Thursday, April 07, 2011

Review: Outliers

Outliers is an interesting counter-point to Talent is Over-rated. The big thesis behind the book is that context matters to success. Success doesn't always just comes from being smarter, being harder working, or even just coming from the right background.

We start off with Hockey players in Canada, and discover that due to the selection process, top hockey players tend to come from those who were born earlier in the year. That's because they're physically bigger and therefore more able to compete during the selection, and training takes care of the rest. I now have to wonder whether this applies to intellectual development as well.

Then we romp through a series of other stories, one examining plane crashes and cultures of deference, one exploring how Jewish law firms rose to the top in New York City (it was all about hostile take overs), exploring the success of Asians in math. The last story has a great followup, about KIPP's approach to education. Taking a page from Asian schooling systems, they have school from 7:30am to 5:00pm every day, send kids home with lots of homework, and have Saturday schooling! Sounds like Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? Except that these are inner city schools desperately giving poor under-educated kids a chance at college --- and they succeed! Sounds like hard work is the key to success after all, or at least, to being able to lift yourself out of poverty.

All in all, a quick and entertaining read, and shows the Tiger Mom Controversy for what it is: a paper tiger. Recommended.
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