Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Lunch with Malcolm Gladwell #WBF11

I attended a small lunch with Malcolm Gladwell. The focus was Canada.

What does Malcolm have in common with Einstein?

I bet you said the hair but no, it is the genius. He is truly genius. His simple clarity is inspiring.

He has been thinking of "what is the advantage of being marginal" (meaning not the number one player, or leader etc). There are many advantages:

1 - The ability or privilege to observe and learn.
2 - Being non-threatening (this is why there are disproportionately more Canadian comedians (or Jewish, gay, indian or some other minority) - they are just not threatening.

The converse of that is "Leader pressure" which comes with high obligation.

He spoke of the health of countries. This can be measured by the distance between the 80th percentile and the 20th. As the distance gets larger (as it has in Canada), society becomes unstable. There is less common ground. I am part of the privileged top 20 but strongly agree that this is a problem. The riots in London and the protests on Wall St are worrisome.

He also says it harms innovation. This may be true but I challenge him to think that perhaps the ability of people to change their wealth might be the driver of innovation. So the American dream (Start with nothing and end up rich) would drive innovation.

He explained the reason Canadians' tend to have a larger view of the world than Americans. "You simply cannot fill 30 minutes with Canadian news so they fill it with international news".

And the reason advertisements are quirkier in Canada is the population is smaller (and the ad budgets) so there can be more "in" jokes.

When asked about "Blackberry's demise" by one of the audience, he replied "it is not patriotic not to have a Blackberry. Blackberry is way more efficient for email and for many people, this is what they need." So true -I agree with him.


At 7:43 AM, Blogger smr said...

I too attended the small lunch with Malcolm Gladwell and found your summary to be an excellent synopsis of the discussion, as well as a great reminder for me about the various topics discussed. I agree wholeheartedly that Malcom Gladwell's "simple clarity is inspiring."


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