Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Outliers and Meaningful Work

Haley Scholars Fall 2013 Reading Groups

In his chapter “The Lessons of Joe Flom,” Malcolm Gladwell traces the backgrounds and experiences of a select group of people whose “world -- culture and generation and family history – gave them the greatest opportunities.” In particular, he pays close attention to the importance of ethnic background, demographic luck, and meaningful work. Given my remark that “hard work is often overrated” in the comments section of our last post, I was especially intrigued with Gladwell's alternative or refined consideration of work.

According to Gladwell, meaningful work is characterized by
1) autonomy – processes that yield senses of independence;
2) complexity – work that engages the mind and imagination;
3) a connection between effort and reward – a noticeable return on the uses of time and energy.

So rather than champion “hard work,” Gladwell makes distinctions and highlights “meaningful work,” indicating that such work heightens people's possibilities for success when they find their efforts freeing, thought-provoking, and fulfilling. What aspect of the chapter did you find most compelling or interesting, and why?

9 comments:

Anitra B. said...

After reading the chapter I found the family tree's most interesting. All the parents and grandparents either worked in the clothing or food industries and each of their children became lawyers or doctors. It's interesting because this wasn't the case for a few families but many on the families that Farkas interviewed. If it had only be a few families I would have thought that it was just a coincidence but it was true many families. How can I not believe Gladwell's theory when it's been proven multiple times?

Jeremiah Blackburn said...

Gladwell talked about how Joseph Flom was able to work for a Jewish firm that only worked with other Jews. So even though other firms would not hire him, he had success with the Flom. I thought it was interesting that Josseph might not have been the best attorney but was able to get a job because of his religion. This shows a person can still succeed in other ways besides there intelligence which stood out to me.

Andrea R. said...

The way the Borgenichts get their business started was interesting. Taking a small sample and seeing what they wear is one thing but to actually go out and observing what people do to find something meaningful to sell. Which relates back to the idea of "meaningful work" in that he finds something not many people really think much about and hones in on it, making it more of a specialty.

Another interesting point in the same section, brings up how the Jews came to be such good business people and not impoverished farmers like many other American immigrants.

Anonymous said...

I found the idea of complexity in meaningful work most interesting because I would rather have a job that is more rewarding than just money. I would rather have a job that engages more of my talents and interests therefore making my job seem positive. If I have greater enjoyment in my desired profession, a day of working will never feel like it. I will always consider it as doing something I love to do and the money as just a bonus. Reading about that, I was able to relate to the same process I went through in order to design a major I'd enjoy out of life. -Stephen K.

Joey Norwood said...

After reading the chapter I found both the thought of meaningful work and The Black Rock law firm research very interesting.I agree that meaningful work will champion hard work any day. If someone truly loves the job they do they're work will be significantly better than the work of someone who hates their job.
I also thought it was interesting that all four partners from The Black Rock law firm, all were born in the 1930's, had Jewish heritage, and graduated from a New York area high school and college.
Joey N.

Aliyah Butler said...

The portion of the chapter that I found interesting did not necessarily pertain to the correlation between hardwork and success. It actually had to deal with how significant the timing of a person's birth had on their success. It talked about how one family member decided to be a lawyer but he was less successful than a younger family member who also became a lawyer.

I found this interesting, because that shows that it does sometimes take luck to be successful. Both family members worked hard enough to become lawyers, so the effort and drive was there, but the timing also played a role. Although, this is slightly discouraging, it is still a relief to know that not every aspect of my chance at success is within my means of control.

Brianna B said...

I think I found how the book broke down Joseph Flom's shortcomings in positive ways and portrayed them as positive selling points that led to him getting a job that had he grown up as someone us he may not have recieved. I just like the continued message of how there are different views for every story and how being an 'outlier' can be both positive and negative.

Ashley A. said...

I find it interesting how discrimination seemed to work in Flom's favor. He wasn't able to work at other law firms simply because of his religion, but he was able to work for a Jewish law firm, which worked the unwanted cases that other firm's didn't want to deal with. Eventually, the number of those "unwanted" cases increased, and the best firms for the job were those that had already been working them for some time, the Jewish firms. It's just the complete opposite of what you would think discrimination would result in.

Belainesh Nigeda said...

I found that the family tree towards the end of the chapter was the most interesting. The parents had similar jobs that were modest (such as sewing) and then all of their children grew up to be doctors and lawyers. I agree with Gladwell that part of the reason why the outliers become successful is because of the things that they learned from their parents. Their parents worked hard and so do they despite their odds.
-Belainesh Nigeda