03 January 2009

"Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell

I have recently finished the book "Outliers - the Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell. It was a quick and enjoyable read.

I was not so fast to read his first book "The Tipping Point" after its publication suspecting that other books I had read covered the point he was making better but in the end did not regret doing so either.

What first attracted me to buy Outliers was Chapter Seven "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes". This focuses on cases where copilots sometimes have shown too much deference to the captains of the airliners leading to disastrous outcomes. Gladwell focuses on the terrible run of crashes that Korean Air had. He looks at something called the Power Distance Index (PDI) developed by Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede as a partial explanation of why pilots from some cultures are safer than others, with a suggestion that those from New Zealand might be the safest (see page 209).

This led me to hunt on the web for some more serious reading on this subject and I came across a paper Culture, Error, and Crew Resource Management by Robert L. Helmreich, John A. Wilhelm, James R. Klinect, and Ashleigh C. Merritt from the University of Texas at Austin.

Other chapters also contained interesting ideas, some of which I could personally relate to. There are lessons for those interested in educational performance, particularly about the pay off from putting in hours of hard work to master mathematics, computer programming or music for example.

Reviews of Outliers have appeared in:

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