Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a bestselling author of narrative nonfiction that examines the intersection of science and culture. In 2005, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People.
At the start of the 21st century, a new form of narrative nonfiction emerged, blending science, sociology, and pop culture into a compulsively readable hybrid genre marked by originality, accessibility, and a breezy, anecdotal style. As much as any single writer, and perhaps more than most, journalist and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell has helped to forge that genre.
Born in the U.K. and raised in rural Canada, Gladwell stumbled into journalism purely by accident. After college, he wanted to pursue a career in advertising; but when he was unable to find work in that field, he took a job with the conservative U.S. monthly The American Spectator. In 1987, he joined The Washington Post, where he reported on business and science for nearly a decade. Then, in 1996, Tina Brown hired him to work for The New Yorker. (Brown left the magazine in 1998. Gladwell is still on staff.)
Almost from the beginning, Gladwell's work for The New Yorker attracted attention. Of particular interest was a piece he wrote in June 1996 about a mysterious and dramatic drop in the New York City crime rate. Drawing its title -- and its argument -- from the field of epidemiology, "The Tipping Pont" described a single moment in time when the momentum for change becomes virtually unstoppable. The piece generated an enormous reader response, and Gladwell began to explore the applications of the principle to other sorts of changes -- ideas, behaviors, new products, etc. In 2000, he published a full-length book that reached a tipping point of its own and logged a spectacular 28 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
In subsequent books, Gladwell has delved into other thought-provoking topics, such as the role of snap judgments and intuition in decision making (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) and the qualities that set high achievers apart from the rest of us (Outliers: The Story of Success). Readers love these intriguing reads for their clear, accessible language and illustrations drawn from real life; but it is the business community, always anxious to spot the next big thing, that has recognized the relevance of Gladwell's ideas to sales, marketing, and public relations. As a result of his popularity with this group, he has become a much-in-demand public speaker.
Good To Know
Gladwell's English father is a civil engineer and his mother is a Jamaican-born psychotherapist.
Growing up in Canada at a time when the country was essentially a socialist nation, Gladwell was a self-professed right-wing kid. "Being a conservative was the kind of fun, radical thing to do," he told The New York Times. He notes that his politics have changed over the years.
When Gladwell decided to grow his formerly short and conservatively cut hair into an Afro, he began to receive special, unwanted attention (more speeding tickets, additional checks in airport security lines, etc.). These experiences got him thinking about how first impressions lead to snap judgments -- which inspired his bestseller Blink.
Starbucks' founder Howard Schultz publicly attributed his company's success to the tipping-point phenomenon.
In 2005, Time Magazine named Gladwell one of the 100 Most Influential People.