I was first introduced to Malcom Gladwell at AIGA’s GAIN conference last October in New York. Gladwell talked about his research and his soon-to-be-released book, Outliers. (He also talked a lot about Fleetwood Mac.) AIGA has a video of the presentation archived on their site.
Outliers is essentially a study of how people succeed. The first half of the book is focused more on individuals and the second half discusses institutional success. The most quoted content from the book is the idea that expert proficiency requires 10,000 hours of experience. The reason people succeed is that they are placed in situations or environments where they can get the 10,000 hours faster than their peers.
Gladwell makes some interesting conclusions about how to adapt some of these concepts to help children succeed in school. Some of the data and conclusions seem to be directly tied to some of the proposals coming from new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
From a design side, I think you can take from it a reassurance that becoming a good designer (or creative of any kind for that matter) takes time and repetition. And perhaps most importantly, it requires an environment that allows that creativity to be nurtured and embraced.