At a special event hosted by Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell and GU-Q Dean Dr Safwan Masri, embarked on an in-depth analysis of contemporary global issues, providing rich insights and perspectives for a public audience, including the university’s students of international affairs.

Gladwell is best known for his unique insights into economics, sociology, psychology, and human behaviour. Dean Masri, with his insightful questioning, drew out Gladwell’s thought process behind the compilation of the writer’s critically acclaimed publications and the role of innovation in addressing global challenges, the power of social media, the evolving landscape of education and the invisible laws that govern seemingly unpredictable events, like epidemics.

An exemplar of liberal arts excellence

During his introduction, Dean Masri praised Gladwell’s work as exemplifying the counterintuitive, critical thinking and analytical depth fostered in liberal arts education and required of practitioners of international affairs, an exemplar of liberal arts excellence because his greatest gift is his insatiable and positively infectious curiosity. 

Malcolm Gladwell with GU-Q Dean Dr Safwan Masri 2

In his interview, Gladwell reflected on life in the 21st century and suggested that the era’s most transformative changes are still on the horizon, encompassing the climate, biotechnology and ethics. Gladwell also discussed increased life spans, advocating for a more exploratory approach to life’s decisions.

In contrast to his advice pertaining to personal decisions, Gladwell advocated for embracing urgency when it comes to tackling global challenges during his keynote at GU-Q’s recently held Hiwaraat Conference Series on water security in the Gulf.

According to Gladwell, we should be very clear when there is a clock attached to a problem. One way to rank, he said, is to prioritise the challenges we’re facing on the urgency dimension.

One of the things that distinguishes successful entrepreneurs is their ability to understand when a problem is urgent, (and) which piece of the puzzle has to be done now.

Gladwell also shared his thoughts on the evolving role of educational institutions in the age of artificial intelligence. He proposed that universities could become pivotal in guiding professions through technological disruptions.

On the topic of social media, the bestselling author acknowledged the challenges posed by misinformation but also noted that social media is still in its formative stages and more time is needed to understand its long-term impacts.

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers – The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History.

Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.

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