Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Meaningful Work and Outliers
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 determining factor -- ethnic background, demographic luck, or meaningful work -- did you find most compelling? Why?
Or, to incorporate a local concern, what do you think your individual department or the university in general here at SIUE could do to create a community that ensures that more students get engaged with meaningful work?