If you haven’t read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, you need to put it on your reading list as soon as possible.


In nine chapters, he illustrates and analyzes the factors for quirky successes as well as a few quirky disasters. One of the strong influences for some very interesting anomolies is the culture factor. For example, in the chapter “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes,” he states: “Planes are safer when the least experienced pilot is flying because it means the second pilot isn’t going to be afraid to speak up.” One particularly frightening example Gladwell uses is that of Korean Airlines between 1988 and 1998. Their plane crash rate was 17 times higher than the U.S. In Korean culture, a subordinate (in this case, the first officer) plays a very passive role. This is not ideal in cases of inclement weather, mechanical failure or pilot fatigue. Only after a major revamping of their work culture, did KAL improve their safety status.

Continuing this analysis, I believe there is also a socioeconomic culture that keeps some people “down.” High SES kids are taught early to “speak up” and even question authority if they see fit. Low SES students generally do not question “experts” and do not feel they can ask questions in the classroom or the doctor’s office. Assertiveness is a skill that needs to be modeled and taught because a lack of it leads to apathy in health and wealth.



Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success.
1st ed. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.