What the Dog Saw Review

I recently finished up Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “What the Dog Saw.” The book is a collection of articles from the New Yorker, collected from the past decade. I have to say that I loved the book. Where Blink, Outliers,and the Tipping Point were all organized around a central thesis, I found that the breadth of articles collected here were more interesting. Some interesting tidbits from the book:

“The Pitchman” is a profile of the great Ron Popeil of Ronco (Showtime Rotisserie) fame. I happen to have the Showtime Rotisserie and I have enjoyed cooking all manner of foods on it. The device seems so simple and straightforward, I never really stopped to think about the design problems that Ron had to solve. Who knew it had the most powerful electric motor in its class? The article touches on the fact that he was from a family of pitchmen and how Ron learned the ropes of the business.

“What the Dog Saw” is another profile on Cesar Millan of Dog Whisperer fame. When you watch the show, you realize that its more psychotherapy for the dog owners than the dogs themselves. It turns out that Cesar hit on this in marriage counseling for his wife (or at least that’s how the story goes).

There’s another great article about why using birth control and keeping the 12x a year period may not be such a great idea. Turns out that 12x periods a year is a pretty recent thing in human sociodynamics. I am a sucker for stories like this that turn conventional wisdom on its head with new data.

“The Talent Myth” weaves together Enron and why letting smart people run unchecked may not be such a smart thing after all. Apparently poaching from departments was incredibly common with little or no upper level oversight from executives. They hired MBA’s like candy. They saw the individual as the star, yet it is the organizational system itself that defines how successful the overall company will be.

“Connecting the Dots” outlines why intelligence agencies have such a hard problem and why they get such a bum rap with the general population. The general population wants a narrative, a prediction, of what is going to happen and agencies react to that prediction. Given the complexity of the problem, this just isn’t realistic. This isn’t 1:1 warfare. A terrorist has simply to pick a target, plan it to perfection, and execute. An intelligence agency has to analyze and collate billions of little factoids, connect the dots, and react. This is a tremendously difficult data-mining problem.

“The Ketchup Condundrum” discusses why there are so many versions of condiments like mustard and yet only Heinz has dominated the ketchup space for decades. It is an interesting read, although it may be a bit dated as I’ve seen many different variations on ketchup at my local grocery store.

In any event, I hope that some of these little items encourage you to pick up the book. It is though-provoking and extremely well written.


~ by shaunkime on February 1, 2010.

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