Monday, June 29, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell vs My Mom vs. Me

Ok, someone will undoubtedly do a brilliant analysis of what Malcolm Gladwell said last night. And they will be right, but in keeping with my mood I want to provide some counterpoint.

Malcolm Gladwell spoke last night about two different learning strategies.
1st Capitalization
2nd Compensation

Now without any clarification I think most of us could figure what each of them are. So I will give you only a small clarification from my perspective.

Capitalization is playing to your strength's! Isn't this what everybody's Mom told them. My mom sure did. She told me to figure out what you are good at and then do that. Thus.. I got a Biology degree after working on the farm with cows, horses, dogs, cats and all kinds of plants. Made sense when Mom said it made sense when Gladwell said it. These are the folk who keep working at something until they get really good at it.

Compensation is what happens when an individual doesn't have certain skills or abilities naturally, but compensates by learning other skills that enable him to achieve despite deficiencies. Gladwell spoke about the fact that many leaders are Dyslexic and it is the fact that they had to compensate for this deficiency in traditional school by learning to lead, delegate, and obtain content in other ways. Again, Mom told me when I was growing up that if I wasn't good at something I needed to work hard or figure out ways to do it anyway. I don't know if I am juxtaposing this correctly but Gladwell also pointed out that on average it takes 10,000 hours to master any cognitively challenging task. So....if I really want to compensate for my deficiencies it is going to take me on average 10,000 hours to learn that skill.

Now, me

I used to have students do a simple brain dominance test in my class. I would point out that with the information about what type of learning they were dominant in they could do one of two things.
  1. Focus on their strengths
  2. Build up areas they weren't strong in
Sound familiar. It sure did to me when Malcolm Gladwell said it last night. It was good when Gladwell said it and it was good when I was saying it all those years to my students. This is an example of what is referred to as resonance or echo chamber effect. When I heard Gladwell I agreed with him and loved what he said because he became the expert confirming what I already knew to be true. (There's stuff there for a whole other post)

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