Scroll to top
© Optimize Consulting Inc. | All Rights Reserved

David and Goliath

Optimize Blog - January 14, 2013 - 0 comments

We were at a recent strategy event where a panel of distinguished Chief Executives spoke about the role of the board in strategic planning. It was a fascinating insight and we were comforted to have many of our own views endorsed by those tasked with leading some major organizations.
One thing they touched on specifically which resonated with us was the David versus Goliath debate i.e. unconventional, innovative strategic thinking versus conventional ‘take on the competition in traditional ways’ approach. We were reminded of some research a few years ago made popular by Malcolm Gladwell.
Gladwell quoted the political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft who looked at every war in the last two hundred years between strong (Goliath) and weak (David) combatants. He determined that in 71.5% of the wars, the Goliath was victorious. He was looking specifically at where those defined to be a Goliath were ten times more powerful in terms of military might, population and resources than their opponent.
In these favourite versus underdog contests the smaller combatant won in almost a third of the battles – perhaps a surprising statistic. Arreguin-Toft went yet further and re-analyzed the data to try to understand where the underdog recognized their weaknesses in the conflicts and attempted an unconventional response. In the cases where the underdog chose to not play by Goliath’s rules, the winning percentage moved from 28.5% to 63.6%.
Military history is littered with unexpected Davids defeating Goliaths through unconventional and innovative strategies where they have understood their weaknesses and adapted accordingly. Strategy, as applied to business, was created from military strategy and it is only to be expected that we would see the same result in the world of business.
We have seen small businesses take on bigger businesses and win through unconventional means – the agile speed boat versus the lumbering super tanker.
When undertaking strategic planning it is essential that your SWOT analysis is meaningful and robust. Pretending that a weakness does not exist will not help your organization win. On the other hand, recognizing your weaknesses and leveraging your strengths through creative strategies will result in a higher percentage chance of success.
‘Me too’ strategies should be avoided for the corporate Davids. Your competitors will not be concerned by this because they will have nothing to fear from your imitation. Strategy requires creative thinking, the ability to come at the opportunities and threats from a different angle.
If your organization’s strategic planning merely follows the conventional means and your intention is to go toe to toe with the competition, we wish you well but watch out for David – he might just catch you by surprise……..

Related posts

Post a Comment