If you're not familiar with the David & Goliath story, it goes a little something like this: David was a young, meek shepherd boy and Goliath was a mighty warrior no one wanted to fight. David takes him on and ends up killing him with a sling.
In short, the long shot defeats the favorite. This book explores what makes underdogs succeed against giants using studies and existing research. We use this all the time in the business world when we talk about the competition or business strategies between a startup (or small business) and bigger companies. In the Philly area, one such case is DuckDuckGo vs. Google.
We learn how David was actually not an underdog but how the apparent disadvantages turned out to be advantages. For example, Goliath was big and strong but his size also made him slow. You can relate this to a big corportation that may be financially successful but is unable to make decisions quickly as a result.
Gladwell uses several stories in "David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" to do illustrate this by devoting a chapter to people with dyslexia to highlight how the skills they develop to compensate as a result can lead to remarkable accomplishments to citing the works of a psychologist who believes losing a parent at an early age can give that child an advantageous edge later in life.
Anthony Gold of AnthonysDesk.com cites another popular example in his book review:
If you wanted to get a degree in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), would you be better off going to Harvard University, or Hartwick Collect, a small liberal arts school in NY? It’s pretty obvious, right?
Or maybe not.
In an incredibly thought provoking discussion of relative deprivation, Gladwell argues (quite persuasively) that “It’s not just how smart you are. It’s how smart you feel relative to other people in your classroom.” And that it is far easier to feel like a big fish in a small pond like Hartwick than it is to get by at Harvard.
In Gladwell’s words, “The smarter your peers, the dumber you feel; the dumber you feel, the more likely you are to drop out of science.” In the case of choosing Harvard over Hartwick, your chances of graduating with a science degree are reduced by nearly 40 percent!
While some of Gladwell's findings were repetitive and at times self-evident, he has an ability to draw you in with his storytelling. I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.
Have you read the book? What nuggets did you extract from it?
P.S. In the Philly area? Philly Startup Leaders has a Business Book Club you should join here.