Here are the details on the upcoming book by zeitgeist-seizer Malcolm Gladwell, America's Favorite Wacky-Haired Pop Scientician: it will be called Outliers and it's about people who are better than you. Why they're better than you, how they're better than you, and what circumstances led them to being so extraordinary. "Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band." There will be visits to eccentric geniuses doing eccentric things and lots of anecdotes about the peculiarities of the famously successful. It will end up on the desk of every goddamn corporate exec in the nation. We won't read it but we'll complain about it relentlessly. [Kottke] UPDATE: Gladwell's thesis, revealed below!
Gladwell is seriously becoming the "thinking" CEO's Stephen Covey. Here he is at the New Yorker Conference (which is the business-oriented sell-out version of their "festival") delivering a talk presumably based on the book. It's about how to hire great people, a topic he's sure you wrestle with at your organizations. He uses an elaborate sports analogy. You see, he went to the NHL scouting combine. You would think scouting combines would be great predictors of future success. BUT THEY'RE NOT. Conventional wisdom... overturned! It's quite obviously a centerpiece chapter of the book. It introduces "the mismatch problem," which is when "the criteria we use to prepare to assess someone's ability to do a job, is radically out of step with the actual demands of the job itself."
So. It turns out we don't know how to select teachers either! Or LAWYERS!
Mismatch problems grow as the complexity of workplace operations grow. So we need new ways of measuring success and ability. Ways Gladwell will explore in his upcoming book, available soon at an airport near you.