Book recommendation

Garrett Wollman
Mon Feb 14 13:52:07 EST 2005

Malcolm Gladwell's /Blink/ has received a lot of buzz lately, and was
at the top of this week's NYT non-fiction hardcover bestseller list.
In one chapter of the book, he looks at why focus groups frequently
come up with completely different results from trained evaluators,
sometimes with disastrous consequences (e.g., New Coke).  One of his
examples is a recording artist who blows away people with a serious
interest in music (producers, label executives, concert promoters,
etc.) but is unable to make any headway in the industry because he
scores poorly in radio music testing.  This effect may help explain
why people in the radio business tend to have much greater
appreciation for diverse programming than the audience as a whole is
thought by managers to have.

In a talk from his current book tour shown on C-SPAN2 last night,
Gladwell was asked about differences in intuitive ability between men
and women.  He responded that he didn't think there were any, but that
the social expectations are different so men in particular are
expected to come to a rational conclusion based on a thorough,
objective evaluation of the evidence.  He cites as an example one of
his bosses (at Conde Nast Publications; he writes for /The New
Yorker/) who will make business decisions based on his intuitive feel
for the market, but then must commission a focus group to back up his
decision.  (And if it doesn't, he'll just keep on setting them up
until he gets one that does.)


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