Outliers: The Story of Success

In Outliers: The Story of Success, best selling author and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell, examines the environmental factors which have provided the opportunity for successful “outliers” to emerge in our society — those highly motivated achievers who outperform the bell curve of traditional expectations.

In this innovative and entertaining case study, Gladwell examines how the combination of personal determination and advantageous social  conditions have allowed highly successful individuals, such as the Beatles, Bill Gates, and the founders of the corporate law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, to cultivate the neceassary talents to take advantage of incredible opportunities when they presented themselves.

In addition, the author explores how cultural legacy affects an individual’s chances of success. Gladwell discusses how the NTSB investigations of conversations prior to plane crashes uncovered the cultural relationship between how individuals are socialized to interact with authority figures, and the ability of flight crews to communicate effectively during a crisis. In examining a series of flight recorders, experts found that cultures which are socialized to display higher deference towards authority figures were less likely to challenge perceived superiors and more likely to make mitigating statements during a crisis, leading them to inadequately express the necessary urgency to induce an emergency response. This discovery has resulted in better safety training throughout the airline industry. Gladwell also introduces a linguistic difference between how Asian and Western cultures communicate numbers and mathematical formulas which he believes may help explain why students in Asian countries consistently rank higher than their Western counterparts in Math and Science scores.

Outliers challenges the prevailing notion that success is simply the result of individual exceptionalism by examining the different social opportunities and cultural legacies between highly talented individuals who have enjoyed success, versus those who have gone unnoticed. The book explores the extent to which an individual’s community mores, social capital, and position in the social hierarchy affects their social opportunities and future chance of success. Gladwell suggests that recognizing and adjusting for cultural strengths and weaknesses creates a greater opportunity for individuals to achieve their maximum potential.


Malcolm Gladwell is a bestselling author, journalist and social theorist who is best known for his innovative  theories on complex social relationships.

He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996, and has written five New York Times bestsellers, which include: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), a collection of his journalism,entitled, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009),  and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (2013).



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