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How David Beats Goliath

Malcom Gladwell latest New Yorker article on how the underdog wins. Part of the argument is that when the weak become aware of their weaknesses, they beat the strong. Gladwell uses cases studies in basketball and war strategies to show that with enough effort you can trump ability and overcome “Goliath’s advantage”.

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.

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