Gladwell: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Being an underdog isn’t such a bad thing after all.

July 01, 2013
KEYWORDS acuc , cuna , Underdog
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Being an underdog isn’t such a bad thing after all.
 
In fact, much of what people consider to be weaknesses turn out to be strengths, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell told America’s Credit Union Conference Monday morning.
 
“A lot of our intuition is wrong about what an advantage is and what a disadvantage is,” Gladwell said. “Bigger isn’t always better and being powerful in a marketplace doesn’t ensure future success.”
 
That’s because large leading companies often innovate less, they’re less nimble, and they’re further from their customers, he said.
 
Conversely, underdogs often resort to unconventional methods, hard work, and sheer determination to compete with their larger rivals.
 
That’s good news for credit unions, which are decided underdogs compared with their banking rivals in terms of resources.
 
Gladwell cited legendary college basketball coach Rick Pitino as a prime example. Pitino is one of the few coaches to use a full-press approach to the game, whereby players contest every inbound pass. 
 
Despite his success, including an unlikely Final Four appearance with Providence College, few coaches mirror his approach. Why?
 
“They don’t do this because it’s hard,” Gladwell said. “Playing conventionally is easy. What’s different, rare, and scarce is effort, not resources.
 
“When you look at innovators who make lasting contributions,” he continued, “you see the same traits again and again: They’re creative, conscientious, and disagreeable because they feel that they’re right.”
 
Admitting he’s the only member of his family to not belong to a credit union, Gladwell urged credit unions to spread the word about how they differ from other financial institutions and the benefits those differences provide.
 
“As humans we see disadvantages that are actually advantages. Sometimes our basic assumptions lead us astray. We need to bring to people's attention that bigger isn’t necessarily better and small can be a strength. We work harder as a result.
 
“That’s a powerful idea.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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