From Malcolm Gladwell's MasterClass

Developing the Story: Analogous Worlds

Using David and Goliath and “What the Dog Saw,” Malcolm teaches you how to look for patterns and draw connections between seemingly disparate ideas.

Topics include: Hunt for Patterns • Case Study: David and Goliath • Case Study: "What the Dog Saw"


Using David and Goliath and “What the Dog Saw,” Malcolm teaches you how to look for patterns and draw connections between seemingly disparate ideas.

Topics include: Hunt for Patterns • Case Study: David and Goliath • Case Study: "What the Dog Saw"

Malcolm Gladwell

Teaches Writing

Learn More


A pattern is something that appears in different worlds simultaneously. That's what a pattern, to my mind, is. So you'll see patterns, so long as you inhabit different worlds. So, you know, a pattern might be something that shows up in music, fashion, and, you know, sports. A trend would be something that surfaces-- and those worlds are connected, but not-- they don't overlap. They're-- they have subtle connections. But if you see something popping up in those kinds of-- then you know oh, that's a trend, right? So in order to see the trend, all you really need to do is to spend a little bit of time in those different worlds. So I always think a part of what I need to do, in order to kind of understand what's going on, is to make sure that I'm regularly leaving my own little island and visiting other islands. I don't always do a good job of that, but sometimes it's just about-- you know, yeah, I don't know if I always do a good job of that, but I do try-- I do think, in my mind, about how important it is to-- to trespass into-- in foreign territories. [MUSIC PLAYING] The book "David and Goliath," the original idea came from-- I went to a conference once, and it was a software conference, and I didn't know anything about software, but they had this kind of mixer that I was required to attend. And I found myself chatting to this guy who was from India. And he was talking about-- we talked about sports, because that's all I could talk about, because I didn't know anything about software. So we were talking about sports, and he told me that he was the coach of his daughter's basketball team. And I said, oh, because I-- he had a very strong Indian accent. It was clear he was an immigrant to this country of relatively recent vintage. And I was like, oh, you know, that's kind of interesting. You know, it wasn't like-- most basketball coaches are people who had played basketball as a kid. And I was like, did you play basketball in India? He's like, oh, no, no, no, I played cricket, never even-- I was like so, wow, you must have mastered-- you know, I got him talking. And he told me this story. He's like, yeah, I know nothing about basketball, he said. In fact, I think basketball, as it's played by Americans, is crazy. I don't-- once I got the rules explained to me, I was like, why do they play it in such a weird way? He didn't understand why one team would advance the ball up the court and the other team would wait-- the team on defense would wait at the other end for the play to come to them. If you know basketball, what he was wondering was why don't teams on defense play a full-court press the whole game, all the time. The most-- you know, basically he was like, you let the defenses, nine times out of 10, let the other team advance into their own end and set up their offense, and then they decide to defend. It would be as if we waited for Canada to arrive on the outskirts of Washington DC, right, before we mounted a defense....

Transform the ordinary

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I liked many of the specific recommendations he presented, as well as the overall tone of inspiration and encouragement he offered.

I have gotten so much from this class! I love this Masterclass! I've really enjoyed his examples, stories and his thoughts behind his choices. He's so enjoyable to watch and spend time with Malcolm.. a real treat that I will savour! Thank you!

I have really enjoyed learning about all the topics presented in this class. I especially liked the closing topics of How and Who to Read as it made me think of another way I can look at some of my favourite books again, or even books that I didn't enjoy.

The primary win for me was to open up Malcolm's mind as he describes the process of writing. For me, it was probably as much the side comments and incidental remarks as the intentional ones.


Carmine D.

Great lesson! Unfortunately can't access the Art of Failure article as it is archived, thereby requiring a digital subscription.

A fellow student

I am writing a book based on a true story about a woman in 1960s who has an illness stemming from her pituitary other gland. Her husband is also taking an unpopular stand against a Kkk type group. Where can I find the article? Or what is the author’s name ? The one written by the Israeli endocrinologist? This could be very helpful to me. Thank you.

Barbara-Helen H.

Unable to download the pdf. I found his story of movement very helpful in writing.

Barb R.

"Stories can belong in different worlds." Well said and explained. Reminds me of the fables of Aesop, they told one story but were told to us to apply to other life situations. Useful tool for telling stories of my own. Thank you.

Ekin Ö.

Looking for a pattern in two distinct areas is much like trying to create a metaphor. I always find myself enjoying a good metaphor when learning something.

Philip C.

This video needs to be shown to the Los Angeles Lakers, like, today! Their defense is so bad, they could learn a lot from these girls.


This is a lesson that will stay with me. It's as if MG is saying it's okay to compare apples to oranges and see if any interesting links turn up. Exciting!

Birthe L.

I would have to say though that in Cesar Milan's defense, he's not just a "Mexican guy" in L.A. who calms yappy dogs. Dogs respond to spirit and energy. Their response is the same as 93% of our communication: the non-verbal. Which granted is ironic to point out in response to someone whose stock in trade is words. The dogs in Cesar's shows (and in his practice) reflect the energy of their owners. I would hazard to say that disparaging the dogs points out something in Gladwell, much as I appreciate his work.

Brett G.

I dig this pattern concept. We apply it in the advertising world (I own a small agency) when thinking about clients in two completely different industries that may have strategies and tactics that could be repurposed (and redone) in a way that works for the other. MG says this is an important thing to think about when writing non fiction, but I bet it could make a fictional work compelling too.

Stephen G.

The trespassing idea, kinda' Star Trekkie - to boldly go where no man has gone before was a great reminder to spread my writing wings.