I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. His particular genius for collecting data and weaving together fresh insights has produced a wealth of practical wisdom to help us improve the quality of our lives.
But nobody’s perfect.
I disqualified Mr. Gladwell for sainthood after coming across his 2004 Ted Talk, in which he recounted the career of one Howard Moskowitz, a psychophysicist whose market research for Pepsi Cola, Vlasic Pickles, and Prego Spaghetti Sauce — beginning back in the early 70s — changed the food industry forever. It might seem obvious to us with the wisdom of hindsight but, to make a long story short, Howard Moskowitz discovered that there is no perfect pickle, no ideal type of cola, and no universal favorite recipe for spaghetti sauce.
As a result, we’ve ended up with:
- 7 different kinds of vinegar
- 14 different types of mustard
- 36 varieties of Ragu spaghetti sauce
- 71 variations of olive oil.
And as options increase, prices go up. But Mr. Gladwell tells us it’s all worth it:
That is the final, and I think most beautiful lesson, of Howard Moskowitz: that in embracing the diversity of human beings, we will find a surer way to true happiness.
And it is here that Malcolm Gladwell exits the highway of reason by turning off onto the backstreets of phantasmagoria.