Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Report: Outliers

I recently finished re-reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a terrific book, but re-reading it today gave it a whole new flavor for me.

The book talks about outliers (something that lies outside normal experience) and explains—with scientific precision almost—why they occur. More interesting, to me at least, is that by doing so Malcolm teaches perspectives, and how important it is to look at a situation from different angles/levels in order to clearly understand it.

Do you know why during the 80's thru to the 90's Korean Air was the airline most prone to crash? You're probably thinking: lousy flight crews or lousy maintenance, and lousy flight crews or maintenance equals airplane crashes. It's plain math (no pun intended). Intuitively it seems like the correct answer, but I'm afraid you would be wrong: The maintenance was excellent and the crews were highly trained. So why did they crash? They crashed—believe it or not—because of cultural issues. Because of something called the Power Distance Index (PDI). Something which caused first officers to, well, fail their duty. So much so that crashing seemed an "easier" option than saving the plane (you gotta read the book to get a full sense of this, it's crazy!)

If you enjoy looking at situations from different perspectives (or learning to do so) and are looking for a witty well-written book then I recommend you read Outliers—I couldn't put it down.

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