Issue No. 289 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting highlights Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book—currently on multiple bestseller lists, including the #1 spot on the Los Angeles Times list. Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Gladwell on Goliath
Whew! Where do I start to convince you to read this thought-provoking, entertaining, page-turning gem?
On the title pages of the books I read for these reviews, I usually list 10 to 20 page numbers—with the best stuff I want to talk about.
This book: 45 bullet points, all worthy of long paragraphs. It’s pure torture knowing I can’t mention most of them. You gotta read this bestselling book!
Malcolm Gladwell is a master at his craft with bestsellers like Outliers: The Story of Success, Blink and The Tipping Point. His latest, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, is classic Gladwell.
He writes, “David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. By ‘giants,’ I mean powerful opponents of all kinds—from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune, and oppression. Each chapter tells the story of a different person—famous or unknown, ordinary or brilliant, who has faced an outsize challenge and been forced to respond.
Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts?
Shall I persevere or give up?
Should I strike back or forgive?”
In these memorable stories (I’ve already shared half-a-dozen relevant vignettes with colleagues in the last 10 days), Gladwell explores two ideas: 1) sometimes “the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty,” and 2) we “consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are.”
So rather than a dozen spoiler alerts here…I’ll give you a True or False test. Mark “True” if you think the following notes are from David and Goliath.
TRUE OR FALSE?
#1. In the mid-1950s, Swedish furniture manufacturers boycotted IKEA, angry over their low prices. So in 1961, at the peak of the Cold War, IKEA’s founder did business with manufacturers in Poland—the equivalent today of “Walmart setting up shop in North Korea.”
#2. Based on the statistical history of wars—the David vs. Goliath types—if Canada waged an unconventional war on the U.S., “history would suggest you ought to put your money on Canada.”
#3. In discussing the relationship between parenting and wealth, “The scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier at a family income of around $75,000 a year.”
#4. “The phenomenon of relative deprivation applied to education is called—appropriately enough—the ‘Big Fish—Little Pond Effect.’ The more elite an educational institution is, the worse students feel about their own academic abilities.”
#5. So…where should your kids attend college? Research on college grads concludes that “the best students from mediocre schools were almost always a better bet than good students from the very best schools.”
Gladwell divides his stunning findings (told through page-turner true stories) into three parts: 1) “The Advantages of Disadvantages (and the Disadvantages of Advantages),” 2) “The Theory of Desirable Difficulty,” and 3) “The Limits of Power.”
More True or False:
#6. “We have a definition in our heads of what an advantage is—and the definition isn’t right. And what happens as a result? It means that we make mistakes. It means that we misread battles between underdogs and giants.”
#7. In Gladwell’s up-close-and-personal interview with a world class attorney who has dyslexia, the lawyer talks about the advantages of his disadvantages. “Not being able to read a lot and learning by listening and asking questions means that I need to simplify issues to their basics. And that is very powerful, because in trial cases, judges and jurors—neither of them have the time or the ability to become experts in the subject. One of my strengths is presenting a case that they can understand.”
#8. George Bernard Shaw once said,
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
#9. In response to Birmingham police jailing hundreds of children who skipped school to march in the Civil Rights demonstrations, Martin Luther King responded, “Jail helps you to rise about the miasma of everyday life. If they want some books, we will get them. I catch up on my reading every time I go to jail.”
#10. A California father, incensed at his daughter’s brutal murder, champions the Three Strikes Law, while a Canadian couple—Mennonites—forgive and move on; “a very practical strategy based on the belief that there are profound limits to what the formal mechanisms of retribution can accomplish.”
I could go on, with another 35 or more mind-grabbing and soul-whacking notes, but I gotta stop. I hope you’ll read this book. Give it for Christmas and you’ll receive appreciative thank you notes. (By the way, all 10 statements above are “True.”) And speaking of appreciation, my thanks to David Curry and Dean Curry who both recommended this book.
To order this book from Amazon, click on the graphic below for: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Business leaders will appreciate this book, but I’m guessing nonprofit and church leaders will love it. They have “against all odds” challenges most days before breakfast. So, have we been looking at “disadvantages/giants” incorrectly? Why might disadvantages actually be advantages?
2) During World War II, the Germans pretty much gave up on disassembling a safe haven for Jews in the French mountain community of Le Chambon. Why? Gladwell says, “wiping out a town or a people or a movement is never as simple as it looks. The powerful are not as powerful as they seem—nor the weak as weak.” Gladwell uses numerous Bible verses in his chapter headings. What verses come to mind on this subject?
No Time to Read? Think Again! - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
One of the big ideas from Mastering the Management Buckets (Chapter 5, The Book Bucket) is that we don’t just talk about books—we actually read them!
So think about a book reading contest in your organization in 2014. In 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush and Karl Rove, Former Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to President Bush, started an annual book-reading contest. That year, the President read 95 books, and Rove read 110. Bush also read through the Bible every year. “All of this,” Rove added, “while being the leader of the Free World!”
For more reading insights and book recommendations, visit the Book Bucket webpage.