Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success

TAKE THE LID OFF AND RELEASE YOUR POTENTIAL

When comedian Steve Harvey was in sixth grade, his teacher asked the class to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. Harvey wanted to be on TV and wrote this on the paper. The teacher scolded him for writing down something impossible and told him to go home and write down something more realistic. His father helped him come up with a more “believable” profession — policeman — but told “little Stevie” to keep the paper and look at it daily and believe that he would someday be on TV.

Today, the versatile Harvey — comedian, talk show host, game show host — is on TV seven days a week. In his book, Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success, Harvey credits his father for “popping the lid” on his expectations  — a reference to a metaphor concerning fleas in a jar. Fleas, Harvey writes, can jump to 200 times their size. Put them in a jar with a lid on it, and they are soon jumping only as high as they can without hitting the lid. Too many people, Harvey continues, are prevented from jumping to their full potential by a metaphorical lid — a lid that is often put on by naysaying people around them. “You have to take the lid off, no matter who put it on or how long it has been there.”

Everyone Has a Gift

Harvey’s own story is one of perseverance in the face of incredible hardship and setbacks. Having left his factory jobs to pursue his dream of becoming a comedian, Harvey would eventually find himself divorced and homeless, living out of his car. Today multimillionaire Harvey travels on his own private plane. At the core of his success, he writes, is his belief in his gift: to make people laugh. It is the one thing that is at the core of everything he does, and it is from this gift that everything else has come.

Everyone has a gift, which he defines as “the single thing that you do at your absolute best with the least amount of effort.” A gift is beyond a job or a skill. It is something that is always present in every context. The gift might be playing sports or performing on stage, but it could also be solving problems, listening to others, working with children or even creating flower arrangements. “Your gift is something that is connected to you whether you are working or vacationing, whether you are with the family or even all alone,” he writes. “Your gift cannot be taken because of downsizing or given to you because someone creates a job description. Your gift exists because you do.”

Find the Vehicle

Once the gift is identified, the next step is to attach it to a “vehicle.” For Harvey, success is achieved by attaching the gift to a series of “vehicles,” each vehicle taking you on another step in the journey. Harvey compares the journey to a long bus trip during which you will have to transfer multiple times from one bus to another. Harvey decided to become a comedian in his late twenties after winning an amateur-night contest. That contest was his first vehicle. He transferred to the professional ranks with a $25 paying gig. A later transfer took him from $350 per week to $750 per week. Yet a later transfer took him to earning $60,000 per week in large venues.

The challenge, however, is not to skip ahead. Start where you are now, he writes, then look for the transfer. Floral arrangement, for example, might not seem to be a gift that can lead to entertainment-level riches. Yet there is one person (whom Harvey knows) who flies around the world designing floral arrangements for all the Four Seasons hotels as well as major programs such as the Grammys and The Queen Latifah Show. This gentleman began with creating the floral arrangements for a small hotel that did not appreciate his talent.

As one might expect from a Christian who refuses to talk to atheists, Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success is packed with references to God. An example of his Christian approach is when he writes, “Look here’s the real light: If you are still waking up every day, it’s because God has a greater plan for you, and it’s not yet completed. Every day is an opportunity to see your light as a gift.”

It is “the Creator,” he writes, who gave you your gift. But whether or not you believe that your success is God’s plan, the focus, perseverance and, above all, belief in oneself at the heart of Harvey’s message will inspire those who, as he writes at the beginning of the book, are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Building Lasting Value in Business and Life

LEADING WITH YOUR LEGACY IN MIND

Who Are You Becoming?

For business coach and psychologist Andrew Thorn, the goal in life should not be to achieve a work/life balance that he believes was never meant to exist. After all, as he writes in his inspirational new book, Leading with Your Legacy in Mind: Building Lasting Value in Business and Life, work is about quantity (salaries, financial results, purchases you can afford), while life is about quality; and no matter what we do, we will spend most of our waking hours on work.

Instead of an impossible and unnecessary work/life balance, Thorn argues that it is better to strive to achieve a legacy that emerges from making the most of both life and work. The term “legacy” is often misunderstood, he writes. Legacy is also, like life, measured as a quality, not a quantity. “It is measured by what we learn and by who we become as a result of our learnings,” he writes, not by “quantities of stuff we accumulate.” Instead of something that is simply left behind, legacy is something that is created every day and that “encompasses your past, present and future.”

In short, he explains, your legacy “is not about what you are doing or about how much money you are making. Instead, it is about who you are becoming and how you are influencing others to live up to their own legacy.”

Why Purpose Is Better Than Passion

Having established the concept of legacy as a journey rather than the left-behinds of a life, Thorn helps map that journey through 10 “legacy arcs” that move us in the right direction. At the left side of each arc are the behaviors and tendencies that, he writes, “makes us attractive to our employers, peers and direct reports, but… do not shape our impact or create our legacy.” For that, he urges us to move to the behaviors and tendencies on the right side of the arc.

For example, instead of passion, which can lead to obsession, excess, a lack of control, and a distraction from other important facets of our lives, Thorn proposes a focus on purpose. Purpose is a much more reliable guide, he writes, because “it gives us the ‘why’ for what we do each day… Purpose gives us the focus we need in order to ensure that the work we are doing is aligned with our priorities.”

The arc from passion to purpose is the first of four legacy arcs that helps us align who we are as leaders with our deepest desires and priorities. The other three alignment arcs are change to growth, goals to aspirations and balance to focus. For collaboration and connecting “our hopes and strengths with those of the people we collaborate with in the workplace,” Thorn proposes a shift from accepting to understanding, discussion to dialogue and listening to hearing.

The final three legacy arcs — from success to significance, ambition to meaning and growing older to growing whole — help us understand the true purpose of our work, he writes. “This makes it possible for us to see the big picture so that we can use our enlightened understanding to better identify how our work-related actions are contributing to our leadership legacy.” To solidify the practical lessons of these chapters, Thorn uses numerous real-world examples and finishes each chapter with “key leadership lessons” and a leadership questionnaire.

Journey Through the Four Seasons

Of course, no one acts in a vacuum. In the third section of the book, Thorn discusses through the metaphor of the four seasons the environmental conditions and circumstances that affect our legacy-making efforts: our early “spring” years of followership; the middle “summer” years when we’re assigned formal leadership jobs; and eventually the “fall” time of harvest, when we gather the fruits of our work for sustaining purposes and, Thorn writes, “share our yield with others through carefully selected acts of service.” Then comes the dormant “winter” period, a time of renewal or satisfied retirement.

For readers of personal development or inspirational books, many of the terms such as “growth” or “dialogue” or even “significance” in Leading with Your Legacy in Mind will likely be familiar. Yet, Thorn’s insightful and sometimes contrarian approach to leadership legacy combined with the clarity and succinctness of his framework will make the most jaded readers sit and rethink whether it’s time to reset their professional priorities and goals.

The Power of Winning Relationships

Have you been blindsided by a colleague’s words or actions? Are you plagued with the worst of office politics, shifting alliances and silos? Are your results impacted by poor communication or misaligned expectations? Would you like to establish rules of engagement that enhance relationships and accelerate success?

Wouldn’t we all like to have better relationships with those around us? But how do you cultivate strong, successful, fruitful relationships on a consistent basis?

Morag Barrett, author of Cultivate, shows you how to cultivate winning relationships. Cultivate is not a “be nicer” message. Morag bring years of global success and practical insight to transform your working environment. Whether you’re a seasoned leader, or new in the workplace, you’ll see the world of work in a whole new way.

If you would like to learn how to cultivate winning relationships, please join us and Morag on April 23rd for The Power of Winning Relationships, and learn how to increase collaboration & results, how to grow relationships in & outside your workplace, and practical tools to navigate every relationship in your career.

What You Need to Know to Cash In on Your Inspiration

IDEA TO INVENTION

Anyone Can Be an Inventor

One day, Patricia Nolan-Brown was driving in downtown Boston with her young child in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat, as required by law. On arriving home, she complained to her mother about the frustration of not being able to see the child as she was driving to make sure that she was okay. In her book, Idea to Invention, Nolan-Brown describes how she told her mother that “Somebody should invent some kind of a special mirror so you could see your kid in the stupid rear-facing car seat.” To which her mother replied, “Why don’t you invent one?”

Nolan-Brown did just that and transformed that one day of frustration into a lucrative career as an inventor and entrepreneur who would sell millions of her products. In Idea to Invention, she emphasizes that you don’t have to have a business degree from Harvard or trust-fund seed money to invent and sell products. “The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m an ordinary person,” she writes, and her book is clearly designed for readers who are looking for the basic steps for turning their dreams into reality.

What It Takes

Successful people, according to Nolan-Brown, display the following characteristics:

They are inquisitive. “An inventor’s best friend,” she writes, “is curiosity.” They have the nerve. Many people have great ideas but don’t have the self-confidence to make it happen.They have a strong voice. They communicate passion and truth. They have energy. They keep their bodies healthy and their minds sharp.They nourish their dreams. If their passion or commitment begins to fade, they find inspiration and courage in workshops or seminars, biographies and autobiographies, mentors and networking, and a variety of other sources. They are tenacious. They believe in what they are doing and refuse to give up.

Not coincidentally, the first letter of these six success personality traits form the acronym INVENT.

Once Nolan-Brown has explored the six personality traits, she offers readers her six steps to invention.

Think it. It all starts with an idea. Start with what you know; then think outside the box.

Cook it. Is your idea marketable? Will it sell? What does a prototype look like? These are the questions that need to be answered to start moving the idea from just an intellectual concept.

Protect it. Nolan-Brown guides potential entrepreneurs through what they have to do — and they might not have to do — to protect their idea.

Pitch it. Entrepreneurs must know how to generate excitement around their idea, which might involve social media, trade shows and more.

Make it. Should you license the idea and have others put it together, assemble the product, or outsource it to an overseas manufacturer?

Bedazzle it. This is the bells and whistle phase, making sure the product attracts buyers for years to come.

Every chapter in Idea to Invention is filled with concise, practical advice. In the “Make It” chapter, for example, she explains the advantages and disadvantages of licensing. She warns that online submission companies are paid to do what you could probably do just as easily. She explains some of the basics of starting a business, describes the challenge of outsourcing manufacturing, and offers the essential steps for at-home DIY assembly.

Nolan-Brown ends the book with an inspirational chapter called “You Can Make It Happen.” But perhaps the true inspiration is found through the clear and practical information she conveys, which reinforces that anyone can follow in the footsteps of this “ordinary” person.

The New Sales Conversation

By the time you present your product or solution to the decision makers of a company, they have already done extensive research on the web, and compared your solution and that of your competitors to their internal checklists. They are already more than half way through the decision-making process before you even get a chance to say a word.

Wouldn’t it be great to know ahead of time what is on those checklists so that you could align your solution to their business priorities? This is what Linda Richardson promises to teach sales people in our upcoming Soundview live webinar, Changing the Sales Conversation.

To engage clients today you must demonstrate that you know their world and that you are prepared with insights and ideas to add to what they already know. Richardson gives you five clear strategies and tools to help you do just that. You will create and shape opportunities, prepare and probe in an entirely new way, gain client consensus, and use sales process and tools to guide and accelerate closing.

Richardson will talk about:

  • Futuring – to prepare for and anticipate customer needs.
  • Heat-mapping – to use insights to focus and engage customers.
  • Value-tracking – to connect your solutions to business outcomes and ROI.
  • Phasing – to use sales process to forecast accurately and close.
  • Linking – to reassert heart and trust into your sales conversations.

Linda Richardson is the Founder and Executive Chairwoman of Richardson, a global sales training business. As a recognized leader in the industry, she has won the coveted Stevie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sales Excellence for 2006 and in 2007 she was identified by Training Industry, Inc. as one of the “Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals.”

Linda is credited with the movement to Consultative Selling, which is the cornerstone of Richardson’s methodology. Other innovations Linda has spearheaded in the sales training industry are: development of a comprehensive, integrated curriculum dedicated exclusively to sales, commitment to customization vs. generic training, and development of an interactive coaching-type training methodology. Her innovation in eLearning earned Richardson the Best Soft Skills Award from Elearning! magazine and Product of the Year for Richardson SkillGauge™ diagnostics from Customer Interaction Solutions magazine.

Invite your whole sales team to this webinar. The price is the same whether you’re sitting alone at your desk, or in a conference room with your team. And for subscribers, this and all Soundview Live webinars are free.

Is Your Board Creating Value?

BOARDS THAT LEAD

When to Take Charge, When
to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way

In Boards That Lead, authors Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem argue that boards today have a duty to lead — to take a more active role in making decisions that were once perhaps the sole prerogative of the executive. The reason for the increased active leadership role of boards is the growing complexity and information overload of today’s business environment “across every facet of doing business,” the authors write. They stress, however, that their new model of board leadership is based on a collaborative partnership in which the boards know “when to lead, when to partner, and when to stay out of the way.”

Knowing When to Do What

Perhaps the most important leadership responsibility of the board is to develop the central idea of the company — the practical, guiding core concept of the company that “references why the company exists, whom it serves, how it should be nurtured, why it will flourish, how it will make money and manage risk, and where it must be going if it is to sustain a competitive presence and achieve its broader purpose,” the authors write. “The central idea is the bedrock on which the enterprise is raised and how its resources are spent.”

Boards should also take a leadership role in selecting the CEO; ensuring the board’s competence, architecture and modus operandi; ensuring the ethics and integrity of the company; and defining the company’s compensation.

Boards should partner with the company’s executive on strategy, capital allocation and execution; defining the company’s financial goals; managing risk; allocating resources; developing talent; and developing what the authors call a “culture of decisiveness.”

Finally, according to the authors, boards should stay out of the way for issues of execution and operations as well as non-strategic decisions.

The Apple Example

The productive collaboration between Steve Jobs and the chairman of the Apple Board Edgar S. Woolard, Jr., according to the authors, perfectly exemplifies the meaning of knowing when to lead, partner and stay out of the way. To begin with, it was Woolard who convinced the board to bring Jobs, forced from Apple in 1985, back to the company in 1997 (one of the authors, Ram Charan, was an advisor to Woolard during this period). Jobs agreed on the condition that Woolard replace the entire board, although eventually one other board member was allowed to stay.

With a new board in place and Jobs committed to reviving the fast-declining company, Jobs and Woolard, according to the authors, began a back-and-forth process in which Jobs would come to Woolard with an idea, which Woolard and the board would either approve or disapprove. Jobs, Woolard would say, was always respectful, making a passionate pitch for his ideas but accepting defeat if it came. In many cases, however, Jobs was able to sell Woolard on his ideas. For example, after taking his new leadership position, the authors write, Jobs convinced Woolard to let him stop the Mac clones (an expensive proposition since the clone makers were under contract), fire many of the firm’s engineers, divide the survivors into six teams with whom Jobs would meet once a week, and perhaps most memorably, create an Apple store. Woolard resisted the Apple store, knowing that other computer manufacturers had tried and failed to succeed in retail. He finally acquiesced to only four stores, which the board approved.

Boards That Lead is an owner’s manual, clearly laying out how boards are supposed to operate. The book begins with defining the central idea and recruiting the right board members, then moves to several chapters on managing CEO succession (including identifying failing CEOS and recruiting successful replacements), and finally covers managing risk and avoiding micro-management. All chapters end with a detailed “director’s checklist” to help achieve the responsibilities outlined in the chapter.

In an early chapter, the authors write that board leadership “does not mean wandering into the weeds — micromanagement is decidedly not the point — but laissez-faire is no longer an acceptable posture at many boards either.” This clearly organized and authoritative book will help boards of directors stay as actively involved as they need to be — and no more.

Stay Positive

Positive psychology is the study of what constitutes excellence in individuals, communities, and workplaces. It incorporates the study of productivity, resilience, motivation, emotions, strengths, team dynamics and more.

Using this positive psychology and the examples of top companies that have integrated it into their businesses, Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin teach how to Profit from the Positive. Next week we will have the opportunity to hear just how this positive psychology works in business, when these two authors join us for Soundview Live.

Margaret H. Greenberg is a sought-after executive coach by Fortune 500 companies. In 1997, after 15 years in the corporate world, she founded The Greenberg Group, a consulting firm dedicated to coaching business leaders and their teams to achieve more than they ever thought possible. She holds a BA in sociology from the University of Hartford and a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania.

Senia Maymin, Ph.D. is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Maymin runs a coaches network and is the founder and editor in chief of the research news site PositivePsychologyNews.com. She holds a BA in math and economics from Harvard University, a MAPP from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA and PhD in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Join us and learn how to:

•             Get more done without having to work more hours by outsourcing yourself and setting habits instead of goals.

•             Beat your competition by hiring for what’s not on the resume.

•             Boost your team’s productivity up to 40% by recognizing the Achoo! Effect and previewing—not just reviewing—performance.

To learn more about Margaret Greenberg, Senia Maymin, and their book, check them out at http://www.profitfromthepositive.com.

 

52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet

AMAZE EVERY CUSTOMER EVERY TIME

Use the Right Tools to Amaze People

In Amaze Every Customer Every Time, author Shep Hyken tells the story of a cyclist hit by a car. Dazed and bruised, the front wheel of his bike bent “like a taco,” the cyclist wanders into an Ace Hardware Store a half a block from the accident and asks the cashier if Ace sells bicycle wheels. Ace does not, but an associate – as Ace employees are called – volunteers to look at the bike. Then, as the cyclist sits nursing his bleeding shoulder, the associate, whose name is Mike, bangs the wheel back into shape using the curb and a rubber mallet, adjusts the tension on the spokes so that the wheel will spin properly, and uses duct tape to fix the front fender. The cyclist is able to ride home and later writes, in a grateful letter to the store, the following: “Mike, not only did you rescue a fallen cyclist and send him on his way… but you also restored his faith in the inherent goodness of human nature.”

For Hyken, the story illustrates the kind of customer service that Ace Hardware exemplifies – customer service that’s based not just on serving or satisfying the customer, but on amazing that customer. The fact that the cyclist was not even a customer only proves his point, which is why Hyken puts Ace Hardware Store at the center of his latest book.

The Five Stages

For Hyken, the keys to the success of Ace Hardware, which has been in business since 1924, are people who love what they do, an underdog position in the marketplace in which it revels, and a passion to serve.

To inspire this passion, Hyken explains, employees of Ace Hardware are led through five distinct stages related to the brand promise: uncertainty (what is the brand promise, and can it be fulfilled?); alignment (understanding the brand promise); experience (a positive experience of the brand promise); ownership (after many such positive experiences, believing that the brand promise will be experienced every time); and amazement (consistently above-average brand experiences.) Once employees have reached the amazement stage, they are ready to lead the customers themselves through the five stages.

52 Tools for Delivering Amazement

To help companies emulate the success of Ace Hardware, Hyken offers 52 tools for delivering amazing customer service. He groups these tools into five areas: leadership, a culture of service, one-on-one interactions, a competitive edge and community.

“Know the value of your customer” is one example of a leadership tool. The average lifetime value of a grocery store customer is about $35,000. Knowing this lifetime value, Hyken writes, leaders should have no problem giving employees the independent authority to spend five dollars to solve any customer problem. “Adapt or die,” “know what drives your success,” and “play to your strengths” are also examples of Hyken’s leadership tools.

Other tools in the book include culture tools, one-on-one tools, competitive edge tools and community tools such as “do local well.”

One of the tools under culture is to “tell stories” – a tool Hyken uses himself to great effect. There’s the story, for example, of an elderly woman who was overcome by the heat one day. Since she had taken a taxi to the store, an associate offered to drive her home. The elderly woman regained her wits in the air-conditioned car, however, and asked the associate to stop by the grocery store – that’s where she had intended to go in the first place. The associate happily obliged – another example of why Ace Hardware Store deserves its own customer service book.

5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customers, Your Products and Your People

LEADING THE STARBUCKS WAY

Finding the Perfect Balance for Customers

Leading the Starbucks Way is organizational consultant Joseph Michelli’s second book on the iconic company, following his 2006 book The Starbucks Experience. At that time, Starbucks was an unqualified success, and Michelli’s book presented five principles that explained the company’s meteoric rise through the 1990s and most of the 2000s. After the publication of the book, however, the company stumbled for a variety of reasons, including unbridled expansion, a failing global economy, and less frequent visits from loyal customers. From the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2008, earnings declined by 21 percent. Howard Schultz returned as CEO in 2008, and although the global economy continued its free fall and corporate bankruptcies proliferated, Starbucks made a comeback. Today, writes Michelli, the company can boast 13 straight quarters of 5 percent or more growth.

While The Starbucks Experience described how Starbucks leaders positioned the company for massive growth, Leading the Starbucks Way, Michelli writes, “outlines the foundational principles that have guided Starbucks leaders during sustained periods of meteoric growth, economic downturn, recovery and transformation.” In other words, the focus of the five principles in this new book is not the rise of a startup or new company but how to create sustainable success.

The Five Principles

The first principle explored by Michelli is to “savor and elevate.” To “savor” refers to the passion that leaders must have for their product and the importance of communicating and demonstrating that passion. To elevate means ensuring that employees convey that same passion to customers. Employee passion combined with execution, Michelli explains, leads to the kind of uplifting experience that engages customers and turns them into loyal fans of the company. MyStarbucksIdea.com, which enables customers to suggest and/or vote on new ideas, is one way Starbucks keeps its customers engaged.

The second principle is “love to be loved.” Starbucks, Michelli writes, is not afraid to use terminology that other corporate leaders might shy away from. Despite today’s general disdain for all institutions, public or private, Starbucks manages to be one of the best-loved brands in the world. One of the main reasons, according to Michelli, is its unwavering integrity. In the dark days of 2008, for example, Schultz was pushed to cut benefits for employees. No matter what happened, Schultz declared, anyone employed by Starbucks would keep their health care benefits and stock in the company. Integrity, however, is not just manifested at the top leadership level. Starbucks employees are taught that the way they treat customers, including responding to complaints, reflects the integrity of the company.

Starbucks has made some mistakes, Michelli writes, in its quest to implement the third principle, “reach for common ground.” Such mistakes are understandable given the delicate balance a global company such as Starbucks needs to achieve between what might be accepted across the planet and what needs to be adapted to local cultures. As Michelle Gass, president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa, explains to Michelli, “The balance between the universal and the local is more an art than it is a science.” But this balance is a never-ending goal for the company.

The fourth principle, “mobilize the connection,” is about leveraging technology to create a better experience for customers. Mobilize the connection also explores the multichannel strategy of Starbucks, which has allowed the product to break out of the boundary of the stores. Today, Michelli writes, customers can find Starbucks products “in their homes, their offices, other businesses, and virtually anywhere they go.”

The fifth and final principle, “cherish and challenge your legacy,” is a call to honor the past but not be trapped by it. Polaroid’s unmatched strengths in film technology, which led to its monopoly in the instant photo market, also led to its downfall when the world went digital. Starbucks is always looking for new ideas ––  including potentially risky game-changers — relevant to its audience.

Leading the Starbucks Way reveals why Starbucks continues to be a shining example of the impact that a customer-centric, innovative and socially conscious corporation can have on people and the world.

Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

DAVID AND GOLIATH

Who Has the Real Advantage?

Launched by his bestseller, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell is a nonfiction superstar, and with good reason. As his latest book, David and Goliath, proves, Gladwell keeps surprising us with new revelations about how the world really works. In David and Goliath, he destroys an assumption that has been accepted without question for thousands of years: that the David of the Bible – and all the “Davids” that followed in the history of the world – were underdogs. In general terms, David and Goliath forces us to reconsider what we thought we knew about those with advantages and disadvantages.

For example, most people believe that to grow up very poor is a disadvantage for children. But Gladwell argues that to grow up very rich is also a disadvantage. On another topic, the accepted wisdom is that small classroom size is better for children; however, Gladwell argues that if classroom sizes become too small, the children are impeded in their learning as much as they would be in classrooms that have too many students.

It’s easy perhaps to make counterintuitive, against-the-grain pronouncements and perhaps even to find some anecdotal evidence to support these pronouncements. But Gladwell is a teacher, not an opinionated contrarian. In all his books, he uses a wide range of academic studies and other research reinforced with eloquent true stories drawn from history as well as from the lives of contemporary people and events around the world.

What’s So Bad About a Large Classroom?

Gladwell’s discussion of the impact of classroom size on learning exemplifies the depth of his research and insight. Classroom size happens to be one of the most researched topics related to education in the world. A number of global academics and consultants have carefully explored whether and how the size of a classroom impedes or enables learning in countries from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore to numerous countries in Western and Eastern Europe to the United States. The results are mixed, at best, with smaller class sizes sometimes having a positive effect, sometimes having a negative effect, and sometimes having no effect whatsoever.

As Gladwell digs deeper in the research, he discovers an inverted U relationship to small classroom size. Reducing the number of students in a large class does help increase learning to a certain point. Then the upward curve bends downward as smaller class sizes reduce learning. There are a number of factors. For example, shy or mediocre students don’t get the boost to their self-esteem that comes from hearing others asking the questions with which they are wrestling.

Success In Spite of Struggle

Gladwell plunges with equal depth in a wide variety of other situations in which the advantage or disadvantage is wrongly assigned by our assumptions or the accepted wisdom. For example, dyslexics or people who lose a parent young are often successful because, not in spite, of their struggles.

Whatever the situation or context, Gladwell provides the evidence that bolsters his conclusions – often evidence that was available but ignored. Any historian of ancient times, for example, could tell you that the “artillery” of ancient armies consisted of men with slingshots, who benefited from greater mobility and the ability to strike from a distance than the heavily armored sword fighters. In other words, Goliath was taken out by a better soldier.