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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed reasoning skills detract from interesting stories about underdogs
I have read and reviewed all of Malcolm Gladwell's previous books and consider him to be among the most talented and energetic of journalists, with most of his work featured in The New Yorker. He also has superb storyteller skills. His "discoveries" tend to be well-known to those knowledgeable about the given subject. In The Tipping Point, for example, he discusses a...
Published 9 months ago by Robert Morris

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite pull it off
Gladwell has a formula: he picks a grand thesis - in this case that what are ordinarily perceived of as disadvantages might not be wholly negative - and then carefully arranges around it anecdotes of such simple humanity that one is forced, between dabbing the tears away and spontaneous rounds of applause, to swallow the damn thing whole.

There's a circle of...
Published 2 months ago by boggisbitesvampires


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gladwell is as entertaining as informative, 15 Jan 2014
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I wonder if his community of near misses will apply to the independence battle in Scotland. For over a year now, the Scottish electorate have been bombarded by Project Fear and yet all these prophesies of doom have been systematically deconstructed and shown for what they are; nought but scaremongering.

Could it be that once people understand that the fear they have been forced to face has melted under scrutiny they then will embrace the independence of their country?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting & eye opening, 24 Nov 2013
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I read this bookas it was recommended to help with my coaching.

It def shows that what we are brought up on in the popular media is just wrong. Definitely a book for all coaches/teachers.

Let's start to change how we teach children to achieve & how we nurture talent.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review, 14 Oct 2013
This review is from: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Hardcover)
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

This book is not about underdogs and giants in any conventional sense of these terms. Rather, the book is about the curious nature of advantages and disadvantages, and how each can (under certain circumstances) become its opposite.

The first lesson to be learned is that the things we take to be advantages are often no such thing. Our greatest mistake here comes from the fact that we identify a certain quality or characteristic as being a benefit or advantage, and then assume that the more of it there is the better--when this is often not the case. Put another way, most of us recognize that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and yet we fail to appreciate just how often and where this principle applies. For instance, we recognize that having a certain amount of money greatly facilitates raising children (it being very difficult to raise a family in a state of poverty), and yet we fail to recognize that beyond a certain point wealth also makes parenting increasingly difficult (for it becomes harder and harder to instill qualities of hard work and self-control). Or we recognize that small class sizes are a good thing, and yet we fail to recognize that classes can actually begin to suffer once they become too small (since diversity and energy begin to disappear).

Another arena wherein an advantage can become a disadvantage is in power and authority. Power and authority is an advantage, of course; however, when it is wielded illegitimately and without fairness, it can actually cause more chaos, destruction and violence than it curbs. This is as true in the classroom as it is in community policing as it is in handling minority groups within a nation's borders.

The second lesson to be learned here is that certain disadvantages can sometimes drive people into positions of advantage. Take the disadvantage of being born with a disability, for example. Say dyslexia. In our modern world, where the ability to read is extremely important--and practically a requirement for success--having great difficulty with reading is a major disadvantage. And indeed the statistics indicate that the vast majority of those who are born dyslexic end up falling through the cracks and missing out on success.

Still, though, many dyslexics have gone on to become highly successful people; and it has also been noted that in certain fields (such as entrepreneurship) an inordinate proportion of the most successful individuals do, in fact, have dyslexia. So how can we explain these success stories? What we find in these cases is that these individuals have managed to compensate for their disability by developing skills that make up for their flaws (such as an improved memory or debating prowess). Thus, in a way, the successful dyslexic has actually benefited from his disability, because it has forced him into a position where he has had to develop other skills that have led him directly to success.

Also at play here is the fact that dyslexics tend to endure many failures when they are young. Repeated failures (especially at a young age) have the potential to crush the spirit. But they can also have the opposite effect: they can inure the individual to failure, thus making them more likely to take risks and try things that others wouldn't--which is often a sure path to success.

A similar phenomenon also sometimes touches trauma victims. Take the ultimate trauma of losing a parent in childhood, for example. This is one of the worse experiences imaginable, and the trauma of losing a parent in childhood does indeed crush the vast majority of those who have the misfortune of enduring it.

Again, though, it has been noted that a very high proportion of highly successful individuals across many fields (from science to art to politics) have in fact lost a parent in childhood. And what we find in these cases is that the experience has left these individuals with the mind-set that now that they have endured such a terrible event, that nothing could ever be so bad. And thus they are liberated from the fear of failure, and--like the successful dyslexic--are willing to try things and take risks that others are not (which often leads directly to success).

The same experience and logic can also apply to underdog groups. For example, when a group recognizes that it is severely over-matched in terms of skill or strength compared to its opponent, it can begin to feel liberated to try unconventional tactics and approaches. This is often for the best, for it turns out that unconventional tactics and approaches are frequently very effective against giants--in everything from sports, to politics to war--and are, in many cases, the only chance the underdog has to win anyway. Again, then, in both of these instances (the trauma victim and the underdog group) a disadvantage has driven the party into a position of advantage, and thus the disadvantage may itself be seen as a kind of boon.

Gladwell has done well to make us rethink the nature of advantages and disadvantages across many fields. The only major flaw in the book, in my view, is the third and final part. The theme of the part is that power becomes less effective (or even counter-productive) when it is wielded illegitimately. The problem with this argument is that it's a classic case of the straw-man: Gladwell has set up an opposition that is very easy to defeat, and then smashed it to pieces. What's worse is that the examples Gladwell uses to prove his point here are quite weak. Still, there is much of value in the first 2 parts of the book. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com; a podcast discussion of the book will be available soon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 19 July 2014
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great book
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 19 July 2014
very good
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars hmmm, contentious at best, 18 Mar 2014
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I've enjoyed Gladwell's previous titles but this is too one sided. His review of the troubles in N Ireland are incompetent at best. Not a recommended read, sorry.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 2 Nov 2013
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I enjoyed reading the book. Loads of useful tips on making decisions that will make us to be more successful in life. I recommend it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 17 Oct 2013
I absolutely loved this book it's a must listen! Outstanding as per all other Malcolm Gladwell books I've listened to!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A primer for underdogs to have their day, 16 Oct 2013
This review is from: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Hardcover)
"Most independents are best off, I think, doing what I prided myself on doing for so many years as a storekeeper: getting out on the floor and meeting every one of the customers. Let them know how much you appreciate them, and ring that cash register yourself."
This interview is missing from Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David and Goliath, yet I would still strongly recommend this book to independent convenience store retailers seeking to make a good living. You can take on the Goliaths like Tesco and Amazon and win.
"David came running towards Goliath, powered by courage and faith. Goliath was blind to his approach - and then he was down, too big and too slow and blurry-eyed to comprehend the way the tables had been turned. All these years, we've been telling these kinds of stories wrong. David and Goliath is about getting them right."
So says Gladwell at the end of his short, gripping introduction. A journalist, Gladwell has a great way of finding stories that support his ideas. It does not matter that the stories may not exactly mirror your current situation. The energy that you will garner from this book is all about creating momentum.
He organises nine chapters into three sections that show how the underdog has achieved success:
* By using disadvantages as advantages
* By using difficulties to leverage advantage
* By exploiting the limits of power.
In the opening chapter we meet Vivek Ranadivé, a native of Mumbai in California managing his 12 year old daughter's little league basketball team. His daughter and her friends were no athletes but Ranadivé worked out a strategy that meant her team reached the national championships.
"Ranadivé knew that if they played the conventional way they would almost certainly lose... Ranadivé had come to America as a 17 year old with $50 in his pocket. He was not one to accept losing easily. His...principle was that his team would play a real full-court press - every game, all the time."
It took discipline to play this way. And it worked. His team's philosophy was based on a "willingness to try harder than anyone else." And it worked.
Other chapters are more controversial. Gladwell shows that Martin Luther King used tactics from the Brer Rabbit tradition of the "trickster hero", tactics that even Malcolm X would not consider.
"African-Americans were outnumbered and overpowered, and the idea embedded in the Brer Rabbit stories was that the weak could compete in even the most lopsided of contests if they were willing to use their wits. Brer Rabbit understood Brer Fox in a way that Brer Fox did not understand himself. He realised his opponent Fox was so malicious that he couldn't resist giving Rabbit the punishment Rabbit said he desperately wanted to avoid."
So Martin Luther King went to Birmingham, Alabama because he believed the local police chief could be tricked into delivering the outrage to give momentum to the civil rights movement.
For independent retailers seeking to beat big competitors this book will provide lots of inspiration.
PS The quote at the top is from Sam Walton, who started out an underdog himself!

Alternate review: Does your strategy work for the underdogs?

Malcolm Gladwell is famous for his books explaining how the long tail works in e-retailing and that you need to spend 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. His new book, David and Goliath, is about how we misunderstand the true meaning of advantage and disadvantage. His thesis goes to the heart of a major dilemma facing wholesalers, how to leverage their scale to help independent foodservice and retail businesses beat the multiples.

My review:

"David came running toward Goliath, powered by courage and faith. Goliath was blind to his approach - and then he was down, too big and slow and blurry-eyed to comprehend the way the tables had been turned. All these years, we've been telling these kinds of stories wrong. David and Goliath is about getting them right."
This is how Malcolm Gladwell ends his short, pacey and myth-busting introduction in his latest book. Gladwell is famous for his ability to capture ideas and tell compelling stories that illustrate them in a way that millions of people take note.
His latest book is a great addition to his previous efforts and is likely to ignite lots of debates about the ability of small businesses to beat large ones. While Coca-Cola may not tremble, for wholesale strategists there is much useful ammunition.
From the start Gladwell juxtaposes interesting stories in ways that challenge how you understand the world. He tells how a dad with no sporting experience turned his 12 year old daughter's basketball team into an almost unbeatable combination. At the same time he explains how TS Lawrence beat the Turks.
Analysis of all the wars in the past 200 years show that a 10 times bigger country beats the smaller country 71.5% of the time. But if the weaker side uses unconventional tactics its winning percentage climbs from 28.5% to 63.6%.
If the US was to go to war with Canada, "history suggests you ought to put your money on Canada".
As local pubs take on Wetherspoons, and local cafes take on Costa, and local shops take on Tesco, how should the wholesaler help them be successful? Working hand in glove with the major manufacturers, do you end up reproducing the strategies that work on a national scale? Is it possible to have local advantage?
If One-Stop and WHSmith are successful in harnessing the energy of local entrepreneurs within the framework of a national franchise, how does the symbol group operater compete? Does increasing the margins of members through over-riders linked to giving prime position to national top sellers that are available everywhere really build a long term competitive advantage?
Gladwell does not tackle such questions directly. His three collections of stories are organised into sections on:
* The advantages of disadvantages (and the disadvantages of advantages)
* The theory of desirable difficulty
* The limits of power.
The sort of story in the first section is the US v Canada stand-off.
The second section includes one of the most harrowing stories I have ever read about how Emil Freireich helped find a cure to childhood leukaemia. Apart from crying in public, it taught me about what drives successful people and what to look for in business partners and in people to hold up as examples of success.
The section also provides a glimpse of Martin Luther King as a man prepared to do things that his radical rival Malcolm X was not, the latter saying "real men don't put their children on the firing line." But showing at the same time how PR can twist the truth to win a cause.
The third section includes a view of how the British Army was responsible for creating the 30 years of Troubles in northern Ireland. And how a remote French village managed to simply refuse to send Jews to extermination despite the attention of the Nazis.
David and Goliath is a great read. Sometime Gladwell's theories may be right. Sometime they may not. But that misses the point. The big benefit of the book is to encourage you to think for yourself and not just blindly accept the orthodox view as fact.

For more: see [...] or [...].
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars from tottering generalisations to embarrassing ignorance, 5 Jan 2014
This review is from: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Hardcover)
Initially it is the short attention span, wow, awesome revelation format that annoyed me - so emblematic of the American hegemony in communication. Then, when I arrived at the chapter, "Rosemary Lawlor", and I was told that Catholics and Protestants had "lived uneasily alongside each other throughout the country's history" - I actually shouted at the book. Yes, technically speaking the statement has some truth, but even this early in the chapter it was obvious its simplification was going to ignore centuries of history. And it did, replete with wow and awesome generalisation callously illustrated with tragic scenes of government discrimination from the early 70s.
Employing The Troubles to make a generalised point is unacceptable.
A weakly formulaic book, appallingly researched, consistently generalising, and dangerous on account of its superficial plausibility.
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