Malcolm Gladwell on strengthening our weakest links

I had an interesting discussion a few months ago with a business acquaintance at the opposite side of the political spectrum from myself regarding our nation's current polarity. Our mutual premise rested on the idea that it boils down to disagreement as who counts as our "neighbor," our "community." Is it all of humankind? Just our countrymen? Our immediate geographic area? People like us? Who do we take care of - and at whose expense?

While Gladwell did not betray any particular political bias, that conversation was brought strongly to mind, as his presentation revolved around how one strengthens a team, a business, a society - by strengthening its weakest members, or its strongest - and how the answer to that question varies by circumstance.

Gladwell gave numerous examples of both weak-link and strong-link systems - in sports, business, in government - and made it clear that he was not placing one inherently above the other. But, one cannot deny the interconnectivity of the digital age, and how that changes the game.

The danger, Gladwell warns, is when people who come from traditionally strong-link situations are put in charge of weak-link organizations. They don't understand the problem; they've got all these strong people at the top, so what could go wrong? This has potentially catastrophic ramifications in a society as democratized by technology as ours has rapidly become. Gladwell does not have faith that our current societal structures - and leaders, though he did not call any out - are presently up to that task. I'd have to agree.

While my phone froze shortly into Gladwell's presentation, I filled in my Tweets later with several of his points that I recalled - his presentation has stuck with me more than any other, as I have been turning his points around in my head, and viewing everything through this new prism, ever since. (Synergy Global Forum, by the way, was a weak-link event operating as a strong-link event; they had a mind-blowingly incredible lineup of speakers, but, as those following me on Twitter are aware, lacked niceties like accessible event staff, printed programs, fast and easy check-in, refreshments [literally no drinking water, unless we wanted to wait in line and pay stadium prices], outlets for device charging, announcement of events, service [even self-service] at the photo booths, lunch [or any suggestions therefor]... the list goes on and on.)

I'm eager to see how our society responds to this new "weak-link" challenge, and hope that we are able to adjust in time to support our growth and development, rather than collapsing under the weight of our own un-met needs. In the meantime, I'm fascinated by how clear so many things become when viewed within these parameters. Try it yourself. You'll be fascinated by what you discover.