Bank of America announced today that they had contracted with author and New Yorker scribe Malcolm Gladwell to headline a series of lectures designed to attract small business owners to the much-criticized bank.
In his presentations, the bank said, “Borrowing from the concepts in ‘Outliers,’ Gladwell examined the unique attributes that define high performance and extracted lessons that small business owners could adapt in their own endeavors.” In Outliers, Gladwell looked at everything from cultural heritage to class privilege to explain why, respectively, Asian students were better at math and Bill Gates is rich.
Bank of America added that “In each market, Gladwell’s presentation was preceded by a panel discussion on relationship capital, a core component of business success” — better known as a sales presentation.
Gladwell’s work has been widely criticized from the pages of New York Magazine (“The bigger criticism of Gladwell is not that he’s unoriginal but that he’s unserious”) to the New York Times (“Mr. Gladwell has conflated fraud with overvaluation.”) to the Columbia Journalism Review (“Of course Gladwell lacks rigor – he’s a feature writer, not a brain scientist.”) — which also notes that he is rather well-remunerated through corporate speaking fees — and beyond. Many of those criticisms note that his biggest works are more often than not distillations of other people’s research and ideas… and that they tend to almost exclusively support a consumerist, elitist philosophy.
Bank of America has seen its own share of criticisms of late, from the $45 billion it had to take from the federal government (and later repay) to insure its own survival to the $500 million in bad loans it turned over to the federal government last August to its discussion of mass layoffs in September to the $930,000 it was required to pay to a whistleblower it illegally filed for exposing fraud after its merger with Countrywide. But it was the public relations nightmare that resulted from the company’s efforts to impose a $5 fee on debit card-users, later rescinded, that made it a target of the Occupy movement and efforts to get customers to switch their accounts. Video of Bank of America employees refusing to close people’s accounts that day was widely circulated.
[Image via Pop!Tech on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]