Allegorical David and Goliath for the corporate world

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For those who aren’t familiar with the legendary biblical tale of David and Goliath,the tale goes as follows:

Israel and Palestine have been at war since times unknown. In one of their encounters the two armies ended up two sides of a ravine, leading to a stalemate since, attacking meant descending down the hill followed by a suicidal climb up the enemy’s ridge on the opposite side of the ravine.Eventually, out of impatience, the Philistines sent their best warrior-named Goliath-downhill.He was a six-foot nine giant wearing a bronze helmet and full body armor ,carrying a sword,javelin and spear.Facing the Israelites, Goliath shouted out : “Choose a man amongst yourselves and let him come down to battle me.If he prevails me, we will be your slaves.But, if I prevail him,you will be slaves to us.”

No one dared stepping up in Israelite camp.Then, a shepherd boy named David-who had come down to bring food for his brothers volunteered. The king of Israel was skeptic about David,but allowed him to fight since, no one else was willing to take upon the might Goliath.Adding to the king’s frustration, David denied carrying weapons and protection down the ravine.When Goliath saw David approaching him without weapons and protection,he was amused as well as humiliated at the same time. It was a matter of shame for his might since, he found David to be a no match to him.How wrong could he be!

Coming nearer to Goliath, David started running and in one surprising slingshot aimed at the giant’s forehead, he brought former down. Pulling out a sword from the unconscious Goliath, the shepherd beheaded the giant.

A more realistic incident happened on similar lines when Alexander with an army of 50000 defeated a five-time bigger army of Darius II, the Persian emperor at the battle of Gaugamela. Closer to home, the Maratha king Shivaji’s battle against the mighty Adilshahi commander Afzalkhan is a classic example of this allegory.

The Classic Allegory

Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestseller, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, elucidates extensively on the fallacies of preconceived notions and biases stemming from popular beliefs for e.g. quality of education being inversely dependent on class-size. Corporate life is no exception to this. It’s full of Davids and Goliath’s to be analyzed and learnt from.

For the Goliaths

Goliath’s primary problem was Acromegaly, a disorder leading to gigantism, which shrunk his eye size, thus impairing his vision. This allegory can be extended to people in higher positions or designations in corporate life. The sheer size of their responsibilities [ at times] impairs their perception, causing them to miss out on finer details.

However, at times owing to their puny egos, these giants tend to act as know-it-all and fix-it-all, thus ignoring suggestions from their subordinates. A classic example of this attitude was witnessed during Columbia disaster in 2003, where NASA management ignored an engineer’s request to investigate the left wing of the shuttle with a damaged heat shield, thus leading to the loss of 7 precious lives.

Being the Davids

Owing to this small size and clear vision, David could spot the weak spot of the massive Goliath effortlessly.His light weaponry allowed him the dexterity to outwit Goliath.Similarly, less responsibilities allow men in lower designations to perceive things that people at elevated positions might miss out.However, is it good enough to identify a flaw/ weak spot?

In Bhagavad Gita 2.47, Krishna elucidates the path of selfless duty, according to which, the fruition of our actions aren’t controlled by us, but our actions are! It’s the responsibility of subordinates/juniors to bring an unseen/ ignored perspective to notice and vehemently stand for it if it is being ignored. Even though eventually, it is the higher management which takes a call, but it is the duty of the subordinates to stand up for their perspectives fearlessly, for it might save lives, money, property etc.

To conclude, this allegory can be extended to personal lives and political setup too! Constructive criticism to elders and leaders can help them change their perspective, leading to better decision-making and in turn better social and political structures, after all, life is a series of decisions, be it microcosm or macrocosm.

Also read: That 356 year old surgical strike: story of Shivaji and Shaistakhan



Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.


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