Day 163 (of 184) reflections from Malcolm Gladwells David & Goliath
A very well written book that had me reflect on many times that I’ve taken the ‘underdog role’ or done things that were ‘unconventional’….until they were normal:
Taking notes on an iPhone (not texting during a meeting!)
Ethernet in the classroom (via a 150’ cable)
Mobile tech in the classroom (transformed the computer lab into a learning support room & brought laptops to the classroom) including ipod touches (year 1) for literature circles.
A family tradition of ‘disruption’ (my father was taken to task for such revolutionary thoughts as microwaves in the foods rooms, computers in schools -‘just a fad’ it was declared)
Gladwell divides his book into 3 parts:
Part 1. Advantages of disadvantages.
Some examples here included a dad coaching his daughters basketball team but as he did not much about basketball, he fought for every space on the floor – aka the press. A strategy that can be so effective that it is usually banned in many young leagues.
He also talked about class size. While there are lots of debates about size ad complexity, his research focused on size alone and found that while there were disadvantages to large classrooms, likewise there were challenges to small class sizes as well.
Even parenting gets discuses specifically in connection with family wages and the difference between not being able to get something (just can’t afford it) versus having a discussion about why the family “won’t” get something – much harder to do!
Part 2: desireable difficulty
Dyslexia and other challenges are explored as ways to show how people have ‘thought different’ to overcome obstacles that most people don’t even know exist!
Some of these ‘desireable difficulties’ came from the work of two doctors, Robert & Elizabeth Bjork which included ‘the worlds shortest intelligence test’ (the Cognitive Reflection Test). Here are 2 of the 3 questions:
“A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
What’s your instinctive response? I’m guessing that it is that the ball must cost 10 cents. That can’t be right, though, can it? The bat is supposed to cost $1.00 more than the ball. So if the ball costs 10 cents, the bat must cost $1.10, and we’ve exceeded our total. The right answer must be that the ball costs 5 cents.
Here’s another question:
2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
The setup of the question tempts you to answer 100. But it’s a trick. One hundred machines take exactly the same amount of time to make 100 widgets as 5 machines take to make 5 widgets. The right answer is 5 minutes.
There are other difficulties that didn’t go ‘as planned’. For instance – how and why Londoners did not react as anticipated during ‘the blitz’ in WWII.
And some fascinating connections to difficulties overcome in the medical world & in US civil rights: there’s a reason why there are two versions of the tortoise and the hare: one in which the slow and steady nature of the turtle overcomes the overconfidence of the rabbit and a second that has the turtle trick the rabbit…
Part 3: limit of power
Mistakes can be made by ‘those in power’ when the power being used does not go ‘as expected’. Examples from Northern Ireland and a kindergarten class where so much is being mis-watched (not exactly ignored) show how ‘punishments’ can go …… not as planned. Looking at how California’s “three strikes” law didn’t have the anticipated impact (in no small part because the mind sets of the “davids” and “goliaths” are not the same…!)
And a great example of how doing something ‘different’, building relationships between police and a disenfranchised community helped significantly reduce crime…
Overall a book with many key examples that show how ‘thinking different’ can change ‘what is expected’; how disruptions can be a good thing; how if you continue to do the same thing expecting a different result will drive you crazy and …… that sometimes what you think you see as a problem isn’t: David vs Goliath definitely had an underdog in the story….but it was Goliath who was doomed from the start…
Lots of connections to my past and current educational experiences in this book!!