Innovation and originality are close cousins. We think of creative innovators as people with new ideas. But to read Malcolm Gladwell on the subject is to be reminded of a distinction: An innovator may not be the one with the new idea — but with a new take on an old idea. Robert Siegel interviews Gladwell, who wrote "Creation Myth: Xerox PARC, Apple, and the truth about innovation" in the May 16th issue of The New Yorker.
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Sometimes the way you conduct science has profound impacts on society as a whole. Malcolm Gladwell says the way we look at who is and who isn’t successful is crucial. He says it’s dangerous to think East Africans are good runners because they have an innate gene that makes them fast. Instead, you have to look at cultural attitudes. More people run in Kenya and Ethiopia than in the U.S. Therefore, those countries produce more successful runners. If you were to think if it in terms of genes, well, that’s the same philosophy that gets people thinking African–Americans aren’t as smart as whites. The real reasons behind success rates in professions like medicine and law have to do with class, not genius. Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book is "Outliers: The Story of Success." He also writes for The New Yorker magazine. Gladwell spoke at Town Hall Seattle on January 17, 2009.