Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Intervallum Conference Diary - Part Two

Whilst between sessions at the Intervallum conference, one of our number spotted the latest book by “The Tipping Point” author, Malcolm Gladwell. Entitled “Outliers”, it describes itself as the “Story of Success”, but with a twist (Outlier – something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main related body).

Interestingly, numerous successful geniuses (i.e. Bill Gates) didn’t make it on intellect alone but were benefactors of opportunities by being at the right place at the right time i.e. he went to a private school where his Mother worked on a committee that raised money to buy a computer terminal for programming on a local mainframe in the days where almost all programming had to be done via punch cards (and this advantage led to programming opportunities with companies while he was still a student). Another example cited is with regard to ice hockey players who were born at the start of the year (and the start of the season) and were normally bigger and more powerful than younger boys, performing better and therefore getting the chances to have additional training (thus getting even better) and going on to be picked for the teams and becoming the major league players (while the younger players didn’t get the opportunities and eventually missed the grade).

The theory continues that IQ only matters to a certain level and that additional intelligence won’t make you any more successful. Physical intelligence then takes over, with the powers of persuasion (knowing how to get the best response from other people) becoming as significant as IQ.

Also, where you come from is important, according to Gladwell – not only due to the opportunities afforded you but in the attitude and confidence you will possess coming from a middle class family as opposed to the “constraints” felt by people with a poorer background.

Another factor of success (unsurprisingly) is hard work of a structured and meaningful nature – Gladwell suggests at least 10,000 hours are required to get to the top of your field, be it computer programming, becoming a chess master or playing the piano.

There’s also anecdotal evidence of people with IQs as high as 200 who never amounted to anything due to where they came from (family background), missed opportunities and an inability to communicate persuasively with people they perceive to be of a higher standing.

It’s certainly a thought provoking piece of work, gave the team plenty of interesting discussions, and goes some way to showing that intelligence alone simply isn’t enough to be a success.

As for the remainder of the conference itself, I would like to thank Mike Harvey for his excellent seminar presentations on Memory skills, the workings of the brain, and body language – a very entertaining and passionate presenter. And a special thanks to Perry McCarthy (racing driver and the original “Stig” from Top Gear) who’s hilarious talk ended the proceedings.

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