David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

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No question about it, I am a Malcolm Gladwell fan and his new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, sounds fascinating.

I can’t comment further, since I haven’t had a chance to read it, but two points from this interview stood out among many others.

First, I have always believed the road to Hell was paved with bad assumptions and Gladwell seems to see that also.

“We are misled by the narrowness of our assumptions about what constitutes an advantage in any given situation.”

Second, his comments regarding leaders and managers score a perfect bulls-eye, as do his thoughts on why hiring a good fit is so difficult.

I realize now that an effective leader or manager can come in a virtually infinite number of forms. I have way more respect for the heterogeneity of excellence. That took a long time because it is so tempting to try and paint a very specific picture of what you think effective leadership is or what an effective organization looks like. The older I get and the more I see, I realize high performers of one sort or another have certain things in common. But they are almost more distinguished by what they don’t have in common than what they do.

Understanding fit is a much more important issue than defining the characteristics of excellence — understanding the combination of individual and organization and why at different points in your life cycle you might want a very, very different kind of person. The purest example of this is in sports, where the notion of fit between the athletes that you have and the coach that you hire is only occasionally considered. You will read that they brought in a coach whose plotting style is ill-suited to the athletes that he has. And then you wonder: Why did they bring in that coach? Why do a plotting style if no one on your team wants to play the plotting style? It is interesting how hard that notion is. Maybe it’s because it renders the task of defining what you want a lot more complicated, and we would rather not deal with that.

Below is the video interview or, if you don’t have time to watch, you can read the edited transcript.

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