September 29, 2012

My business requires recording data to perform Six Sigma (6σ) calculations.  Six Sigma is a statistical process in which dimensional data is investigated to determine if that data lies between Upper Specification Limits (USL) and Lower Specification Limits (LSL).   If compliant, the number of failures are limited to 3.4 per million.  Excellent tool for statistically determining the quality of a manufacturing and/or fabricating process.   There are those times in which individual data points are far from normal and well outside expected values.  This data is called random and the points are called “outliers”.  Random data is always investigated and usually found to be of no real value due to errors with instrumentation,   personnel problems in acquiring the data, etc.  It’s always investigated! 

I have recently completed reading a marvelous book entitled “Outliers-The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.   Published by Back Bay Books; copyright 2011.  As defined by the author, an outlier is something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.  A statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.  This book attempts to explain circumstances in a person’s life that allows success rather than failure.  Why, given two people of similar education and background, one succeeds and one fails.  Mr. Gladwell provides several answers, some of which no one wishes to hear.   Given below, are several finding he enumerates in his book.

  • The community in which one lives and the support one is given from that community can be the difference between success, failure AND overall health.  Of course, individual parenting plays a vital role but the influences from the community make a decided difference, both positive and negative.
  • The systems established to determine who get ahead are not particularly efficient.  There usually is a point in which an individual must do things differently.
  •  10,000 hour rule states that for world-class performance, an individual must practice, play, and become involved with an activity for at least 10,000 hours before real mastery occurs.  Gladwell uses as examples Bill Gates, the Beatles, Bill Joy, Steve Balmer, Paul Allen, Bill Hewlett, Steve Jobs and Mozart.  These people were no more born with genius than the rest of us—they did work harder to achieve.   Mozart was actually a “late bloomer” not a prodigy.
  • IQ is a lot like height in basketball.  Does someone who is five foot six have a realistic chance of playing professional basketball?  Not really. You probably need to be at least six foot or six-one to play at that level but past a certain point, height stops mattering too much.  IQ is the same way.  If you wish to win the Nobel Prize, you apparently have to be “smart enough” but maybe not the smartest person in the universe.  There is a threshold.
  •  Cultural advantage is HUGE!  To succeed, you must not be intimidated by circumstances.
  • Math ability VS growing rice.  (This is without a doubt the most fascinating chapter in the book.) Gladwell makes a good point as to why Asian students excel in math while students in the western world seem to be intimidated by math and the sciences.   This chapter alone is worth buying the book.

I could give additional examples but the bottom line—read this book.  Gladwell shows, by example, the circumstances behind success and what can cause failure in one’s professional and personal life.  I CAN DEFINITELY RECOMMEND READING!!!


16 Responses to “OUTLIERS”

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