Pepsi).

3. Nassem Taleb of 'Black Swan' fame. Investors don't behave with statistical orderliness - they change their minds. Random, unexpected events can sweep the markets like the Russian government defaulting on its bonds caused LTCM hedge fund to collapse causing panic to spread. So, his strategy is to ignore minor changes in the market and bet on big changes which will come unexpectantly but where really big profit is.

4. Hair Dye - Shirley Polikoff of Clairol's 'Nice n' Easy' with her 'Does she or doesn't she (translated from Yiddish), only her hairdresser knows for sure' and Ilon Specht of L'Oreal's 'I'm worth it' were the first stirrings of the feminism movement. Led to motivational research - like tying curing 'The Blahs' to Alka Seltzer.

5. John Rock's error marketing the birth control pill as preventing conception rather than reducing the risk of cancer - less menstruations, ovulations like in older times because women had less due to more children, breastfeeding, etc.

6. What the dog saw - unlike almost all animals a dog is a student of human movement - they look to you and other dog owners for help rather than judging other dogs. They judge the way a human body moves - forward or backward, face - relaxed or not, leash - tight or not.

7. Enron - was a 'mystery' not a 'puzzle' - requies a lot of analysis not just uncovering some missing pieces of information - it was the way the information could be interpreted. Whereas, 'Watergate' was a puzzle which 'Deep Throat' supplied the missing pieces of information.

8. Picture problem - Desert Storm equipment showed Scuds, but enemy used decoys to look like Scuds. Mammograms - approx 10k xrays only saved 3 lives, human finger more sensitive than expensive technology.

9. Plagiarism - courts too strict, old words in service of new ideas are no problem.

10. Connecting the dots - 1973 Israel war, other countries' mobilizations warned of imminent attck, but this was a common practice, hence not an error by Israel to ignore the mobilizations. A second piece of intelligence was needed - why different this time. 'Constructive Rivalry' needed, like with FDR and the Great Depression to have lots of competing opinions because so many factors caused the mess. FBI (law enforcement focuses on one case) whereas CIA (lots of situations) - need both perspecitives, not that they should always agree.

11. The art of failure - Choke, explicit learning overtakes implicit (like with some tennis players, golfers), whereas Panic is where thinking too little is the cause. JFK, Jr's plane crash was panic because he wasn't trained enough in instrument flying. 'Stereotype threat' like when some Blacks perform worse than should on some tests is a choke, not always a function of less knowledge (implicit) but fear of stereotype (explicit).

12. Blow-up - Challenger, Three Mile Island - complicated events - people did what was expected - 'normal' accidents, not screwups.

13. Late Bloomers, Most lkiely to succeed - value-added analysis necessary - teachers are more important than the schools and test scores, graduate degrees and certifications are not great predictors of teaching talent. Same with NFL quarterbacks - can't judge by college record or even specific tests. Good example are financial advisors - only requirement is college degree - companies know it is important to get as many candidates as possible - the same should be for teacher requirements.

14. Dangerous minds - serial killer can be categorized as organized or disorganized, but really more complicated - it is more likely a mixture.

15. The talent myth - assumes people make organizations successful, but really it is the other way around.

16. The Newboy Network - job interviews are a minefield in evaluating potential talent.

Overall, the book is a fun read with lots of things to think about.
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