Effort Trumps Ability in Ad Agency Business Development

There’s a great article titled, How David Beats Goliath in the May 10, 2009 edition of “The New Yorker” magazine by Malcom Gladwell. This article made me think about the small agency Davids who regularly compete against big agency Goliaths.

David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 percent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.”

Gladwell relates the story of a girls (12-year olds) basketball team in Redwood City, CA. The coach, who was from Mumbai, India, directed his less-skilled team to attack the inbounds pass, “the point in a game where a great team is as vulnerable as a weak one. They defended all ninety-four feet. The full-court press is legs, not arms. It supplants ability with effort.

It is basketball for those “quite unused to formal warfare, whose assets were movement, endurance, individual intelligence…courage.”

If you’re a David, and now recognize that you have a 30% chance of winning, how might you compete differently, in a way that’s to your advantage? You might get an idea from this article.

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