Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review: Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers

We are voracious book worms here at E-creation and always looking for something interesting to read (any suggestions?) Even though this book is over a year old,  it is our 'must read' book for 2011:
Malcolm Gladwell's 'Outliers'

Malcolm Gladwell scores a hit with another one of his books in our office, this time with the rather quirky 'Outliers'. Vaguely reminiscent of Freakonomics, Gladwell takes a look at people and unusual statistical 'outliers', analysing how 'destiny' drives success.

As Malcolm put it himself 'Did you know that there's a magic year to be born if you want to be a software entrepreneur? And another magic year to be born if you want to be really rich?' when explaining his book. Sports stars have 'magic months' to be born, with a huge percentage of professional hockey and  football players being born in January, February and March. This tendency can be seen across the world for professional player's birthdays for virtually all sports professions.

The question for Malcolm was why? Selection months. Put simply, most team sports require a cohesive team and therefore select team members at a specific point in the year to give the team a full year to play together. If two 12 year olds are competing for a position in a team in a December 'selection month', a 12 year old born in January will have 11 months more experience and physical growth than the 12 year old born in December. This significant competitive advantage means that if you are born in the wrong month of the year, the chances of becoming a professional sports person are very low (unless parents 'fudge' birthdays to fit into the right age category).

The strapline 'the story of success' really encapsulates this book's aim of demonstrating that 'destiny' exist but it's actually a science of statistics. Malcolm explores the ecosystem that has made Bill Gates a success & why Columbian and South Korean pilots are more likely to crash; "How good a pilot is, it turns out, has a lot to do with where that pilot is from—that is, the culture he or she was raised in. I was actually stunned by how strong the connection is between culture and crashes, and it's something that I would never have dreamed was true, in a million years" says Malcomb Gladwell.