Screw Porter. Read Gladwell.

A regular refrain among my co-conspirators in the CommScrum movement is the need for folks to widen their horizons and seek inspiration from sources outside the usual suspects.

Having long since fallen victim to the “the curse of the curious”, I’ve discovered that there’s really very little to be gained from digging the same hole deeper. Beyond a certain point in your career development, it’s not how long the downstroke of your “T” is that matters (the depth of your specialism), but the breadth of the crossbar (your ability to connect ideas and insights from other disciplines).

Kevin Keohane, has had a particular bee in his bonnet for ages now – and rightly so – about the myopic focus of internal communicators and their professional associations (don’t expect any sessions on Value Disciplines or Chaos Theory at IABC’s upcoming EuroComm event!). If you want to be a better communicator, stop attending comms conferences, and go seek out a talk on Complex Adaptive Systems instead.

Likewise, I’d humbly suggest that anyone calling themselves a strategist should put down their copy of HBR and pick up a book on Design Thinking or, if you prefer, whichever one of Malcolm Gladwell’s brilliant texts happens to be closest.

I asked Santa to bring me the job lot of those this past Christmas and I’ve gleaned more from the compelling narratives of The Tipping Point and Blink than I did from all the HBR case studies we were force-fed during my MBA.

Take, for example, the awesome power and relevance of the number 150. Show me the MBA case study that reveals it. I sure as hell don’t recall one. (I knew of the concept of channel capacity and George Miller’s magical number 7, but this 150 business was a new one on me. If it’s new to you, just google “Dunbar’s number”).

Then go and find the nearest available copy of The Tipping Point and read Gladwell’s portrayal of Gore Associates (the makers of Gore-Tex). When it comes to reshaping organisations to fit reality, a more inspiring and persuasive antithesis of 20th century industrial-age thinking you couldn’t hope to find.


2 thoughts on “Screw Porter. Read Gladwell.

  1. Mario Vellandi

    Hi Dan,

    Gladwell was fun reads. I particularly love books that deal in systems thinking, behavioral economics, psychology, and design. Roger Martin’s book “The Design of Business”, Verganti’s “Design-Driven Innovation”, and Osterwalder/et al. “Business Model Generation” are excellent for their integration of left and right-brain thinking. Martin’s espousal of abductive logic is an absolute antidote to the perils of “management by analysis”.

    Btw, I read your eBook you sent me a while back. Fantastic work bro! So concise, substantial, and approachable for any business person/student to pick up and understand. The treatment of 3 core functions and a staged timeline were very concrete. The latter was especially important because honestly, I don’t give a damn about citizenship and philanthropy if a company isn’t actively mitigating or leading in operational effectiveness or product innovation.
    Cheers and hope to chat someday if I’m ever out on your side of the Atlantic.


  2. Dan Gray Post author

    Hey Mario – good to hear from you. Must say, I love Martin’s work too – especially the ‘personal knowledge system’ stuff in Opposable Mind and his advice to both left- and right-brainers on how to effectively converse with each other in The Design of Business. (BTW, don’t know if you’re a member of the Design Thinking group on LinkedIn, but one of the discussion threads there on the best books on Design Thinking has created one helluva great reading list!)

    Thanks so much for the positive feedback on the book. If you think you could see your way clear to adding a customer review on Amazon, I’d be really grateful. Every little helps, as they say!

    All the best, D.



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