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For The Guys: Malcolm Gladwell as Hip Intellectual

abstract:

If you're looking for a book you, your husband, boyfriend or co-worker might like, look no further than Malcolm Gladwell. The wunderkind writer for NewYorker magazine is influencing all the hip-intellectuals with his first two books... (photo by Brooke Williams)

  

article:

April 24, 2005
 Malcolm describes his first book, The Tipping Point as "an intellectual adventure story." It is a must-read for educators, parents, marketers, business people and policymakers. His latest book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking causes us to stop and realize the importance of information received during that first "blink of an eye". 

When you stop and think about the modern world, it's a truism that we process information faster and more deliberately than ever before. The first moment you meet someone, without knowing it you are using every bit of information at your disposal to measure the situation.

Malcolm discovered that simply by growing his hair long, he was suddenly treated completely differently by the world; police were pulling him over and treating him like a criminal—for that one thing! It became important to him to understand what goes on in that first two seconds. 

"The Tipping Point" was concerned with grand themes, with figuring out the rules by which social change happens. "Blink" is quite different. It is concerned with the smallest components of our everyday lives--with the content and origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that bubble up whenever we meet a new person, or confront a complex situation, or have to make a decision under conditions of stress. I think its time we paid more attention to those fleeting moments. I think that if we did, it would change the way wars are fought, the kind of products we see on the shelves, the kinds of movies that get made, the way police officers are trained, the way couples are counseled, the way job interviews are conducted and on and on--and if you combine all those little changes together you end up with a different and happier world."

 

 

Other interesting examples about intuitive thinking included the "no huddle" story where he links a war game the Pentagon played prior to the Gulf War to determine who would win. The person playing Saddam acted with a crescendo of tactics that swamped the think-tank opponent who wound up loosing.  Gladwell applies the same principle to a prosaic football scenario that skips the huddle and has players acting on natural instinct.

Then there's the method Symphony recruiters practice to avoid visual preconceptions of an applicant by having them play behind a screen—which resulted in more women obtaining positions than previous unblinded recrutiment methods. The idea is to open your mind up to the possibilites created in a blink as well as those overlooked in a blink.

I love the way his brain works.  In his book review of a 1950's novel, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, which was subsequently adapted to film and played by Gregory Peck there is an interesting analysis. Gladwell compares the morality of the main character, the standards of the day and teases out discrepancies between that time and our time with profundity. It speaks to family, love, war, abuse, trauma and how not even scientific conclusions can influence people when they've got a firmly held belief.  Reading Gladwells's essays are as interesting as his books.

[Purchase these books from Bookbuffet and enter to win an Apple iPod mini.  Contest rules: Must be a Bookbuffet Member; Must have purchased two books using the hyperlinks in any BookBuffet article or using the "Buy Book" feature on BookBuffet bottom Navigation; Must send us an email with the subject line "Enter me for the iPod" including date and proof of books you purchased via BookBuffet; Must be within the dates of the contest.April 24th-May 24th, 2005]

 

 

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