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

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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.

Writing is indeed a calling, an opportunity to be a great influence in someone else's journey of purpose. I am excited and looking forward to more.

Just having the insight of a writer as successful as Mr. Gladwell is helpful in my pursuit as an author. Daily rituals, approaches to interviews and stories are key, but most of all knowing that he loves a puzzle as much as I do!

Writer with detailing ability to draw you in as a student to the topics on which he gets in tuned with you to understand/make you a better listener.

Amazing! I learned so much from Malcom . He’s fantastic!


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.

Katie M.

I really loved this prompt from Malcolm to think in a siloed way. I think it's really easy to sit there and say, "this is my topic, and this is exactly what I'm going to write about" but if the material is only in one world, is it really all that interesting? Is it really something that hasn't been said before? Will it have an impact? By finding patterns, analogies and powerful crossing lines between worlds, you never know what you'll find. It'll certainly be a lot more work but that work has a greater likelihood of adding weight to the story. And it may just make for an incredible book.


This is why diversity in the work place is so important to creative ideas. If you have a homogeneous glob of persons, the likelihood of different perspectives and lenses on the world is doubtful. The experience that Alexander spoke of in his classroom was not only fun but it also seems to have built some empathy, another important thing for school kids to learn, well, all of us to learn. I liked this lesson a great deal and can really see the merits of getting out of your comfy zone in to another's world in the making of connections for patterns to emerge.

Alexander S.

As a creative jack of some trades, one of the hats I wear is that of a teacher. Over the years I’ve taught a lot of aspects of what I do as an actor and/or a writer. And often I use a teaching experience with one group, as an example to teach another group. One of the stories I share is when time I was teaching a playwriting class to a group of 5th graders. My task was to help them create an original one act play based on their school lessons on the suffragette movement in the early 1900s. Now obviously none of these 5th graders, who were more than likely around the age of 11, were around during that era. They had no idea what it felt like to be controlled manipulated or powerless on that level. And I found that the boys thought well what the heck it was the girl's problem. Yet these children were supposed to write a play in which they somehow depicted what they’d felt and learned about the struggle. I'm the kind of writer who believes you need some sense or understanding of what you write. So I devised an exercise. I had the girls huddle together, while I the boys marched around them giving them “domestic orders.” They weren't allowed to say anything nasty to the girls, but they could tell them to do chores, clean the house, take care of the children and so on. And the girls were not allowed to argue with them or talk back. This went on for a few minutes and then I stopped it and ask the girls how it felt. They were quite vocal in expressing intense frustration at being unable to talk back or to tell the boys to go fly a kite. The boys had fun and thought it was cool, until I switched things up. I told the girls to load the boys down with as many heavy books and things as they could find. Loaded down the boys had to march around the girls again. But this time the girls were able to tell them whether or not they were doing their duties. Were taking care of the family, or taking care of the town, or the house? The boys could not talk back, and if they dropped a book, they had dropped a “responsibility. And the girls were quick to tell them so.