Tuesday, November 15, 2011

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?


Nicholas M. said...

I found demographic luck to be the most compelling. Gladwell's explanation of Lewis Terman's genius study made me believe that there are specific times/dates in our everyday lives that will provide us with a favorable outcome.

Gladwell explains that the birthrates drastically dropped in the 1930's due to the great depression. Families stopped having children because they couldn't afford to have them. Hence, the generation born in the 1930's was noticeably smaller than other generations.

Due to this particular generation’s size, the 1930's was the perfect time for outliers to be born because a lot more opportunities were available. The schools were not as crowded as previous generations. The kids that were born in 1930’s had their pick of selective schools. Teachers were more readily available to students. Most importantly, prestigious schools were reasonably affordable.

Demographic luck is the reason of an individuals success. Malcolm Gladwell could not say it any better: ”It comes from our time… from particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.”

Jacquelene G. said...

I think the fact that most Jewish immigrants had an urban skill was most compelling. This was interesting, because they used these skills, specifically sewing, to better themselves in America. By bettering themselves, they bettered their families and future generations.
Perhaps SIUE could make it required to take one skill class. Even if they do not get a job in their field right out of college this still ensures students
will have meaningful work to fall back on. There will always be a need for handymen and manual laborers.
Perhaps one skill class could include homeconomics. Another could include basic construction. A third could include sewing class.

Jacquelene G.

Jamila M. said...

I found ethnic background to be the most compelling. Gladwell highlighted qualities in the jewish people that gave them somewhat of a upper hand to succeed. They possessed skills and that allowed them to further themselves.

Today that sense of ethnic background is lost. People really do believe that their success is all because of their individual work and not he opportunities they were given and the time in which they were born, graduated college, and entered the work force.

Ashley B. said...

I think Siue could add a class that you need to take in order to graduate that will be incorprated with meanigful work. Even though it may not relate to your major everyone at some point in time needs an extra skill to fall back on. That way Siue is not only preparing you for your major, but for life.

Justin S said...

I think SIUE can implement "meaningful work" into everyday life for students. If all students were required to do some type of meaningul work, we would become better citizens and more prepared for the real world.

lance13 said...

I found ethnic background most compelling. It is compelling how some ethnicities naturally have certain traits and skills that give them an upper-hand in life. These people have been blessed with oppportunities that allow them to excel easily in life.

mburchett said...

Meaningful work was the most compelling because I believe it will take you further in life. I say this because if someone has a job, they will most likely change it alot because they aren't coonected to it, and can add to stress in their life because they don't like their job. a peron who does meaningful work will have more consistency and balance in their life. This will make that person overall more productive, which leads to a better chance of success.

justin jones said...

The idea of meaningful workv seemsv very simple, but rewarding in a way. I believe it can be a good idea for Siue to implement. If all the students did this then they wwould become not only better students but also better citizens to society.

Justin Jones

Michelle E said...

I definitely found the ethnic background factor quite interesting. It is intriguing how certain people groups are naturally more skilled at certain things just due to the culture that surrounds them. We can see this through the example presented by Gladwell, the Jewish community.

Nathan Sierra said...

I found meaningful work to be the most compelling factor. While yes, it was interesting that different ethnic backgrounds groomed their children better for the world, finding their work meaningful is what truly mattered in the end.

I think that if we were to have a class that showed how to acquire jobs that feel meaningful then it would be a success. Perhaps community-based work that would bring positive elements to SIUE that students could do together, such as working on a project together that would better the school in some way. If the project could incorporate many different skills, students would see how many jobs are in fact meaningful.

Candace P said...

I found meaningful work to be the most compelling. While demographic luck and ethnic background are significant also, meaningful work appears to be the driving force behind success. When individuals are able to reach a satisfactory level of autonomy and complexity, as well as have a powerful connection between effort and reward, then they have acquired the basic skills needed to be successful.

To get more students engaged with meaningful work, SIUE should create more programs like FAME and GAME. From personal experience, I have found that these types of programs allow students to gain more independence while being responsible, interact with others to expand one's thoughts, and build a strong sense of effort and reward.

Sable said...

I find the demographic luck the most compelling because of the relationships between success and surroundings. This idea interests me because I am curious to see what will become of certain individuals born in my generation. The information Gladwell provides helps readers recognize the obvious correlation of births during times of crisis. Though I never think critically about all aspects of live in different decades, I found the lowered amount of births during the Depression predictable.

I have only taken one Philosophy class at SIUE. From what I have seen, I believe the environment SIUE provides encourages using positive critical thinking and deductive reasoning.I think the Philosophy department has the best chance to give students the opportunity to undergo 'meaningful work'.

Ariana said...

I think SIUE should have a meaningful work course. This course could include different tools that help you with the real world regardless of what your major is.


Yasmyn K. said...

I considered ethnic background to be the most fascinating. The author, Gladwell, gave examples such as the Jewish immigrants using their natural abilities to become successful in America.
Gladwell did an exceedingly good job of explaining reasons why different ethnicities, such as the Jewish immigrants in the 1930s, appear to be in a better 'position' for success. A person's ethnic background can perhaps cause that ethnitichity to be in a 'better' state than the rest of society.

Zachary Kadiri said...

The determining factor I found to be most compelling was the "meaningful work". I found this to be most compelling because the fact that when one works, the possibility of success is great to the point where one feels great about themselves. When the three characteristics of meaningful work take place, the feeling that anything can be accomplish as long as you put your mind to it is likely to take place.

I think that there should be classes here at SIUE called creative classes that focuses on people strengths that allows their imagination to grow.

shanon stofer said...

I believe that the ethnic background is the most compelling. Gladwell discussed qualities in the jewish people that allowed them an upper hand in life in order to accomplish things and go further. in todays society that kind of ethnic background does not exist as commonly.Most people believe that the success they have achieved is all based on their work alone and not the sppecific influences they were given.

Jessca LW. said...

The determining factor I found to be the most compelling is meaningful work. Meaningful work is most compelling because it takes into account three significant factors. Meaningful work is motivation to be all that you can be and in turn is what makes individuals the most successful. Work with no purpose is equal to doing no work at all.
SIUE already has programs that allow students to get engaged with meaningful work. One of the programs that I am personally involved with, is the SNAP program. SNAP reaches out to minority students, not just African- Americans but all minorities. Also programs such as FAME and GAME that reach out to students and help them achieve their academic goals. SIUE has programs already that reach out to students. I personally think that increasing the broadcasting of these programs could get more students to get involved in with meaningful work.

Sean Pettiford said...

I found the ethnic background to be most appealing. It is amazing how some of the most most intelligent people get looked over because of some factor in their life that they cannot control. I know that in that day Jews were heavily discriminated against, but why would a company pass up an individual with such potential. I do not understand but this discrimination led to a better path. Instead of working the cases that the major companies were engaged in, he decided to do the work nobody wanted, also know as proxy fights. Later many companies would turn to him to help them in their legal issues. His ethinc background was essential in him overcoming many obstacles.

Shauntay C. said...

I think that SIUE can incorporate meaningful work into certaint things, because once students are able to grasped the full concept of self fulfillment then they would be better prepared and equipped to deal with some life lessons.

Anonymous said...

I found meaningful work to be the most compelling because I believe that it is the key to success. If you want to succeed in life, you need to work hard and stay focused to achieve your goal. The work that you do has to be meaningful to achieving your goal, otherwise it is pointless.

I believe SIUE can incorporate this by creating more programs that involve community and social work that can better the campus and the surrounding areas. This work is meaningful to the community as a whole and individually.

Marta A.