September 12, 2009

Playing like David — and Goliath

Am I the only one that thinks 71.5% is a low success rate for someone 10x more powerful?  Matt Langdon

A 70%
chance of winning was a low return for such an overwhelming power
imbalance.  Don't ever take your situational advantage for
granted!
   EHD

***

A number of reader comments on Our Inner Goliath, excerpted above and below, lead in to a discussion of the archetypal David.

Armies with
1/10 of the fight power won almost 30% of the time!  Actually good odds
for the underdog. Pure strength is not sufficient.
  Chrysula Winegar

Doesn't every individual have a David side — and a Goliath side? Science Teacher Mommy 

New York David Goliath
Source:  Zohar Lazar, The New Yorker

Just as we sometimes have a Goliath-like advantage, there are times when we have the firepower of David.  And yet we prevail, as did the girls' basketball team referred to in Gladwell's article How David Beats Goliath, 28.5% of the time. 

Political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toth, cited by Gladwell, further states, "when the underdogs recognized they were outmatched, and adopted an unconventional strategy, their winning percentage went from 28.5% to 63.6%.  They win", Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.

Gladwell wondered, as do I — why?  Why such an unpredictable outcome?

In David's case, he was sent by God to defend his people.  For Eunice Shriver, she was motivated by love.  In both instances, there was a wellspring of some intangible.  While it would be nearly impossible to quantify, as most really important things are, it would seem we succeed against lopsided odds when we believe or care about something larger than ourselves. 

We play big, when we believe big.

What if when we have the advantage of Goliath, we played like David?
Or when we have David-like resources, we tap into our inner Goliath?

We're never all David, or all Goliath.
Better said, we don't have to be.
Wouldn't we rather always be a bit of both?

  • http://heroworkshop.wordpress.com Matt Langdon

    What if when we have the advantage of Goliath, we played like David?
    That’s a great question. And I think the answer is we get comfortable. The Davids are able to beat the Goliaths because very often the Goliaths don’t try as hard.

  • http://chrysula.blogspot.com Chrysula Winegar

    Whitney. You nailed it.

  • Amy J o

    You’re so smart ;-). You need to get a degree in Philosophy. You’re great at it.

  • http://www.marketingmutt.com/mutts Stan Smith

    Hmm…I’m not sure if I agree with the point of being a bit of both David and Goliath.
    Here’s why. I find that focus is the “killer app” in almost all situations. Knowing who you are, what you are good at and what to do next is a force multiplyer. Whenever, I’ve tried to hedge my bets with a “little bit of both” thinking I end up distracting and defeating myself.
    Thoughts?

  • http://www.daretodream.typepad.com Whitney Johnson

    Stan —
    You sound as if you are referring to situations in which you are positioned as Goliath. I would argue that for you ‘focus’ is your approaching a situation like David. You aren’t taking your situational advantage for granted. It’s when we are in a position of advantage, and are complacent (or won’t/can’t move down market because the margins are too low as with the Innovator’s Dilemma) that a David-like approach shifts the power balance.

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