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?
Similarly within our organizations, it’s also critically important that we assess the needs relative to the people you have and whether their skills and abilities are being truly optimized. In a previous blog I spoke about how people have a tendency of viewing their own training needs in terms of technical skills but, for somebody else, it’s often thought of in terms of so called “soft” skills.
And so when we look at our teams and assess what might be their 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 them; just because it was a weakness in the past could make it the strength for the future, when viewed through different lenses.