Malcolm Gladwell Explains Why Human Potential Is Being Squandered

Highlights from a PopTech Talk by Sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers: The Story of Success.”


The capitalization rate is the percentage of capable individuals that realize their potential.

The rate at which a 6’10” man is given an opportunity to play basketball.

Most of the hockey players have early birthdates (50% cap rate).

How to Land a ‘Stretch’ Job

Good leaders can spot unrealized potential and steer employees to new challenges; here’s how to get spotted and thrive

Smart leaders have a knack for spotting hidden potential in their employees and suggesting jobs to draw it out.

Pushing people into jobs they don’t feel qualified for can be a hard sell. It can be just as difficult, however, for employees to sit back and allow the invisible hand of management to chart their careers.

.. Ms. Nicholas lacks credentials common among corporate tax chiefs—a master’s or law degree in taxation. Mr. Ungerleider says DowDuPont has other executives with deep expertise in tax law. What he sees in Ms. Nicholas is the ability to collaborate with them on a company-wide goal of improving global tax strategy.

.. Spotting untapped potential is especially important in advancing women, who tend not to apply for jobs they aren’t already highly qualified to do. Executive coach Joel Garfinkle of Oakland, Calif., also sees this tendency in “the introvert who may be intimidated by the extroverts around him or her, the talented but shy person who is afraid of self-promotion, or the person of a different race or culture who has been taught not to put himself forward.”

.. After a few months of managing VetAdvisor’s revenue and expenses from her Ebensburg, Pa., office, she realized meeting targets gives her a sense of teamwork and pride. 

.. Looking back, Ms. Roseman says, “Dan had a knack for understanding what I could do—for seeing things in me that I didn’t necessarily see.”

.. Motivating many, Ms. Foster says, is a desire to pay it forward. When these leaders tell stories about their own careers, “a consistent theme is that somebody took a chance on them and helped them make a significant leap—without checking all the boxes.”