‘Outlier’ is a statistical term that refers to data that falls outside the general standard deviation of a bell curve, the remarkably different from the norm. Subtitled The Story of Success, Outliers explores what underpins success - why do some people achieve so much more than most? We think we know, that it comes down to a combination of hard work, perserverence and intelligence, but are we right?
Gladwell takes a different individual or population success story in each chapter, from Bill Gates to Canada’s ice hockey teams, from the superiority of Asian students in maths to South Korea’s once-shocking crash record. He uses these cases to illustrate different aspects that contribute to success or, in the Korean example, failure. While hard work, perserverence and intelligence certainly play a part, Gladwell's central thesis is that luck and timing play a substantial but unacknowledged role.
His first chapter looks at an anomalous US population, the long-lived community of Roseto, where the usual killers like cancer and heart disease rarely occur despite no significant difference in diet or exercise between that and similar communities with more typical health and illness patterns. The key difference seems to be the sense of community and connectedness that Roseto brought from italy and has managed to keep.
In other chapters Gladwell looks at confluence of events and timing, the lasting effect of birth date of sporting success, the legacy of different agriculture techniques on the development of cultural norms, and how heirarchy and tact can have devastating outcomes if not modified for different environments.
Gladwell is able to draw together a seemingly disparate collection of research fields into a cohesive whole, which I find intimidating and inspiring.I have found his previous works accessable, illuminating and coherent, and Outliers is no exception. - Alex