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TOP 500 REZENSENTam 19. Oktober 2013
"Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him." -- 1 Samuel 17:49-50 (NKJV)

I enjoyed every single story in the book. Mr. Gladwell is a fine storyteller. My disappointment was that the book didn't provide more practical advice.

There are three parts: the advantages of disadvantages (and the disadvantages of advantages), the theory of desirable difficulty, and the limits of power.

In the first part, the title could just as easily be: misunderstandings about advantages and disadvantages. They key lesson actually comes from the first story about how an experienced basketball coach built a winning team around extreme defense ... because the team didn't have much else going for it: make the most out of whatever advantage you can gain. The most practical application came in the material about how it's better to go to a lesser college and be a star there than to not be a star at a more highly regarded college.

In the second part, the title could just as easily be: slow down and notice what's going on. The examples show how concentration ... despite difficulties in doing so ... yields great insights and results.

In the third part, the title could just as easily be: don't push people too far, they'll get stronger in resistance.

So if you thought this book was going to give you some huge new insight from academia, I doubt if that will be the case. If you hoped to find some bit of practical advice for what to do differently, there's little past some good principles. The college lesson, however, is worth the price of the book for any high school seniors who will soon be making such decisions.

Enjoy some fun reading!
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am 14. Oktober 2013
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, October 22, 2013.

This book is not about underdogs and giants in any conventional sense of these terms. Rather, the book is about the curious nature of advantages and disadvantages, and how each can (under certain circumstances) become its opposite.

The first lesson to be learned is that the things we take to be advantages are often no such thing. Our greatest mistake here comes from the fact that we identify a certain quality or characteristic as being a benefit or advantage, and then assume that the more of it there is the better--when this is often not the case. Put another way, most of us recognize that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and yet we fail to appreciate just how often and where this principle applies. For instance, we recognize that having a certain amount of money greatly facilitates raising children (it being very difficult to raise a family in a state of poverty), and yet we fail to recognize that beyond a certain point wealth also makes parenting increasingly difficult (for it becomes harder and harder to instill qualities of hard-work and self-control). Or we recognize that small class sizes are a good thing, and yet we fail to recognize that classes can actually begin to suffer once they become too small (since diversity and energy begin to disappear).

Another arena wherein an advantage can become a disadvantage is in power and authority. Power and authority is an advantage, of course; however, when it is wielded illegitimately and without fairness, it can actually cause more chaos, destruction and violence than it curbs. This is as true in the classroom as it is in community policing as it is in handling minority groups within a nation's borders.

The second lesson to be learned here is that certain disadvantages can sometimes drive people into positions of advantage. Take the disadvantage of being born with a disability, for example. Say dyslexia. In our modern world, where the ability to read is extremely important--and practically a requirement for success--having great difficulty with reading is a major disadvantage. And indeed the statistics indicate that the vast majority of those who are born dyslexic end up falling through the cracks and missing out on success.

Still, though, many dyslexics have gone on to become highly successful people; and it has also been noted that in certain fields (such as entrepreneurship) an inordinate proportion of the most successful individuals do, in fact, have dyslexia. So how can we explain these success stories? What we find in these cases is that these individuals have managed to compensate for their disability by developing skills that make up for their flaws (such as an improved memory or debating prowess). Thus, in a way, the successful dyslexic has actually benefited from his disability, because it has forced him into a position where he has had to develop other skills that have led him directly to success.

Also at play here is the fact that dyslexics tend to endure many failures when they are young. Repeated failures (especially at a young age) have the potential to crush the spirit. But they can also have the opposite effect: they can inure the individual to failure, thus making them more likely to take risks and try things that others wouldn't--which is often a sure path to success.

A similar phenomenon also sometimes touches trauma victims. Take the ultimate trauma of losing a parent in childhood, for example. This is one of the worse experiences imaginable, and the trauma of losing a parent in childhood does indeed crush the vast majority of those who have the misfortune of enduring it.

Again, though, it has been noted that a very high proportion of highly successful individuals across many fields (from science to art to politics) have in fact lost a parent in childhood. And what we find in these cases is that the experience has left these individuals with the mind-set that now that they have endured such a terrible event, that nothing could ever be so bad. And thus they are liberated from the fear of failure, and--like the successful dyslexic--are willing to try things and take risks that others are not (which often leads directly to success).

The same experience and logic can also apply to underdog groups. For example, when a group recognizes that it is severely over-matched in terms of skill or strength compared to its opponent, it can begin to feel liberated to try unconventional tactics and approaches. This is often for the best, for it turns out that unconventional tactics and approaches are frequently very effective against giants--in everything from sports, to politics to war--and are, in many cases, the only chance the underdog has to win anyway. Again, then, in both of these instances (the trauma victim and the underdog group) a disadvantage has driven the party into a position of advantage, and thus the disadvantage may itself be seen as a kind of boon.

Gladwell has done well to make us rethink the nature of advantages and disadvantages across many fields. The only major flaw in the book, in my view, is the third and final part. The theme of the part is that power becomes less effective (or even counter-productive) when it is wielded illegitimately. The problem with this argument is that it's a classic case of the straw-man: Gladwell has set up an opposition that is very easy to defeat, and then smashed it to pieces. What's worse is that the examples Gladwell uses to prove his point here are quite weak. Still, there is much of value in the first 2 parts of the book. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, October 22; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
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VINE-PRODUKTTESTERam 22. November 2013
Der Journalist Malcolm T. Gladwell stürmt seit Jahren die internationalen Bestsellerlisten im Bereich Sachbuch. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009). Und nun been David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (2013). Ich bin durch einen Beitrag des Autors bei TED mit dem Titel "Malcolm Gladwell: The unheard story of David and Goliath" auf dieses neue Buch aufmerksam geworden. Eine sehr unterhaltsame Geschichte über den Kampf David gegen Goliath.

Die wesentlichen Punkte dieses in irritierend zusammenhangslosen Teilgeschichten gegliederten Werkes sind: "The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem." (position 149), "We think of things as helpful that actually aren't and think of other things as unhelpful that in reality leaves us stronger and wiser." (position 230), "Conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that ought to be avoided - that it is a setback or a difficulty that leaves you worse off than you would be otherwise." (position 1093), "These are David's opportunities: the occasions in which difficulties, paradoxically, turn out to be desirable." (position 1922)

Das Buch beginnt mit der wirklich interessanten Geschichte des historischen Kampfes Davids gegen Goliaths. Ein Paradebeispiel für soziale Irrtumsartefakte und kritikfreie Übernahme ins Allgemeinwissen. Ab sofort muss ich jedenfalls den Kopf schütteln, wenn jemand in Unkenntnis diese Metapher benutzt. Leider sinkt die Qualität des Werkes dann aber mit jedem Kapitel kontinuierlich. Wo anfangs Fakten und statistische Zusammenhänge präsentiert wurden, reihen sich zum Ende nur noch Meinungen aneinander. Die Spannungskurve wird so flach wie das Kardiogramm von Lenin. Von einer sprachlichen Autobahn in ersten Kapitel, dass sich sehr flüssig im Englischen ließt, landet man am Ende auf eine Art semantischen Feldweg. Sprachliche Schlaglöcher machen das dann nicht mehr zu einem Vergnügen. Und so stellt sich mir am Ende die Frage: "Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts? Shall I persevere or give up? Should I strike back or forgive?" (position 45)

Ärgerlich ist die Umsetzung in Es gibt keine Seitenangaben. Bindestriche klatschen an den Wörtern an, weswegen man Markierungen nicht ordentlich setzen kann. Der Kapitelsprung funktioniert nicht zwischen den Kapiteln als vielmehr zwischen den Teilbüchern. Die gedruckte Fassung ist leider definitiv besser.
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am 8. Januar 2014
My first impression of Malcolm Gladwell's book David & Goliath was that it is a Feel Good book, one designed for those who consider themselves the underdogs in society, at school, in the workplace, to help boost their morale, their fighting spirit, and give them hope for the future. Even the small guy, the one right down at the bottom, can make it against the Machine. And to a certain extent it is, it does give a boost to those who are just starting out, who are at the beginning of their lives out in the Real World: but it is also more than just this. The stories Gladwell brings to the fore are a very mixed bag: the shepherd boy who makes good; the student who makes the wrong decision; the doctor who fights against the establishment. He details the background to each tale - all based on real people and events - and the alternatives each person had to choose from, following up with details of whether they were right or wrong, what they might have done differently, how other people have reacted in a similar situation.

Most of the stories included are of one or two individuals battling against a set of values which have been in place for many generations, or a conception of values based on misleading information. They highlight how some have succeeded, but without making the mistake of claiming the solutions, the battles illustrated, could work for every individual. One particularly interesting fight against the establishment is the story of Emil Freireich and his search for a cure for leukemia.

Cicero wrote: Accordingly, in encountering danger we should do as doctors do in their practices; in light cases of illness they give mild treatment; in cases of dangerous sickness they are compelled to apply hazardous and even desperate remedies.

Freireich followed this ancient piece of advice, turned his back on the establishment and fought tooth and nail for his beliefs against those who would hamper his efforts to find a cure. He turned his back of countless years of medical practice, and found a solution others claimed could never be found by such means.

Whether anyone would be able to turn the cases cited here to their own good is a moot point, but this well written, easy to read work highlights the possibilities and, perhaps, will inspire those who are on the point of giving up their dreams to keep on trying, to forget the general consensus of well-intentioned opinion, and do their best to succeed.
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am 5. Januar 2014
The book shows a different perspective about the common notions of power balance, and the stories of the underdogs.
I enjoyed it from the revised version on the story of David, and Goliath, to the great other stories from people that were commonly thought to be underdogs.
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am 5. März 2014
Nach diese Lektüre werde ich noch einiges mehr von Malcolm Gladwell kaufen und gleich lesen. Wie er schreibt bringt die kleine Zahnräder im Kopf zum surren.
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am 22. Dezember 2014
This is the first book by Malcolm Gladwell I have read and it did not disappoint me.
I very much enjoy his writing style combined with the lessons.
When I read books, I somehow always think that the main idea could be boiled down to an interesting 2 - 20 page paper. I think that is the case here.
But the stories he tells would be worth reading in itself. I guess I would like more for him to write like a Coach or Mentor instead of a teacher. Getting people to a truth they somehow intrinsically already knew was there.
To me that's the highest form of writing, because the book would be more compelling and therefore the lessons learned more powerful.
All in all, I am glad Mr. Gladwell wrote this book and I got to read it.
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am 6. Februar 2014
The book is again a very informative read into our recent history and topics or angles missed out on. A definite for the collection
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am 8. März 2014
I find the story of the inverted u curve fascinating. I also find the story about the good school vs great school. Only reason I wouldn't give it a 5 star is because its not written in a self-help kind of style. Its full of anecdotes and very involving stories. Would recommend it to anyone wondering how disadvantages sometimes work to our advantages and how advantages could seem like a disadvantage...Great book.
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am 4. Oktober 2014
Ein sehr gut geschriebenes Buch, das einem den Horizont erweitert. Eröffnet den Blick aus einer anderen Perspektive. Bleibt dabei immer kurzweilig und ist nie oberlehrerhaft.
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