Like Blink and The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell weaves a number of seemingly unrelated pieces of anecdotal evidence to create his latest work Outliers. The fundamental premise of the book is that conventional wisdom about success is flawed: factors publically praised are irrelevant and success or failure can be determined by a few core factors.
Gladwell raises a salient point that many of athletic and academic cut-off dates favour those born early in the year. Basketball Ontario and other organizations have realized this and have implemented strategies to provide more coaching for those born late in the year and recognize reliable indicators of talent not based on age. The author also mentions that nobody reaches a gifted level unless they put in ten thousand hours of practice. Then Gladwell talks about the nebulous nature of opportunity and how many diligent workers never receive a key chance to succeed.
The final half of the book includes a half-baked chapter about how Southerners may have short tempers and self-control may be passed down through the family like speech tendencies. Apparently, communication errors cause most plane crashes and the clarity in the relationship between supervisor and subordinate depends on culture. Lastly, it is argued that Asians perform better at math because of a more logical naming system for their digits and more hours of schooling.
Some of these points seem sensible when explained, even though they may be superficially counterintuitive. The problem with picking evidence in order to create an entertaining, quirky book is that sample size is very small. Gladwell interviews a partner at the firm who is his literary agent; many of the examples are not arbitrarily selected. The first hundred pages are more solid than what follows – which is highly inconsistent – and relevant for coaches and player development. The rest of the book is largely for entertainment only and does not absolutely prove the thesis it set out to establish.