Malcolm Gladwell in ASTD General Session Keynote

He lives in New York (in my neighborhood, by the way), and joked about how small apartments are there.

Outliers is a new book of his that will be coming out in November, and he is planning to speak about some of the ideas that derive from his book.

He wants to speak about art, primarily Picasso and Cezanne. He wants to speak about how the two of them are quite different (really? who knew?!).

There are two styles in creativity, according to some theorist he mentioned briefly. Experimental Innovators (people who never have big breakthrough ideas but who work through trial and error and who slowly go over the same territory until they become a master, like late bloomers), such as Cezanne. and Conceptual Innovators (people have big ideas that transform the ideas in their fields, precocious), such as Picasso.

He said he weighs 110 pounds. Those silly statements become the things we remember. That is all he weighs? What is he, a supermodel want-to-be?

Interesting how now he is speaking about Mark Twain and Herman Melville. Now Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock. Now speaking about their novels and movies. I am getting so confused. What is his point again? Perhaps it would work better on paper, but in a speaking way, I am getting lost. Maybe some slides for the visual learners (me) to try to follow where he is going with all this.

Very engaging voice and tone.

Ah, back to the point–we have fallen in love with conceptual creative sorts rather than with experimental innovators and those who work again and again.

Now he is speaking about rock music, with Fleetwood Mack (not sure about the spelling, as I have never written their name before). Their greatest album was their 16th album. Huh? What areas of humanities and art and culture will he discuss next? Now he is doing the history of that group, with all the names of the various musicians in the band.

Help! Anybody want to play checkers or Monopoly?

Ahh, Fleetwood Mack wore berets at one period. Another useless fact I will remember about them and about this session.

This is painful. I wonder if I am the only one who is wondering what he is doing. I am sure Gladwell is leading in a direction. He writes so well and is a dynamic speaker, but still, glad I am sitting by the exit. I really hope he ties this all together to make the cultural exploration worth the time at a training and development conference.

I recall when he spoke at the ASTD San Diego convention I attended a few years back. He spoke about The Tipping Point, which I bought and which he signed and which I then left in the seat pocket on a Continental flight on the way home. More useless stories, perhaps?

I am wondering about the informal learning that is happening within this keynote. I wonder what other people are thinking this very minute?

Good god, he is now speaking about sports.

Looked at the schedule for today. It says he still has 25 more minutes.

Did he just say “I could go on?” Then he does! Some people are starting to leave. He is talking about 7 quarterbacks who have done something or another.

Ahh, something about talent. Oh, still speaking about quarterbacks. and Picasso. Cezanne and quarterback qualities. How can I spell out a groan?

I have liveblogged for a number of years, and often censor myself (without consciously doing it, now that I am thinking about it–need to do some reflection here . . .) by not saying much that I think is critical of the experience or the person who is speaking (hey, he or she has prepared and is on the bill, I am not). However, I am having trouble sitting here without discussing this frustration.

I like using Windows Live Writer, and think it works really well with WordPress.

Have been reading the schedule and sessions for today, and forgot for the time that Gladwell is still speaking.

Now another author reference that is beyond me (or perhaps I misheard him?).

Ahh, our job is to support the training and assistance of those who take 15 years to write their masterpiece. I think this relates back to Cezanne.

It is now over.

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16 thoughts on “Malcolm Gladwell in ASTD General Session Keynote

  1. That’s too bad– I’ve generally heard good things about Gladwell’s speaking engagements. Then again, I suspect we understand the value and reality of “research” quite differently, which might be a major point of divergence in an assessment of Gladwell (who you appear predisposed to in a negative way anyway 🙂

  2. Not at all, Chris. I have been very fond of Gladwell’s writing and speaking and just the aura of common sense and education I find around him. If anything, I had too high of expectations for him. Tony Bingham, the ASTD President and CEO, started with a very polished presentation speaking about aligning talent management within organizations to strategic measures and organizational goals. I was thinking about that when Gladwell spoke about artists and musicians and quarterbacks and the like, yet I could not follow how he was trying to tie these all together. He missed, in my estimation, what Bingham so clearly stated–we need to make the connections to demonstrate value of some sort. Gladwell did this so well in The Tipping Point and Blink, both while using some of the same sorts of examples.

    I think the issue was that his speech was more for reading (such as in the New Yorker) than for listening to (where we need to follow his main point without any way of reviewing what he said before to make sure we “get it.”

    I am looking forward to speaking with others at the conference to see what they think.

  3. To your point Jeffrey, sometimes the best writers are not the best presenters/speakers. And sometimes even the best presenters have difficulty expressing ideas — can be the hardest of all and it sounds like there is something invisible that he is attempting to make visible? It reminds me of the limitation of words and the need for other methods, especially with really large groups so we can learn with our other intelligences? It strikes me that Presenting is not teaching OR learning – just presenting. Thank you for thinking out loud in this blogpost … another way we make the invisible (our thoughts) visible (words/pics)!

  4. LaDonna, you gave such a wonderful twist to this, and it is an example of engaging in informal learning (as you mentioned in another comment) at its best.

    I find the older I get, the more I need to reflectively engage in my experiences as part of the processing I do when I learn. Doing that (which cannot be done, I contend, adequately while liveblogging (though that is a research project peculating in itself)) is valuable before I find sharing and discussing / engaging with others.

    I wonder if anybody has written on a connection between reflective practice and collaborative learning?

  5. “…and forgot for the time that Gladwell is still speaking.”

    Bwaahhahhahhaaaa! Sorry; I’m laughing with you, not at you.

    So glad you didn’t censor yourself. Now I know that I’m not the only one who sits in presentations scratching my head in bewilderment, and waiting for the time to process.

    Great job of liveblogging, Jeffrey. Thank you.

  6. Appreciate your feedback, Lynn.

    I have spoken with several people today about my liveblogging of this session, and mentioned that this has been a very new experience for me. I liveblog to capture my experience of an event and then share it in real time. My experience is often more positive, and when it is not, I try to avoid saying something otherwise, as I often think. . .

    Scratch that thought. If my experience is not positive, that should be reported as well. No, I am not giving myself a license to be mean or nasty or otherwise unprofessional, but rather I will try to be as polished as possible while calling a spade a spade.

    After all, this is my experience, isn’t it?

  7. Just wanted to note that critical liveblogging is A Good Thing… there’s already plenty of fawning.

    Interesting about Gladwell. When you wrote: “He spoke about The Tipping Point, which I bought and which he signed and which I then left in the seat pocket on a Continental flight on the way home. More useless stories, perhaps?” I interpreted that to mean you found the book full of useless stories so left it on the plane as not worth carrying around. That was why I thought you might have a negative view of Gladwell from before the conference.

    Oh well– you are right that many good writers aren’t good speakers. Most, probably. It’s a truism in creative writing circles as well!

    Gladwell is a really great inerview subject though (the speaker-interrogator format is sadly under-represented a conferences… even most situations where it *looks* like questions and answers and real discussion could happen turn out otherwise).

  8. Chris, I am so glad you replied and clarified what you meant and how you perceived my writing. I loved The Tipping Point, and even bought a replacement copy of it. I find it a very useful book when navigating organizational power issues (a favorite topic of mine within critical hrd).

    What I find even more interesting is how I meant something different than what you understood. I wonder how often this happens in presentations themselves (such as what Malcolm Gladwell did in his very presentation that I liveblogged)?

    Nevertheless, the lesson for me is that unless dialog about the dialog (metadialogue) occurs, misconceptions can begin and lead to all sorts of unintended consequences.

  9. I completely agree that he was somewhat all over the road. Unfortunately, it feels that way about a lot of keynote presenters.

    It was very interesting the one big point that he made….

    Don’t focus on immediate wins only based on metrics. Look at long term development.

    Juxtapose that with Tony Bingham – they should have had a debate.

    Loved reading this post. I’m into sports and happen to like Fleetwood Mac back in the day … I was still with you on how slow it was going …

    In fairness, I’ve gone to keynotes before and was completely unable to find anything to blog about. 🙂

  10. I enjoyed his presentation! I think that he seemed slightly introverted… but I can identify. He did wander a bit, but I got the overall gist of what he was trying to say. Anyhow, love your blog! I think it’s interesting that you blog during presentations. Do you feel like you are fully focusing on what the person is speaking about? That’s some serious multi-tasking! Very interesting, though.

  11. Shannon, thank you for your thoughts here.

    Liveblogging is something I have done at a number of academic conferences, and is something I am beginning to do at virtually any conference I attend. In one sense, it is terribly tiring, though it forces me to pay more attention than if I just sat and watched / took notes on the paper. I think the value is that I immediately react to what occurs, rather than thinking about it first, and then editing / reediting. Yes, that also means it can be rough around the edges, but from a learning perspective, I am really interested in how we learn in real-time in a public medium. This seems to me different than what I am doing now, namely considering my response, trying to get my words right, checking my spelling, grammar, etc.

  12. Tony, in the spirit of your interpretation, this is why I am so personally invested in qualitative research. This is the way to get behind the stifling forced choices thanks to Professor Rensis Likert.

  13. Jeff, I love your stream of consciousness in your original post. It’s like I was right there with you…which I sort of was…but you know, REALLY. 🙂

    I had never heard MG speak before – no interviews, keynotes, nothing. Read both the books. Loved TP and liked Blink. So I had no frame of reference and only great admiration going in. I think that helped me enjoy him more.

    I agree that he went on and on. In the end, I felt like I could derive his point but he really didn’t spell it out for us.