Malcolm Gladwell is clever. Anyone who has read his books can quickly deduce this. However, perhaps what is most clever about Malcolm Gladwell is that he recognizes that cleverness is not necessarily all about being smart. In fact, most of the truly great things that people get credit for were not really invented by them. Henry Ford did not invent much truly new, he just was exceptional at making it work together. Andrew Hargadon had a recent post on his blog about this issue as well, but for every great invention / business / whatever you can name, I can find three people who could probably lay claim at the idea first. It’s not that ideas are not precious, or necessary, it’s just that they are not enough. Malcolm Gladwell is best known for several books (Tipping Point, Blink, etc.) that take well established ideas from many domains, repackage and add new insights, and make him into an icon. The fact that most of these ideas are not original Gladwell creations does not diminish his contribution, and he’d be the first to tell you it was not all him. It’s about putting things together in the right context, with the right people, and sometimes the right business model.
This simple insight could be pretty influential for those who seek big ideas. Be an idea harvester, not just an idea creator.