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What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite writers. The way he writes he doesn’t just show the reader what he is talking about, he paints a picture for you so it’s easy for you to picture and understand. The title of this book

is taken from the “Dog Whisperer” story Malcolm put together which I’ll get to later, it’s a fabulous story about Cesar Millan. Basically, this book is a compilation of a number of stories Gladwell wrote at the New Yorker and they are told in a fantastic way which stimulates the mind. Gladwell talks about everything from spaghetti sauce to the collapse of Enron in this book and the stories are phenomenal. This book is divided into three parts: the first part, Obsessives, Pioneers, and other varieties of Minor Genius, describes people who are very good at what they do, but are not necessarily well-known. Part two, Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses, describes the problems of prediction. The third section, Personality, Character, and Intelligence, discusses a wide variety of psychological and sociological topics ranging from the difference between early and late bloomers and criminal profiling. I will tell you a little bit about my favorite parts in What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell.

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Cesar Millan the Dog Whisperer

Cesar Millan was a fascinating individual Gladwell talks about in the book. He grew up in Mexico around dogs and learned their behaviors very well when he was younger. Many of the locals called him “dog boy” because he was so well versed with dogs and their behaviors. Cesar crossed the border to the US when he was 21 years old, dirty with no money. His first job was working at a dog grooming store. While doing this and other jobs, he tried to get his dog training business off the ground. He has the keen ability to do what other trainers can’t and prefers to work with mean or aggressive dogs because he is able to change their temperament. Eventually, he became widely known and now has published a series of books and has an award winning TV show on the National Geographic channel.

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Howard Moskowitz and Spaghetti Sauce

I absolutely loved this story in Gladwell’s book. I can tell Gladwell really likes Moskowitz and may even like Prego sauce as well. Howard Moskowitz is an American market researcher and psychophysicist. He was hired by Campbell’s soup to make it more competitive with the market leader, Ragu. Ragu had been the market leader throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Moskowitz made 45 different kinds of spaghetti sauce and varied them everyway possible (sweetness, tartness, saltiness, etc.). He was able to compile a lot of data by testing these sauces with a number of people. He found Americans fell into three groups, Americans who liked their spaghetti sauce plain, spicy, and extra chunky. Of these three facts the third one was the most important, if you went to a grocery store you would not find extra chunky sauce at this time. So Moskowitz introduced a number of different extra chunky sauces with Prego. Over the next ten years, Prego not only became the market leader but they made over $600 million dollars in the process. This is a fantastic story about a visionary businessman.

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The Collapse of Enron

This was a fascinating story about a bunch of crooks, Jeffrey Skilling being the worst of them. I’ve read some books about the Enron scandal and saw the made for TV movie on it as well. However, Gladwell gets into the particulars and really shows you what went on behind the scenes. I found the parts about the way Enron used Mark-to-Market accounting practices on their books and SPV’s to be the most shocking. They would inflate their corporate profits using Mark-to Market accounting practices. SPV’s only needed 3% of capital investments from bankers or an independent investor. Investments in an Enron SPV were not considered at risk by these banks because of the overvalued profits shown by Enron’s financial statements, backed up by their letters of credit and guarantees. These bankers added their investments in an Enron SPV to their high-return portfolios and did not hesitate in lending to an Enron SPV. All of this helped contribute to the fall of Enron along with the shady behavior of the top company executives.

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