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David & Goliath: Why bigger isn’t always better


Right now, things aren’t as economically rosy as any of us would like. Though we’ve recently been through a ‘great resignation’, jobseekers aren’t immune from the worries that economic uncertainty creates. Bigger companies give the impression of stability, which is an attractive prospect in today’s climate. When you consider that 80% of start-ups fail within the first twelve months, it’s easy to see how people reach that conclusion. But it’s worth remembering that bigger isn’t always better. After all, giants are often lumbering.


In his book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell talks about ‘Desirable Difficulties’ – things that look like disadvantages on the surface but ultimately lead to better outcomes through having to overcome them. This is just as true in business as it is in battle.


Where larger, often publicly traded, firms have plenty of cash to weather economic bombardment, smaller organisations might not be as able to defend themselves. However, those same large firms have to answer to their shareholders, whereas smaller organisations don’t, making them nimbler and more able to find creative solutions to problems.


In times of economic turmoil, larger firms also have an (unfortunately) easy short-term fix in their arsenal to protect the bottom line – squeezing the workforce and reducing headcount. Smaller organisations, on the other hand, often see downturns as opportunities. Rather than losing people, to pivot their focus and services to provide real value for their clients in the face of changing conditions.


Where the Goliaths focus on the 10,000-foot view, the Davids concentrate on the people on the ground. Their Desirable Difficulties make smaller organisations comparatively attractive places to work, even when it might not be immediately evident that they are the winning choice.


So, if you’re considering changing jobs in the next twelve months, rather than just seeking out large and steel-clad, ask yourself, ‘what did they do in 2008 when the markets crashed?’, ‘When did they last refresh their business model?’ and ‘How much damage could they do armed with only a slingshot?’

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