Photo: Ed Schipul via Flickr
Malcolm Gladwell is in the midst of writing what is bound to be another bestselling book, “David and Goliath.”He sat down with the New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson to talk about the book, which is about the “art and science of the underdog.”
The crux of Gladwell’s argument is that “underdogs win all the time, more than we continue to think,” he told Thompson. “Traits that we consider to be disadvantages aren’t disadvantages at all. … As a society, we depend on damaged people far more than we realise. … They’re capable of things the rest of us can’t do [because] they look at things in different ways.”
Gladwell says that through his research he found that “‘Goliath’ only wins 66 per cent of the time — which is first of all astonishing — so 34 per cent of time someone who is one-tenth the size of his opponent wins. That blew my mind.”
Underdogs who win refuse to compete by the same standards as their opponent; instead they use an entirely different strategy that exploits their stronger opponent’s weaknesses. In business, this is essentially the judo strategy, or a way of disruptive innovation.
Gladwell also talks about how some of the most innovative people are underdogs who, usually through trying life circumstances, don’t struggle with the “over-prediction fear,” or the belief by most people that terrifying events will be worse than they really are. This mindset frees people to be more creative.
On the other hand, prestige, he says, is constricting, and “the best thing you can do mid-career is start over.”
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