I read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ recently. I like his writing style and I find his examples and observations very thought provoking. While all the examples are compelling and Gladwell’s writing style helps in making a strong point, I am not quite ready to generalize the conclusions drawn.

I was most intrigued by Chapter Seven The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes. In this chapter, Gladwell describes the communication sequence between the pilots before the Korean Air crash and the sequence between JFK’s Air Traffic Control and the Colombian Airlines’ co-pilot.

Gladwell demonstrates how culture and ethnicity shapes behavior. He points that most air crashes are not because of some major technical failure in the plane but are a sequence of missteps. In this situation, a combination of events like pilot fatigue, difficult weather conditions and poor communication added to the reason for disaster.

For the last few weeks, I have been thinking if these analogies apply to software project failures as well and if we can address these to improve the odds of success on software projects. I will be happy to hear your views on this subject. Please share your thoughts on what you think.

– Anand