Archive for April, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell, MRU’s Ideas Series

When I heard Malcolm Gladwell was in Calgary (from Shannon Bowen Kelsik), I was very excited and I was very lucky to be able to get a ticket.

Gladwell talked about what sounds like the premise of a new book to me — he spoke on expert failure, so when you think you know more about a situation than you really do and you ingnore additioanal info that goes against what you were expecting and therefore make really, really bad decisions. The examples he gave were Fighting Joe Hooker, a general for Lincoln in the Civil War, and the bankers who were putting all of the money into the mortgage market prior to the economic meltdown.

One of the best things about the talk for me was the question portion. Something I’ve been repeating to everyone since I heard the talk was a comment about possible solutions, which was that the war in Iraq wouldn’t have happened if the US had Question Period. That was so great to hear, and Gladwell is an absolutely wonderful storyteller.

One other thing he talked about was Blink, and some learning he did about structuring his argument. He said initially he was going to give a story where snap decisions were very useful (the story about the kouros) and move through his argument to an example of snap decisions going horribly wrong, to question their validity at the end (the story about the police shooting). But he said people read the beginning and made up their minds that snap decisions were great. He was apparently mortified when one of the CEOs of a bank that went under had gotten all of his staff to read it.

And just for fun, here’s a short little clip from Gladwell on income inequality. He’s such a great storyteller!