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Book Review: What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

March 21, 2010

What the Dog SawGladwell has once again hit a home run. This book is a compendium of articles, some written for the New Yorker Magazine, available on Gladwell’s web site, and I believe it will be another bestselling book.

Gladwell’s unique way of viewing and interpreting data reveals truths about our society which tend to “blow away” the myths we tell ourselves. He takes us on wild rides, as usual, with seemingly disparate stories intertwined to make an incredibly useful point, debunk an urban legend or make us think in a totally new way. Reading Gladwell is like putting on a new set of prescription lenses over myopic eyes.

This wide ranging set of essays, some 19 of them I believe, enlighten us on the difference between choking and panicking; why there are plenty of different mustard choices but essentially only one kind of Ketchup; how studying the success of football player draft success can help us hire teachers and what job interviews really tell us. These essays are delightful, entertaining and informative.

Gladwell’s distinctive style is in full bloom with these essays. His clear writing, attention to detail and lucid explanations of what is really going on keeps us turning the pages. I admit to having almost no interest in why there are many different mustard varieties and essentially only one ketchup variety – but I still could not put down the book until I finished that chapter. I don’t think I would have ever thought to ask the question. However, the points made are essential to my understanding of product positioning and human nature. And now I know about the five basic tastes in the human palate: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. “Umami adds body,” according to Gary Beauchamp. I have no clue, but my chef friends agree. And now, even though I still don’t use ketchup (I do use mustard), I get the lessons from the story and they are lessons for business, not sandwiches!

Investing the time to read “What the Dog Saw” will pay dividends in enjoyment and knowledge. It’s fun and well worth the read.

Click here to see the book on Amazon.

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