I am an admitted Malcom Gladwell addict. I had a copy of his new book, David and Goliath, on order weeks prior to release. His most recent book is obviously framed around the famous biblical battle. In true Gladwell fashion, he takes the story and unveils the less obvious truths about the battle. The core thesis is that giants are not always as indestructible as they seem, and underdogs not nearly as disadvantaged as we assume.
In brief, and not to ruin the book, (I recommend you get a copy today!) Goliath was likely suffering from Acromegaly, (aka gigantism) the same malady suffered by Andre the Giant, Abraham Lincoln and 8”11 Robert Wadlow. Acromegaly is essentially a tumor which affects the pituitary gland. While large and intimidating, people suffering from Acromegaly typically have terrible vision due to pressure on the optic nerve. David was a shepherd, considered among the lowliest professions of the day, but an expert with the slingshot. According to Gladwell, historical record exists of people accurate enough with the slingshot to strike a bird mid-flight and kill an animal at over 100 yards. Couple these factors with the fact that the rocks of the Elah Valley, which David would have loaded in his sling, are twice as dense as typical rocks, thereby causing even more damage. It shortly becomes obvious that the half-blind Goliath never stood a chance. He was expecting hand-to-hand combat and was struck out of nowhere, knocked unconscious and had his head cut off.
This re-framing of the famous tale made me realize three reasons this is the best time in history to be an entrepreneur/intrapreneur:
- It is easier to pivot when you are small- The life of a business model is becoming shorter and shorter, necessitating speed in adjusting the way you make money and continue to make money. This is easy when you are a start up. It becomes complex and weighted down by corporate politics as the organization grows. Saul Kaplan often refers to Blockbuster (Goliath) laughing highly nimble Netflix (David) right out of their offices.
- No infrastructure required– Goliath was outfitted with the latest and greatest in wartime technology. Heavy swords and impervious armor. His infrastructure was amazing; but ineffective in the end. In our business environment today we can do more from a laptop and cell phone by ourselves than we could with a team of 5 or 6 people less than a decade ago, and at a marginal cost! At The Barney Advisory Group, we utilize a CRM which costs less per month than one bottle of table wine and is more robust than systems costing tens of thousands of dollars which I used as little as five years ago.
- The big guys are blind- Goliath isn’t the only one with major myopia. Most companies are under the illusion they are in a growth industry and ignore what the customer wants. When you are a start up, by default, the only thing you can care about and still survive is the customer. Theodore Levitt pointed this out almost 50 years ago and it still holds true!
If you are a Goliath I recommend a pair of glasses and if you are a David you may not be as weak as you seem!!