What I learned from Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk

by Chris Leong

I was browsing through TED’s video and found this video of Malcolm Gladwell’s talk. Being a fan of Malcolm Gladwell writings (I have all his books), I want to see what insights he has to share.

He did not disappoint. His talk was titled “What can we learn from spaghetti sauce”. It tells a tale of how the food industry was obsessed in finding the “perfect” sauce and how a man came to change the industry’s view.


I find his delivery to be engaging and funny at times. but more importantly within his speech there are underlying insights that every entrepreneurs can learn from:

Making complex things simple to understand

This lesson was not in the content of his talk but on how they way he delivers the talk. He manage to explain what can be a boring academic research into something easy to understand. His usage of analogies and his story telling style of presenting kept me captivated. This skill is very important especially to entrepreneurs who wants to pitch for funding.

I’ve been into many pitching sessions where entrepreneurs either bore the judges to death or confusing the judges with too many jargons. What they should do is to relate the product offerings to something that the audiences can relate to. Telling a story the problems a consumer/user face and how your product can solve it is a better pitch.

Ask the right questions

No matter how efficient a person digs, there is no way he will find treasure if he’s digging at the wrong place. Asking the right questions is akin to providing the right solution. In the talk, the food industry was asking the wrong question all along, wasting millions of dollars in producing products that does not fulfill people’s need. Having a rebel attitude that challenges the core belief and status quo might just create the right solution to an underlying problem.

Consumers do not know what they want

Revolutionary product that creates new market do not come from market research and focus groups. Consumer just do not know what they want. Think of the IPhone. What do you think the answer would be , if a consumer was asked whether he/she would like to buy a phone that has no multi-tasking, no copy & paste for a premium price?

If people were to survey on whether I would want to buy a tablet that acts almost like the IPhone, I would say no. But now I’m happily proven wrong as I can’t keep my hands off my IPad.

Check out the video.