Malcolm Gladwell’s latest pop sociology book, Outliers, did not live up to the promise of its subhead: “The Story of Success.” As always with Gladwell, the tidbits of little publicized studies (e.g. the cultural reason for the excessive Korean Air plane crashes) and psychological tests (e.g. the impact of calling a Southern guy vs. New Englander an “asshole” on his way into a classroom study) were fascinating in their own right, the perfect fodder for cocktail chat. But, as has been the worsening trend with his trio of books, Gladwell simply doesn’t connect the social observations in a convincing – or useful – thesis.
While I still stand by The Tipping Point as an essentiel read for anyone in PR or marketing, Outliers felt like a lazy attempt. It was formulaic (and as a result will likely become a bestseller on the merit of the author’s past success), oftentimes condescending and surprisingly simplistic, especially in its generalizations on wealth and race.
For now, I’m sticking to my new favorite columnists, Chip and Dan Heath, whose book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is on my short list. For a taste of their insight, check out their column in Fast Company.