Malcolm Gladwell has made his own cottage industry out of explaining complicated topics to the masses.
Last week, Gladwell sat down with The Sacramento Bee to discuss how he tackles subjects as diverse as technology, psychology, and sociology, and then ties them all together to come up with new conclusions about the human condition.
His secret? Keep asking questions until you've literally run out of things to ask about.
"[I]f you make enough phone calls and talk with enough people, you can come to a basic understanding [of an issue]," he told The Sacramento Bee. "You get kind of a confidence in your ability to master something and educate yourself about it."
Gladwell refers to his own "haphazard method" of letting his curiosity run wild as the technique he uses to choose the subjects of his books. One of the reasons Gladwell spends so much time and effort becoming an expert on various topics likely has to do with his understanding of how much humans make "snap judgments" instead of informed decisions. As an example--from his book Blink--he points to Coca-Cola's decision to reformulate one of the most successful products off all time, Classic Coke, and make New Coke, in 1985, before a consumer backlash forced the company to scrap the idea altogether.
"[T]he kinds of cognitive errors that lead to disastrous decisions are common to all of us," Gladwell told The Sacramento Bee. "By definition, human beings are flawed decision-makers. ... It's more surprising when people make wise decisions."
Next time you feel like you've gone deep enough on an issue related to your business to make an informed decision, ask yourself whether there are still any relevant questions to which you don't know the answer. If there are, your work probably isn't done.
To hear Gladwell's take on why entrepreneurs need over-confidence to start a successful business, check out the video below.