Developing the Story: Analogous Worlds

Malcolm Gladwell

Lesson time 15:28 min

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

Malcolm Gladwell
Teaches Writing
In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.
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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.


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I loved this class! It was so helpful and insightful, I only wish there were more lessons.


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I love Malcolm's enthusiasm for his stories. I find myself smiling often as I listen to him talk and teach.

Colette B.

Malcolm's lessons are very insightful, thought-provoking and challenge perceptions. I am thoroughly enjoying this course.

A fellow student

Malcom, I've now been hearing you pronounce analogous as if it were spelled analogious several times throughout this course. Is that a Canadian thing? Surely someone as erudite as you couldn't be making such a mistake, which is why I lean towards concluding I'm missing something. Also I am adoring this course : )

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!