New Yorker staff writer and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell talks to Inc.'s Issie Lapowsky about business lessons from his latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
Watch more of our conversation with Malcolm Gladwell here http://www.inc.com/issie-lapowsky/idea-lab-malcolm-gladwell-what-entrepreneurs-can-learn.html
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If you think you know the story of David and Goliath, think again.
In his new book, "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants," Malcolm Gladwell says most people get this famous Biblical yarn all wrong because they misunderstand who really has the upper hand. It is because of, and not despite, David's size and unorthodox choice of weapon that he is able to slay the lumbering giant. In other words, Gladwell says, most people underestimate the importance of agility and speed.
The same misunderstanding happens in David vs. Goliath fights in business, which Gladwell substantiates with numerous case studies and research examples in his recently published book. Most fail to recognize the advantages an underdog brand has when it faces off against a competitor who has strength, size, and wealth. And that's exactly why nimble, upstart companies, with their new solutions to old problems, often can best Goliaths.
I recently sat down with Gladwell in Inc.'s headquarters to discuss his counterintuitive new book and how its lessons apply to the ostensible underdogs of the business world: entrepreneurs.
How did this research for "David and Goliath" grow out prior research you've done for books like "Outliers"?
"Outliers" is about understanding the kind of things that account for success. This is a book that does ask a similar kind of question, but in a very different way. When I was doing "Outliers" I was struck by how often when successful people described their lives, they would talk about the things that went wrong or the things that were hard, as opposed to the things that were easy or went right. I decided to do another version of this question, but starting with people's stories, and looking at this question: To what extent can disadvantages be advantageous and vice versa?
The basic premise of the book is that the story we all think we know about David and Goliath isn't really how it went down. Can you explain?
First, David's sling is a devastating weapon. It's one of the most feared weapons in the ancient world. The stone that comes from his sling has the stopping power equivalent to a bullet from a .45 caliber pistol. It's a serious weapon. And second, there are many medical experts who believe that Goliath was suffering from acromegaly, which causes you to grow. Many giants have acromegaly, but it has a side effect which is, it causes restrictive sight. Goliath in the biblical story does, if you look closely, sound like a guy who can't see.
So here we have a big, lumbering guy weighed down with armor, who can't see much more than a few feet in front of his face, up against a kid running at him with a devastating weapon and a rock traveling with the stopping power of a .45 caliber handgun. That's not a story of an underdog and a favorite. David has a ton of advantages in that battle, they're just not obvious. That's what gets the book rolling is this notion that we need to do a better job of looking at what an advantage is.
How have you seen stories like this play out in the business world?
This is the classic story of the business world. The very same thing that appears to make a company so formidable--its size, its resources--serve as stumbling blocks when they're forced to respond to a situation where the rules are changing, and where nimbleness, and flexibility, and adaptability are better attributes. Which is the story of David and Goliath, right? David had nimbleness. He changed the rules. He brought in the superior of technology.
Read the rest of the article here: http://www.inc.com/issie-lapowsky/malcolm-gladwell-david-and-goliath.html