You know I love Malcolm Gladwell, and I have read all his books but one. So when I got my hands on “What the Dog Saw,” I could not wait to read it. And I can say that Malcolm Gladwell never disappoints me. Malcolm is a writer for The New Yorker, and this book is basically a collection of his best essays ever published there. He's inherently curious about how people think and loves stories about heroes who don't always make it to the big headlines. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons that I learned from the book.
Key Lesson #1: Always question assumptions and conventional wisdom
Gladwell says that things are often way more complex than they sound, and he tells multiple stories to show that we need to go beyond surface-level assumptions. For example, there is a widely accepted notion that if you have a company and want to make it successful, it requires constant innovation, and you need to change your product often. But look at Ketchup as just one example. Even though ketchup has remained relatively unchanged in terms of flavor and formula, it is still very popular. Or, in the case of the Challenger shuttle explosion, common belief was that the lack of information resulted in that disaster. But Gladwell says that it was not the absence of data but the wrong interpretation of data that caused the explosion. These are just two examples that Malcolm uses to say how important it is to ask questions and not accept things at face value. The lesson here is that true understanding often lies beneath the surface, waiting to be uncovered by those willing to question and explore.
Key Lesson #2: For meaningful growth, carefully examine your failures
We all have some blind spots, and it is important to understand the unique patterns and factors that contribute to our setbacks rather than adopting a broad view of failure. If we can understand the real cause of the failure, then we can use it to achieve meaningful growth and success. For example, there is a concept in sports called “choking,” where some athletes that are very skilled underperform under high-pressure situations. Malcolm talks about Jana Novotná, who was a very famous tennis player but choked during the Wimbledon final. He then examines the specific circumstances and psychological aspects that led to Novotná's failure to show how important it was to pinpoint the unique elements that resulted in that failure. If you dig deep to examine your failures, you can develop targeted strategies to improve and avoid repeating the same mistakes. Failure is often a complex interplay of factors, and uncovering these intricacies is key to meaningful growth and success.
Key Lesson #3: Always look at issues from multiple perspectives
Malcolm argues that issues, even the ones that look simple, might be actually very complex. And if you examine different angles and viewpoints, you’ll realize that there is often more than one way to interpret a situation. Malcolm gives the example of Ron Popeil, who was an inventor of kitchen gadgets and went on to become very successful. Malcolm says that Ron’s success wasn’t because of the products he created but his ability to connect with the diverse perspective of his customers. Ron’s pitch was like an art and resonated with the needs and desires of his consumers. We should all learn from him and see the world through the eyes of a pitchman. By doing so, we can see different perspectives and communicate effectively. There are always multiple angles you can explore when considering a situation, and you should never limit yourself to just one.
So in summary, Malcolm Gladwell encourages us to do critical thinking. He says that it is important to question assumptions and conventional wisdom. Also, for meaningful growth, you need to examine your failures and learn from them. And finally, there are always multiple perspectives you can look at one issue, and you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one.