The Malcolm Gladwell Reader

By the time you finish a Gladwell article, you feel as if you’ve watched a movie and read an academic journal all at once. Your brain is exercised and entertained, your perspective changed. Many of his New Yorker pieces inspired parts of The Tipping Point and Blink. But not all of them: Here are four provocative articles worth checking out.


“Listening to Khakis”

July 28, 1997


What it’s about: How Dockers sold fashion to men by not selling fashion and altered men’s advertising through its campaigns.

Conversation starters: If you’re marketing to men, are you selling to their heads, their hearts, and their groins? Does your advertising talk down to men? Do your ads aimed at men provide too much information for them to process?

“The Pitchman”

October 30, 2000

What it’s about: A profile of Ron Popeil, the infomercial king. Rather than caricaturing him, Gladwell uses Popeil and his family legacy of boardwalk huckstering to teach Madison Avenue lessons it would never have learned in business school.

Conversation starters: If Ron Popeil can wildly succeed without the benefit of focus groups, market research, ad agencies, consultants, and so forth, are we relying too much on our modern marketing techniques? Who’s the star of your ads: your pitchman or your product? How can you integrate product development and marketing to create better products?


“Designs for Working”

December 11, 2000

What it’s about: Gladwell explores how cutting-edge office design has its roots in bustling urban mixtures of work, life, and commerce like in Greenwich Village during the 1950s.

Conversation starters: Does your office create a social atmosphere that stimulates new ideas? What physical changes can you make to your floor space to promote more interaction, more spontaneity?

“Personality Plus”

September 20, 2004

What it’s about: Using the example of Sandy Nininger, a World War II hero, Gladwell studies the elusiveness of a perfect personality test.


Conversation starters: How can companies deal with the ambiguities of human personality and still pick the right people? Are leadership attributes something you’re born with, or can they evolve and develop over time? Could you create your own personality test, as Gladwell did?

Go to for a complete archive of articles.

About the author

Danielle Sacks is an award-winning journalist and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She's chronicled some of the most provocative people in business, with seven cover stories that included profiles on J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Malcolm Gladwell, and Chelsea Clinton