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“How David Beats Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell Essay

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Updated: Apr 22nd, 2021

Summary

The article by Malcolm Gladwell “How David Beats Goliath” focuses on the subject of breaking the rules – or, rather, transcending them to achieve victory against a stronger opponent. Several examples are provided; most of them are connected with applying innovative strategies in various games.

Vivek Ranadive, one of the central personalities of the article, is the founder of a multi-million dollar American computer company (Gladwell par. 15). The article focuses on applying an innovative strategy in basketball. The strategy was designed to allow a squad of relatively weak, unskilled players to overcome an expert basketball team. The essence of the strategy was to “play a real full-court press” (Gladwell par. 5), not allowing the opposing team to execute their usual strategy, the one which they have mastered to a perfect degree, and at the same time employing the tactic of throwing the ball from underneath the opponent’s basket, which didn’t require much skill or excellent aim to hit the basket.

Several other examples of non-standard methods are presented; for example, Doug Lenat’s strategy of winning a war game by building an enormous number of small ships with no defense or mobility, as opposed to a standard strategy of building a smaller number of large, powerful ships (Gladwell par. 45).

The crux of the article is that a weak player is capable of defeating a much stronger opponent if the player invests a great amount of effort into the game and can find and hit their opponent’s weak spot. According to the author, the effort can often overpower ability, in particular, because relentless effort is often not expected.

Important Ideas

  1. Two basic principles of Ranadive: never to raise his voice, and always to go all out in competitions.
  2. A relatively weak participant of any kind of competition (an “underdog”) can overcome their competitors.
  3. “Underdogs” win in approximately 30% of cases.
  4. The way of doing so is finding the competitor’s weak spots.
  5. “Effort can trump ability” is an important point to note.
  6. The relentless effort is rarely expected and can take opponents by surprise.
  7. Rules are usually established by “Goliaths” (and following them usually provides “Goliaths” with victory).
  8. A person viewing a situation from outside can often come up with innovative ideas.
  9. A person viewing a situation from inside rarely comes up with innovative ideas, as they are a part of the system.
  10. When one finds a way around the rules, it is sometimes perceived by others as unacceptable.

Relevance

The article is relevant to our course because it makes the idea of “thinking outside the box” and rethinking the rules vivid. According to Verganti, it is important for any company that their innovations are not pulled by the customers’ needs but pushed by the company’s views (“Design, Meanings and Radical Innovation” p. 2), that the company creates products that provide a completely new reason for customers to buy them (Design-driven Innovation p. viii).

As Marshall argues, innovation is the process of implementing new thoughts into a stable system, which must be preceded by creativity, i.e. the process of thinking (par. 5-7). Although creativity doesn’t always originate from “thinking outside the box” (Castillo par. 6), very often it does. And in such cases, after being implemented into the system, creative ideas have the potential to change the rules, which is, according to Johnston and Bate, is the process of strategy innovation itself (11).

A simple example of thinking outside the box and turning new ideas into new rules is related to gadgets that are used every day – mobile phones. Nowadays they are not only phones; they are more similar to a hybrid between a phone and a computer. This fact has made many people’s life easier, for now, they can use some benefits of computers no matter where they are. This innovation is an example of thinking outside the box (“phone must be only a phone”) implemented in life.

Works Cited

Castillo, Stephanie. . 2014. Web.

Gladwell, Malcolm. . 2009. Web.

Johnston, Robert E., Jr., and J. Douglas Bate. The Power of Strategy Innovation: A New Way of Linking Creativity and Strategic Planning to Discover Great Business Opportunities, New York, NY: AMACOM, 2013. Print.

Marshall, Drew. . 2013. Web.

Verganti, Roberto n.d. . Web.

Verganti, Roberto. Design-driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean, Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2009. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2021, April 22). "How David Beats Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-david-beats-goliath-by-malcolm-gladwell/

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""How David Beats Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell." IvyPanda, 22 Apr. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/how-david-beats-goliath-by-malcolm-gladwell/.

1. IvyPanda. ""How David Beats Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell." April 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-david-beats-goliath-by-malcolm-gladwell/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. ""How David Beats Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell." April 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-david-beats-goliath-by-malcolm-gladwell/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"How David Beats Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell'. 22 April.

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