Malcolm Gladwell on "David and Goliath"
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
An edited version of this conversation with Malcolm Gladwell was aired as part of a best-of episode of The Brian Lehrer Show on November 29, 2013. The segment originally aired live on October 2.
Why do we value big and strong over small and agile? Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer at The New Yorker and now author of, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants talks about the psychology, history and politics of lopsided conflicts, and how adversity and unconventional tools can be an advantage. He also discusses his larger body of work, and tells Brian that he sees two "Gladwellian" lessons in his own story: the need to put in lots of hours of practice (in his time at the Washington Post); and the benefits of an outsider perspective (as a bi-racial Canadian moving to and starting a career in the US).
In the excerpt below, Gladwell responds to one of the main criticisms of his work -- that he over-simplifies difficult academic concepts. He says that he sees his job as fundamentally different: "I am a story-teller, and I look to academic research...for ways of augmenting story-telling. The reason I don't do things their way is because their way has a costs: it makes their writing inaccessible. If you are someone who has as their goal...to reach a lay-audience...you can't do it their way."