Malcolm Gladwell has become a favorite management guru for his pithy accounts of how innovation happens. His New Yorker pieces and bestselling books synthesize the latest social science research into counterintuitive narratives.
In a recent New Yorker issue devoted to innovation, Gladwell analyzes oncology research. His descriptions of lab science belie the image of the triumphant PI pursuing a clear vision. Often, the biggest breakthroughs come from the least planned experiments. Moreover, the most effective treatments are cobbled together approaches, not a single, miraculous drug.
His account emphasizes the need to allow serendipity in research as well as humility.