Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A book a week in 2010: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a cultural theorist (and New Yorker journalist). His work is well known: The Tipping Point, Blink, this book - Outliers - and most recently What the Dog Saw. He has an easy way of cutting across complex cultural phenomenons, and kind of making sense of them.

I don't know about you, but I really like to understand who does what and why. It helps me deal with peoples' behaviour. And stops me taking it personally. So Malcolm is someone I have time for.

Outliers is his way of explaining why certain people seem to do better than others. Whether they are ice hockey players in Canada. Or Italian immigrants in the United States. Or really clever people that do well on Who Wants to be a Millionaire despite not having the 'right' background. Or how who you are and where you come from can influence a plane crash.

If you're like me, as with all Gladwell's books, you'll find yourself umming and aahing in recognition and empathy. He's always worth reading to get another take on the world. Bring on The Dog.

[Footnote: I was born in January. According to Gladwell, that should stand me in good stead.]
[Another footnote: I read this on my Kindle. And really enjoyed the experience of looking smart *and* geeky on the tube.]

Thursday, 8 April 2010

A book a week in 2010: Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson

I really like cheese. We have a fridge full at the moment. Stilton, brie, cheddar, cream cheese and parmigiana.

Don't you dare touch it though. It's all for me. And I'm staying here until it's gone.

I'm not sure what I'll do after that. Perhaps I should stay put? Wait for someone else to fill my fridge with cheese? There's a risk I may lose a bit of weight. Perhaps make myself a bit ill. I suppose I could always have a wander round to see if there's any more cheese lying around.

If only I'd thought about looking for more when it started to run out. If only I'd got myself down to the local farmer's market to stock up. If only...

This is a parable. It involves people, mice and cheese. It's a tale of four kinds of people.

1. Those that anticipate change.
2. Those who spring into action when they realise there is change.
3. Those that are threatened by change as they fear it will be for the worse.
4. Those who eventually adapt and see how change could be for the better.

I'd like to think I'm a mix of 1 and 2. But in the real world, I'm probably more of a 4. But who says I won't be able to change my perspective?

This would have been revolutionary when it was first published in 1998. It's rumoured to have sold over 24 million copies worldwide and is still stocked in quantity in Foyles St Pancras (as of this afternoon).

The concept of embracing change has never been more pertinent for publishing. What Dr Johnson also recognises is the need to embrace all four perspectives so you can work through change effectively.