Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell talks serendipity in Manchester

I've missed the political drama this evening as I was sat listening to Malcolm Gladwell at the Lowry in Salford Quays. He opened his talk by mentioning that a blogger at his previous date at Oxford had been nasty about him. I was going to link to that as a counterpoint, but couldn't find it. I found a kind review here though. There, do you see what he did? *

Gladwell's story telling is multilayered and subtle. But he also draws heavily on emotional devices - like empathy. You take out lots of different things from his stories - personal nuances, moral choices as well as systemic insights.

His talk tonight was about serendipity and the quest for something that you don't quite know what it is, until you find it. There's a link to the same tale about oncological research in the New Yorker, here.

The first time I saw him last year I was exhilerated. This time I was deflated. Partly because of the sad ending to the story, but also because he seemed to come up short. It hasn't made me any less keen to hear him again or less likely to buy a book or read an article by him. Quite the reverse. Serendipity, you see. And a quest.

Thanks to Matt Johnson for organising the tickets.

* The nasty blog is here. Hat tip: Jonathan.


Unknown said...

the review he talked about is here :


i thought tonight was really good, but admittedly i haven't seen him before.

Anonymous said...

I was very disappointed, it was just dressed up dramatised American verbal diarrhoea!!! There was no depth and no valid point to the theme. Aleast I got my book signed!!! I will not be buying anymore for sure!!

Steve Livingston said...

I attended the Gladwell event too and had mixed feelings - overall positive.

I thought he was an excellent story-teller and presenter although I agree that he could have mixed up his stories more.

My favourite part was the reference to findings on good teachers although this was a small diversion from the main story. Yet I was entranced throughout.

Bizarre yet intriguing ending too!

Anonymous said...

I was so disappointed. I have read all his books and found his ideas entertaining and stimulating. I have to quarrel with the idea that good teachers cannot be made though...there is not much serendipitous about teacher education. I liked his previous premise that 10,000 hours of hard work is what creates talent and expertise.

Michael Taylor said...

I agree about the teachers theme being the most exciting bit. I think he was making the point that there's an X factor to teaching that over practising and experience can't perfect.

I wouldn't be happy if it took a teacher of any of my kids 10,000 hours to get good, it would be too late.