Catalyst 2009: Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

During his time at Catalyst, Malcolm Gladwell brilliantky described the story of the Civil War battle of Chancellorsville.

In 1863 during the Civil War in Virginia, the Union army was in incredibly poor shape. And Lincoln in Washington was becoming increasingly worried. Fighting Joe Hooker came and happened to know more about Confederate General Lee than anyone. Hooker devised a brilliant battle plan by distributing his army in thirds and surrounding Lee’s army. Lee was significantly outnumbered 2 to 1. Hooker said that even God Almighty couldn’t prevent them from victory. What happened next was the Battle of Chancellorsville. Hooker expected Lee to retreat, became trapped by his confidence, and did not plan for anything else. In fact, the Union army lowered their guard; Lee attacked, and Hooker’s army ran away only to suffer one of the worst defeats of the war.

Here are some thoughts / quotes from Gladwell:
  • "More information doesn't mean better decisions"
  • "Incompetence irritates me, but overconfidence scares me. Incompetent people rarely have the opportunities to make mistakes that greatly affect things. But overconfident leaders and experts have the dangerous ability to create disaster."
  • "When we are trapped by overconfidence we close ourselves off to a changing world"
  • "In times of crisis we don’t need bold and daring decision making from our leaders we need bold humility!"
  • "Overconfident people and leaders stop listening to others."
  • "Humility is simply the willingness to listen to others."


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