I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest piece in The New Yorker, How David Beats Goliath: When Underdogs Break the Rules. To no surprise he has once again hit the nail on the head. Through both research data and elegant examples as varied to include the eponymous Biblical tale, 12 year old girls basketball, World War I’s Lawrence of Arabia and Digger Phelps’s Fordham Rams upsetting Dr. J’s UMass team, Gladwell reveals and reinforces his key point — When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win…even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t. The article is a great read.
In the marketing world we see this with our clients every day, with underdogs triumphing over their own Goliath. Disruptive startups that change things – like Google changed the web — rather than those that mashup and wait for the quick sale. Established businesses that decide TODAY is the day to do something different and throw out the old rules, like King Gillette giving away free razors so many years ago or Radiohead, Trent Reznor, and other bands that understand the value of no cost audience building.
So, if your organization is a “David” (or a “Lawrence” or “Digger”) what’s your plan to break the rules today?