Can we become successful without having practical intelligence? Can we become successful if we lack communication skills? According to Malcolm Gladwell, in his well-known book Outliers: The Story of Success, the answer to these two questions is no. Moreover, Gladwell argues that there's a lot more to it than what we see or hear because cultural dynamics and communication skills play an important role in our life. Despite the fact that you're wealthy or have a high IQ, a person's success depends hugely on when the person was born. Throughout the book, Gladwell presents famous people who have achieved the greatest success. We read in the first half of the book that people who are very intelligent and hardworking are very lucky to be at the right time and to have a good opportunity. In the second half of the book, Gladwell boldly addresses the importance of cultural legacy. Malcolm Gladwell also brings up an idea of practical intelligence and defines it as being able to talk your way out of a situation or to get what you want easily. Gladwell uses the stories of Christopher Langan in The Trouble with Geniuses and Korean Airline Pilots in The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes to illustrate that a lack of family support, inadequate practical intelligence, poor cultural dynamics, and an inability to communicate clearly, honestly, and effectively can prevent success.
In chapter 3 and 4, Malcolm Gladwell discusses Christopher Langan, a genius who struggled due to a lack of family support and shows us that without guidance from family, a person risks a future without the possibility for success. Gladwell describes Christopher growing up in a very poor family; while his mother was a constant figure in his life, he lacked a true father figure that he could trust. Despite the troubles he had at home, Chris was unusually smart and was interested in big ideas; he had the ability to walk into a foreign language exam, not having studied a bit, skim through the text and ace the test. Everyone in his family thought that he would have a brighter future because of his intelligence, but after high school when Chris received a scholarship to Reed College, he still had hard time because he did not get the support that he needed from his mother. Gladwell points out that one of the reasons he fails in academia is because of his mothers absence of support and involvement in education. That failure leads to greater failures in his life. Chris said, Then I lost that scholarshipmy mother was confused about the requirements and could not fill out the form (93).
Unfortunately, although support is not the only thing that Chris was lacking, in any cases that he could have fought for his rights and could have asked questions, he failed to communicate. For example, Gladwell mentions about Chris losing his scholarship when he could have tried to explain to the Dean about his mother's lack of education and the fact that he came from a dirt-poor family. Gladwell asks, What does the story of Chris Langan tell us? (96). Gladwell thinks if he communicated and reached out to get help, he wouldve had a chance to continue his education there, but instead, he gave up and headed home. The story also tells us that he gave up too easily and didn't fight back. Because he and his family were not communicative and didnt question authority, they only took what was given to them and gave up easily. Malcolm Gladwell uses Chris Langan to illustrate that a lack of practical intelligence or communication can be a disadvantage in his adult life and can lead to failure, which is what happened to Chriss life. He was unable to get back up. His inability to communicate with authority figures made it hard for him to move forward. Chris says It is not the brightest that succeed  nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities- and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them (p.167).
In chapters 3 and 4, Gladwell describes that practical intelligence and communication is needed because people have to learn how to communicate and negotiate with other people, especially in times of conflict when Chris is at Reed College. Practical intelligence boils down to the ability to talk to people and connect with them in order to get their help. For instance, Langans whole life has been affected by not being able to talk to his college adviser, which could have made him understand Langans life situation. Gladwell asserts If Chris had the support, the communication, and the benefits of practical intelligence that he needed, the outcome would have been very different. He would have become the first person in his family to get a college degree and the most successful person out there. Therefore, Gladwell shows how even a gifted genius can still be unsuccessful if one lacks the support, communication skills and practical intelligence.
Having poor communication can lead to failure for someone who's like Chris Langan, but in the case of flying planes, lack of communication can lead to death. Gladwell introduced Avianca flight 052 and these other plane crash stories to show a connection between cultural dynamic and communication. In the case of Avianca flight 052, miscommunication contributed to the failure of the flight. In The Ethnic Theory Of Plane Crashes, Gladwell discusses Korean Airlines and Columbia Avianca. Gladwell Investigates and examines the plane crash of Avianca 052, a flight from Colombia to New York, as well as some other plane crashes throughout history to see what went wrong in that flight. Gladwell starts by looking at the Black Box recordings from these crashes. Gladwell shows us the cause of the plane crash caused by miscommunication between Laureano Caviede, Mauricio Klotz, and Air Traffic Control (ATC) inside the cockpit.
In fact, Klotz had everything to do with why the crashes occurred because he did not speak up to let ATC know what the problem was. When the captain said to Klotz to tell the Air Traffic Control that they were in an emergency, Klotz said, That's right to 180 on heading end, we will try again we're running out of fuel (193). Now remember how serious the situation was. Their fuel tank was empty, they missed the first landing chance and they were in a crisis mode. These made the Captain worried and made him ask Klotz to tell them we are in a emergency (193). Klotz kept repeating that they were running out of fuel. To the Air Traffic Control worker, there was nothing in his tone of voice that suggested that they were in an emergency. Through stating what Klotz said, Gladwell shows that the tone of Klotz was mitigating. which means using a soft polite voice Let us think about what was going on in that cockpit in terms of mitigation. Air Traffic Control said, Avianca 052 heavier, Im going to bring you about 15 miles northeast and then turn back into the approach, is that okay with you and your fuel? (199). Then Klotz replied, I guess so. Thank you so much (199). Through this conversation, Gladwell shows that Klotz was intimidated because in his culture, people dont talk back to your superior or elderly. If they do, they consider it to be disrespectful or inappropriate.
Gladwell's suggested that the problem was people talking back to their superiors. To explain why this is the problem, he introduces Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, who interviews the employees, he was able to gather a database which he calls Cultural Dimensions. When the superior argues with them or didnt accept their warnings, they simply moved on and didn't make their points, which is what happens between Klotz and Cavite. Gladwell introduces what Hofstede calls Power Distance Index (204) and how Korea was one of the countries with a high power distance index. What this meant is that they have very high regards for authority, they are less likely to speak up when there is a problem instead let the boss or whoever is in charge can take care of it. Gladwell talks about how culture matters in that where we come from and our background can make a difference in how we do our jobs or how good we are or what we choose to do for a living. It is very profound and difficult to deal with or understand this notion, so Gladwell illustrates this point of how much culture matters by using plane crashes. Most companies have embraced the organizational culture, and have tried to solve the company problems by training their employees.
By looking at Chris Langans life, we learn that to be successful, we need practical intelligence and family support because without those, even a genius can fail.In Trouble with Geniuses and The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes, Gladwell shows us that even a genius can be unsuccessful and that cultural miscommunication can lead to a big tragedies like a plane crash. Also by looking at plane crashes, we learn that we as a society should teach each other how to communicate better and avoid certain dangerous cultural dynamics, so we wont have this problem. We also have to practice the common language, so that everybody can communicate effectively and clearly. Overall, hes telling us that we need self-sacrifice, talent, diligence, ability to communicate, and better culture dynamics to be successful.
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