Workshop Report: Malcolm Gladwell – “Why People Are Successful,” Part One


A photo gallery from this event is located below.

On Thursday, June 17, CIE hosted Malcolm Gladwell – Why People Are Successful, the second in a new Webinar series entitled “CIE Presents.” Speaker Malcolm Gladwell appeared live via satellite from Las Vegas, Nevada to thousands of participants around the world. At the university, over 80 business leaders from Austin assembled in the Thompson Conference Center to hear Gladwell’s presentation and to take part in group activities facilitated by Dean Judy Ashcroft.

In exploring the theme of “Why People Are Successful,” Gladwell offered a case study of success taken from the world of entertainment. By examining the career of the classic rock band Fleetwood Mac, Gladwell illustrated a number of themes found in his number one best-selling book Outliers, such as why some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many others never reach their potential. Below is Part One of the take away items from the Webinar.

Case Study: Fleetwood Mac

Gladwell started off his case study by describing the image most of us have of popular bands: some kids get together, begin to play together, some kind of chemistry or alchemy takes place, and – boom! – success! “Fleetwood Mac is an incredibly successful organization that has lasted a long time in a highly competitive, stressful field. What I want to suggest is that magic or luck or alchemy isn’t what explains success,” stated Gladwell. “There are actually real principles at work here, the same principles we can apply to our own organizations.”

Ingredients of success:

  • Effort – The “Rumours" album, released in 1977 is not only Fleetwood Mac’s peak, creatively and commercially, it’s also a benchmark in popular music, influencing other musicians and becoming an all-time best seller that is still enjoyed today. What most music fans don’t realize is that “Rumours” is Fleetwood Mac’s 15th album.

    The story of Fleetwood Mac started in the mid-1960’s in London when the band was formed by R&B guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood, and bass player John McVie. The band explored a number of genres – R&B, heavy metal, reggae – in their search for the right sound. It wasn’t until the mid 1970’s when the band traveled to Los Angeles, California, and recruited guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks to join the band that Fleetwood Mac would transform into its most successful incarnation. That it took the band a little over 10 years to meet its greatest potential fits Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule.”

    Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule suggests that in any field, to reach the potential of your creative talent, you must put forth 10,000 hours (or 10 years) to master your talents and meet your greatest success. Example: Even though Mozart was composing symphonies at 13 years old, they weren’t good symphonies. He didn’t find his best creative self until he was 23. Another example: It’s estimated that the Beatles played 1,200 gigs in dive bars across Germany and the UK before coming to America and becoming an “overnight success.”

  • Attitude – According to Gladwell, “attitude” is just as important as talent or effort. To illustrate this point, Gladwell used an example of a study made about how a global math test was conducted. The Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Test was developed by an international educational organization to measure how high-school students are mastering algebra, geometry, calculus and physics. Along with the test, a questionnaire was given to the students taking the test. Psychologists found that most students don’t finish either the test or the questionnaire. But they also found that all students that finished the test also completed the questionnaire. Gladwell suggested that this points to a willingness of attitude to extend extra effort to fulfill and commit to a goal – just like Mozart, the Beatles or Fleetwood Mac.

In Part Two of this report, coming later this week, learn about Gladwell’s theories of Compensation vs. Capitalization and the difference between a conceptual and experimental innovator.

Click on any of the images below to be open a photo gallery from the Malcolm Gladwell event.

The Thompson Conference Center hosts the CIE Presents Webinar.

Dean Judy Ashcroft welcomes the assembly.

Participants review the day’s agenda.

Malcolm Gladwell live via satellite.

Fleetwood Mac from the “Rumours” album art, 1977.

Malcolm Gladwell live via satellite.

Groups are formed to discuss the program.

A discussion group

A discussion group takes part in the program.

The Webinar closes with a round of applause.


Tags: why people are successful, thompson conference center, outliers, malcolm gladwell, fleetwood mac, ce presents,