Outliers

OUTLIERS
The Story of Success

“Why Do Some People Succeed Far More Than Others?”

Malcolm Gladwell explores "success" in

OUTLIERS – The Story of Success

If you enjoyed Gladwell’s previous best sellers The Tipping Point and Blink, you will find his newest best seller OUTLIERS to be a great read – especially if you are involved in a family business.

“In my studies of family businesses, I have long been impressed by what causes family business entrepreneurs to launch a family business – and then go on to make the business successful, even generational,” notes top family business expert Don Schwerzler “There are the obvious factors – discovery of a niche market, process innovations, new inventions, technical skills, perseverance, long hours, hard work – and some good luck!” notes Schwerzler. “But given all of those factors, only about 30 % of family businesses successfully transition to the second generation; about 12% to the third generation; and only about 3% make it to the fourth generation.”

Schwerzler has been studying and advising family businesses for more than 40 years and he is the founder of the Family Business Institute. OUTLIERS is a fascinating book about success – not so much about a person’s innate abilility or intelligence – but taking a look at the broader set of circumstances that influence and impact “success”. The influence of family, environment, culture – and what we refer to as the “serendipity factor” when we are working with our family business clients.

In statistics, an “outlier” is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data – an anomoly.

Gladwell uses the word to present a new and different way of looking at what makes people successful – in “terms of generation, family, culture and class.” Some interesting questions asked and answered in OUTLIERS:

  • What is the key factor in being a successful hockey player in Canada?
  • Why do Asian kids do better at math than any other ethnic group?
  • Why were there so many “Hatfield - McCoy” types of bloody family feuds in Appalachia and not in other parts of the country?
  • Why is 10,000 such an important number?

One of the stories presented in OUTLIERS has to do with “mitigated speech,” a term used by linguists to note differential speech patterns – not only what we say but how we say it… or not!

According to Schwerzler, “Within the context of a family business, “mitigated speech” is a huge factor as to why so many family businesses have destructive communication issues in both the family and in the family’s business.”

Wikipedia – Speech Mitigation

The term was recently popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, where he defines mitigated speech as "any attempt to downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is being said"[5]. He continues with reference to Fischer and Orasanu [6], to describe 6 degrees of mitigation with which we make suggestions to authority:

1. Command – “Strategy X is going to be implemented”

2. Team Obligation Statement – “We need to try strategy X”

3. Team Suggestion – “Why don’t we try strategy X”

4. Query – “Do you think strategy X would help us in this situation?”

5. Preference – “Perhaps we should take a look at one of these Y alternatives”

6. Hint – “I wonder if we could run into any roadblocks on our current course”

Gladwell brings up the concept in the context of how crews relate to each other in the cockpit of a commercial airliner, graphically illustrating the degree to which mitigated speech can be detrimental in high risk situations which require clear communication.

We recommend OUTLIERS to anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the obvious and not so obvious factors that shape the ecology for “success”!



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