Reading Time: 2 minutes
My book review is on Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success. One of my favorite parts of the book was learning more about Gladwell’s ancestry, which he writes about in the Epilogue, so if you read the book, don’t skip that part. In his book, Gladwell examines the opportunities and legacy behind a number of highly successful people. Takeaways include:
  • Success comes from hard work and an accumulation of advantages. All of the successful people that he discusses have had, and taken advantage of, opportunities that not everyone enjoys. And many times, their legacy predisposes them to hard work, determination, and resilience. Successful people work very, very, very hard. It’s not just about innate talent or luck. Though talent and opportunity are big factors.
  • We are all products of the landscape into which we were born. Whether it’s money, location, or simply our birth month, some people are given arbitrary advantages over others. To build a project team, recognize this, and provide opportunities to all.
  • According to Gladwell, “The kinds of errors that cause plane crashes are invariably errors of teamwork and communication.” (p. 184) Aren’t many, if not most project failures caused by communication or teamwork breakdowns?
  • For work to be meaningful, it must be complex enough to require thought, allow us some autonomy, and help us connect the dots between effort and reward. When parents do meaningful work, they pass on the value of work to their children, giving them future advantages. Are your project team members all doing meaningful work?
  • Power distance is a measure of the respect for hierarchy and authority, and varies considerably from culture to culture. It plays a large role in airline safety. And it might play a large role on geographically diverse project teams, particularly if some people on the team come from countries with a particularly high or low power distance index. In my experience, even team members in the same location can pay vastly different levels of deference to people in authority. This can impact how employees talk and email with superiors.