While reading the latest Malcolm Gladwell book, David & Goliath, I couldn’t help but think about how many of the concepts presented also applied to business. The most interesting lesson that emerged for me was that strengths and weakness are all relative. In other words, when viewing through the same lenses, most will agree as to what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses. However, when assessing from differing perspectives a variety of outcomes can emerge. This is why having a diversity of opinion in problem solving and planning is so important.
This was most profoundly demonstrated in the book when Gladwell recounted his understanding of the famous David & Goliath story from biblical times. Goliath was supposedly this larger than life warrior, with a massive sword and shield while David was a mere shepherd boy with a sling shot. When looking at it relative to typical warfare for those times, David didn’t stand a chance. However as Gladwell describes, it was really Goliath who didn’t stand the chance. David was nimble and fast, remaining at a distance, while Goliath could hardly move; weighed down by the heavy protective armor he was wearing. As for weapons of choice, supposedly the slight shot in the hands of an expert could dispense a rock with a similar velocity as a modern day gun. So who really had the advantage?
At a time when we mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, one can’t help that but think that he too was like a modern day David up against the might of the Goliath like apartheid government. And when released from prison he demonstrated all the leadership qualities (respect, dignity, humility, inclusion, etc) that were the very antithesis of the supposedly “strong” government at the time. And we all now know what happened there.
And so when we look at our respective business models and assess what might be one’s strengths and weaknesses, be careful of what you are comparing to. More importantly, be mindful of popular business “myths” and don’t be afraid to challenge; just because it was a weakness in the past could make it the strength for the future.