David & Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits and the art of battling giants by Malcolm Gladwell
David and Goliath
Point 1: Play to you’re advantages and strengths Sometimes what we think is an advantage is actually a disadvantage. The key point of this book is that trying to play the Giant’s game will ...
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Point 1: Play to you’re advantages and strengths
Sometimes what we think is an advantage is actually a disadvantage. The key point of this book is that trying to play the Giant’s game will result in failure. To win we need to redefine the rules.
David won not because of some miracle. But because a slingshot would always beat someone in armour with a sword. Goliath expected a sword fight and was basically outgunned.
Ivan Arreguin-Toft analysed all the wars over the past 200 years. When he looked at one-sided battles (where one side had 10x the size of population to the other), he found the larger country won 71.5% of cases. However, when he looked at those cases where the smaller country fought with unconventional tactics (such as guerrilla warfare), he found in these situations they won more time than they lost – in these situations the underdogs won in just under two-thirds of wars (63.6%).
Point 2: Just throwing resources at something!
More is not always better. “Positive traits, states and experiences have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits”. For example software designers discovered that adding extra people to the team eventually led to a decline in performance. Classroom sizes have little impact on pupil progress. Time and time again the adding resources does not actually make things better.
Gladwell talks about the n curve. On the first part of the curve there is a positive effect, then the effect plateaus and finally adding more has a negative impact. We see this in class sizes EEF shows that there is little impact of a classes from 15 – 40, very small classes (below 6) has a negative impact on the students.
The ‘n’ curve has three phases: The left side, where where doing more has more effect. Then it flattens out (there is little difference between the suggested ‘optimal’ class size of 18 – and 25). Thereafter further increased resources actually leads in a decline in effect – for example, too few kids in a classroom stifles the quality of discussion and so we see with class sizes of 6 a decline in educational standards.
Point 3: Tough times can make you stronger
67% of UK Prime Ministers lost a parent before they were 16 – as were 12 out of the past 44 US Presidents (such as Washington and Obama). Likewise creatives (e.g. Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Thackery). 25% of them lost a parent by the age of 10 (rising to 45% by age of 20). Loss helped them build psychological strength (as having survived the worst fears of life, it gave them the strength and courage to cope with rejection).
Point 4: Be prepared to be disagreeable!
Psychologists have found that creatives, innovators and revolutionaries share a similar trait of being disagreeable – i.e. they do not mind breaking social norms in pursuit of their vision. As the playwright, Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”