For a number of reasons, Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers, is a good read for recruiters and managers, in fact, for anyone who wants to get ahead in life.
The basic premise is that circumstances are far more critical to ultimate success than any other factor. For example, he cites the fact that Gates, Jobs, and comparable computer all-stars were born in the mid-1950s as being a critical factor leading to their industry success. When the PC revolution started they were just the right age — old enough to participate, but not yet established on a career path that prevented them from taking risks.
For another example, Gladwell points out that most professional athletic stars are born in the first quarter of the year they were first allowed to participate in their sport. The idea here is that whether it’s youth hockey, baseball, or any sport for that matter, the best players at this early age are more mature since they’re 3-9 months older than their competition. This difference means a lot when you’re five or six. The chosen ones are then given more opportunities to be trained and play more often. Overall, the best of this group put in thousands of hours more honing their skills, in comparison to those of equal talent who didn’t make the team just because they were too young at the time.
Of course, opportunity is just one factor involved in success. Talent is still critical and essential, but according to Gladwell, not as important as hard work. This is where the extra thousands of hours of effort comes into play.
To become a master at any craft requires plenty of hard work, at least 10,000 hours, according to Gladwell. As an example, he cites Mozart who didn’t write any worthwhile music until he was in his mid-20s, after about 10,000 hours. The Beatles are another example cited, who worked 10 long years perfecting their craft at all-night clubs in Germany.
Now what does all of this have to do with recruiting and hiring top talent? The answer started back in 1978 when I first became a third-party recruiter.