Monday, January 10, 2011

It's Malcolm Gladwell, Spaghetti Sauce, and Worms in Horseradish for Thinking People

I got this in email yesterday, video at TED of Malcolm Gladwell in his talk, filmed at TED2004, in which he explains what every business can learn from spaghetti sauce. Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and best-selling author of the books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers.



LearnOutLoud.com has this accurate description of Gladwell's talk:
... he explores how the food industry went from looking for the perfect single spaghetti sauce recipe to a more diverse approach of creating a variety of spaghetti sauces to suit the desires of shoppers. He examines this trend through one of its main proponents Howard Moskowitz who used the field of psychophysics to create a variety of original sauces for Prego in the 1980s. Once this variability was proven to be successful it spread to the rest of the food industry, and Gladwell feels we are all happier for this increase in choices.
I think the crux of his message is about perception, how someone can open up an entire industry or maybe change the world because she/he looks at the world differently and ask better questions.

There's wisdom there. Asking the right questions, for instance, led NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon to discover the arsenic-chomping microbe GFAJ-1, altering conceptions of life as we know it. Textbooks may have to be rewritten.

Gladwell begins his story with Pepsi calling Muskowitz in to help the company improve its product by finding the "perfect" Pepsi flavor. Muskowitz tells them that what they want are "perfect Pepsis" (plural) not "one perfect Pepsi." According to Gladwell, Muskowitz "democratized taste."

The author also used a quote I appreciated: "To a worm stuck in horseradish, the whole world looks like horseradish," a saying attributed to a number of people but also considered to be a Yiddish proverb. The video was worth my time, and Gladwell is funny. Howard Muskowitz also co-authored the book Selling Blue Elephants.

1 comment:

lilalia said...

Love the talk. It is so entertaining, intelligent, eloquent, and thought provoking. He also made a speech on another matter on PopTech 2-3 years ago that is well worth watching.