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Outliers: Book Review

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I came across this book following recommendations by Jason Yip and Steven ‘Doc’ List on Twitter.

I’ve previously read The Tipping Point and Blink and I like his easy going style so it was a no brainer that I was going to read this one.

I found that this book complimented Talent is Overrated quite nicely. Outliers covers how the story of how people became the best at what they do whereas Talent is Overrated focuses more on what you need to do if you want to become one of these people.

I think it’s important to note that even if you get the opportunity it still needs to be seized upon and the hard work put in if you are to achieve something.

I think this idea is applied in software development too - when developing in an agile way I have certainly noticed that there is less hierarchy than in a more waterfall team where the architect would dictate how the work is going to be done and the developers would just follow those instructions. In a way it can manifest itself in pair programming where more Junior team members are afraid to challenge the ideas of the Senior team members although I haven’t noticed this so much.

This idea of a connection between effort and reward seems to link to the ideas around Risk/Reward contracts discussed in Lean Software Development in that there needs to be some sort of motivation for improvement i.e. a financial reward.

I am trying to temper my tendency to do this in my F# learning. Luckily for me there is no rush for me to learn it so I’m taking my time to try and really understand how everything works.

We can apply this in software development by adapting our principles to different situations. For example we can use OO techniques in many more situations if we take the time to consider the problem we are trying to solve. We shouldn’t sacrifice our approach just because the problem seems too different to use it.

The book is very easy to read but a lot of it is just providing example after example to back up a point made earlier on. It would have been nice to see more ideas around how we can grasp opportunities that come our way rather than focusing so much on the luck element of this.

There are a few other reviews of the book that I found quite interesting to read. Each review approaches the book from a slightly different angle and takes different ideas out.

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