I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s latest book, What The Dog Saw. Unlike The Tipping Point, Blink, or Outliers, which are basically “single” ideas expanded into book form, What The Dog Saw is a collection of Gladwell’s remarkable writing from The New Yorker. You can see this collection, in part, as ideas that elaborate or continue themes Gladwell talks about in previous books, and others that might fit into a future book as well.
Each of the pieces does a great job at what I think Malcolm does best- take a few stories, and deconstruct them, to underlying principals,as if each story were a puzzle piece to solving some larger mystery or problem you’ve thought about but never really found a solution to yourself. He is a fantastic story teller, and can make anything from ketchup to hair dye fascinating. (This link will take you to an audio excerpt from the book from the section on hair color).
But what I get most from Malcolm’s work is insight.
For example, I read about Ron Popeil in the early chapters, and the deconstruction of the infomercial pitch made me think about how those pieces are elemental to any sort of business- you need to have a product or service that can be the star, and you have to find a way to tell the Star’s story, make it intriguing, and then make sure you ask for the money, so everyone can share a piece of the Star’s story for themselves. If you take those pieces and then keep them in mind when you are, say, constructing a presentation, or your website, you start to look at it in a whole new light.
In later chapters, Malcolm talks about genius, and how we also make snap decisions- an idea that’s reminiscent of Blink. But it’s making me consider how we evaluate people, how people evaluate each of us, and what small things you can do to create better “impression management”. There are some people, and one of my children is this way, who are naturally charming and engaging. These are the people we love to be around- they seem to be extra alive and have that X factor that gains them attention whether they want it or not. As a parent, I see part of my job as developing the person behind the charisma, and trying to make sure my child has the smarts and experience to back up his charm. In the end, that first impression opens up doors and lets you have greater access to opportunity, but it’s the execution on that opportunity that will eventually determine whether or not you’re successful.
What The Dog Saw is one of those books I’ll keep coming back to, because there are stories in here, and puzzle pieces I’ll be combining and recombining for a while, to see what new picture shows up in the end. Thank you, Malcolm, for a new book that causes me to think and consider more than any other book I’ve read recently- there’s gold buried in these pages.
Thanks to the great folks at Little Brown Publishing, I received a set of Malcolm Gladwell’s books (pictured above) and they would love to send one of my readers their own complete set as well!
(I’m glad to have it, since I regularly lend out these books to friends, and ironically, my golden doodle took a bite out of What The Dog Saw, but didn’t do too much damage – here’s proof:)
(What the Dog Saw became briefly What the Dog Tried to Eat, but fortunately not too much damage).
Please leave a comment here or on one of the other posts I’ve written since November 15, 2009 on what I’m learning while reading “What The Dog Saw” and we’ll place all the names in a hat and do a drawing- I’ll announce the winners here, and Little Brown will send you a complete set for your own, just in time for the Holidays.
Thanks for stopping by, and even if you don’t win, I highly recommend What The Dog Saw. The sections make it easy to pick up and put down- a great book to read every night before bed, for example. I came away from the book simply in awe of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing and ability to tell stories- sometimes shifting in between diverse and seemingly incongruous stories, to show us the analogies and similarities that bring what makes us tick to light, and I only hope to aspire to that kind of brilliance in my writing.