What the Dog Saw

{5/5} “If we let personality… bias the hiring process today, then all we will have done is replace the old-boy network, where you hired your nephew, with the new-boy network, where you hire whoever impressed you the most when you shook his hand. Social progress, unless we’re careful, can merely be the means by which we replace the obviously arbitrary with the not so obviously arbitrary.”

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, published in 2009

What the Dog Saw is Malcolm Gladwell’s book of articles on various topics. I resisted giving this book 5/5 a little bit, since I’d already given The Tipping Point and Outliers both 5/5 — but it deserves it.

You may find that one or two of the articles is on a topic you aren’t that interested in, but on the whole the book contains a lot of fascinating — and important — information.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is titled “Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius.” We meet Ron Popeil, the ultimate pitchman — he would invent something new and then go out and sell it to people, extremely successfully. We meet John Rock, inventor of the Pill, and discover why there might be a better strategy than the one millions of women have used. And we meet Cesar Millan, also known as the Dog Whisperer, who knows that dogs pay attention to humans like no other animals do.

Part two is titled “Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses.” We learn how much it costs to keep a homeless person on the street and what a better response would be if we could bring ourselves to value efficiency over fairness. We learn how after an attack like 9/11 a lot of people “connect the dots” and claim that we should have known it was going to happen, conveniently ignoring all the other dots. We learn that the huge effort made in investigating disasters (e.g., the space shuttle Challenger) might not make us safer.

Part three is titled “Personality, Character, and Intelligence.” Gladwell discusses prodigies (e.g., Picasso) and late bloomers (e.g., Cézanne) and how late bloomers require one or more patrons. He compares the hiring process for teachers and financial advisers and finds the process for teachers lacking. He argues that employers should use structured interviewing to hire the right people (the quotation at the top is from this article).

Gladwell writes in a way that’s a joy to read. All of his books are filled with astounding information — I feel like I’m better prepared for the 21st century now that I’ve read three of his books, and I will undoubtedly read the other one.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 at 8:18 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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