Meme Theme – Systems approach to biographies

Just after reading The Invention of Air, I’m listening to the audiobook of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, Outliers. One thing that’s immediately apparent is that the two share a common theme — frustration with the “Great Man” approach to history and biography, where we credit someone’s success to that individual’s talent, perseverance, innate abilities. Instead, both take an intriguing systems approach to biography, suggesting that individuals are as much players in a larger context beyond their control, and success comes from largely from chance — people being fortunate to be in the right position at the right time. It intrigues me that these two writers have made this the central theme of their latest works at this time, and I wonder, well, what larger systems forces are in play that reveals this shared approach to biography.