David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants – Book Review by Guy Tomlinson

An inspirational read

This is an inspiring read for anyone wishing to start a business or grow bigger. Malcolm Gladwell is staff writer on the New Yorker magazine and author of the best seller ‘Outliers – the anatomy of success’. He is also one of the most insightful people on the planet – I’m working my way through all of his books! The book reveals an armoury of ideas that could help shift the balance of power between the minnows and the mighty.

The art of battling giants

While we all know that David did triumph over Goliath, the book is also heavy with facts, and describes many unfamiliar aspects to this story!

Packed with insights

Did you also know?

That Richard Branson one of the world’s wealthiest multi-billionaires is dyslexic? We’re treated to many examples of individual success that arose through personal disadvantage.

In a story about a US schoolgirl league basketball team that was light on skills, the coach equipped the team with disruptive tactics and a hard working ethic which enabled them to beat better ranked opponents.

To raise awareness and gain public sympathy for the US civil rights movement, the organisers of an Alabama demonstration tricked the authorities into a confrontation which led to lots of bad PR (and inspired a step change in support for the civil rights cause).

The Impressionist painters were originally refused access to the Paris Salon exhibitions of the day so they started their own show. By creating a new pond in which to swim allowed them to be seen and grow big.

Marketing Inspiration

By applying some of the themes in the book to businesses, here are a handful of lessons that can help minnows triumph over the mighty:

  1. Competing on different terms, for example using different strengths, to your adversaries can provide an advantage.
  2. Sheer tenacity and drive can triumph over complacency or unwariness. Working harder can also be both a recipe and message for success (cf. ‘we try harder’ – Avis).
  3. Superior knowledge of your opponent can provide an edge.
  4. Weaknesses can be a source of hidden strength. Look hard to discover what they could be.
  5. Avoid being hidebound by current industry conventions and think differently i.e. ‘zig’ when everyone else is ‘zagging’. Virgin Atlantic, for example, was devised by a group of Virgin employees with no airline experience whatsoever. This helped them establish a distinctive new offering.

Gladwell, Malcolm, David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (2013)

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