No one’s better at telling the story of Vivek Ranadivé than author Malcolm Gladwell whose newest book, David and Goliath, offers the premise that there are advantages to having disadvantages. Or as he says, “We misread battles between underdogs and giants. … we underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage.”

Gladwell points out that David, who was small but accurate with a slingshot, turned the tables on the much bigger and powerful Goliath, who was slow and blurry-eyed.

On the surface Ranadivé doesn’t really appear disadvantaged at all. He is a smart guy and by all reasonable standards hugely successful. He earned his engineering bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard, and he’s the new owner of the Golden State Warriors NBA franchise. He’s not, seemingly, a “David.”

But Ivy-League-trained engineers don’t fit the usual prototype of NBA team owners, especially Ranadivé who recently became the first Indian-born basketball franchise owner in the U.S. For him, it all began after the unlikely scenario of taking his middle-school daughter’s basketball team to the national finals. At that time, Ranadivé knew no more about basketball’s “hardwood” than he did the hardwood in his living room. He had never even held a basketball in his hands before volunteering to coach his kid’s team and knew nothing of fast breaks, jump shots, or layups. Because he was unencumbered by his lack of basketball know-how, he was able to turn what was the disadvantage of not knowing conventional coaching wisdom into a strategy that turned his unlikely group of basketball novices into a top team.

For him, the established ways of successfully coaching basketball didn’t exist because he was unaware of them.

Gladwell insists that there are lessons to be learned from what are apparent situational shortcomings.

In a recent paper called “Student Demographics and Outcomes in Mechanical Engineering in the U.S.,” which is under review for publication in an engineering education journal, researchers found that there are shortcomings in the profession. Even though mechanical engineering is the largest engineering discipline, awarding 23.2 percent of engineering degrees in the United States and Canada, it lacks diversity when compared to other engineering disciplines.

In the U.S., 18.9 percent of all engineering graduates are women, but only 12.4 percent of mechanical engineering graduates are women, according to the research. In fact, until recently electrical engineering and computer engineering had smaller proportions of women. But now mechanicals hold the dubious distinction.

The “benefits of identity diversity include more innovative groups, engagement in active thinking processes, growth in intellectual engagement and motivation, and growth in intellectual and academic skills,” the researchers say.

So while the disadvantage of the discipline is an underrepresentation of women and other groups, the “slingshot” part of this story is that mechanical engineering is sticky. In other words, students who major in mechanical engineering tend to graduate as mechanical engineers.

As the new year dawns, leading mechanical engineering educators can look at the story of David and Goliath, and that of Vivek Ranadivé, and realize that a disadvantage can quickly be turned into advantage. As long as they don’t underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage.


  1. January 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be
    okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  2. January 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    The earlier you actually get in touch with this specific debt help business that may help you with the financial disaster, quicker you can lower your personal debt. Read a lot of these reviews and also get out of debt with no going bankrupt.

  3. January 7, 2014 at 3:41 am

    I want to to thank you for this very good read!!
    I certainly loved every little bit of it. I’ve got
    you book-marked to check out new things you post…

  4. January 9, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Your means of describing everything in this piece of writing is actually pleasant, all can simply be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

  5. February 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Nice post. I became checking out regularly this weblog that i’m empowered! Extremely helpful information particularly the final cycle 🙂 I personally deal with such information much. I had been in search of this particular data for a long period. Thanks a lot and best of success.

  6. April 20, 2014 at 9:23 am

    I need to to thank you for this good read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it.
    I’ve got you book marked to look at new stuff you post…

  7. May 23, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    This is where you’ll need to think slightly outside of the
    box, but your favorite momma to be AND her family will be blown away by your thoughtfulness.
    A sleeveless flower sun dress may be rather
    chilly during the winter, so in this case, size does matter.
    Right from post pregnancy fitness DVDs to clothing line vouchers; the new mom is indeed luckier than her older

  8. August 5, 2014 at 4:31 am

    I just like the valuable info you supply on your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and take a look at once more
    right here frequently. I’m reasonably certain I will be informed lots
    of new stuff proper here! Best of luck for the following!

  9. August 22, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Howdy superb blog! Does running a blog similar to this require a great deal
    of work? I’ve no knowledge of coding however I was hoping to
    start my own blog in the near future. Anyhow, if you have any ideas or tips for
    new blog owners please share. I know this is
    off subject however I just wanted to ask.

  10. September 24, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Ask any man what his favorite piece of clothing attire is and inevitably the
    answer at nano speed will be his jeans. The young women of today are very particular when it comes to fashion. In today’s modern world, there are
    no longer many work settings where one must wear a suit
    and tie to work every single day.

  11. September 25, 2014 at 4:36 am

    Everything is very open with a very clear description of the challenges.

    It was truly informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!

  12. October 5, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Hey great website! Does running a blog such as this
    require a large amount of work? I have absolutely no
    knowledge of programming but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, if you have
    any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share.

    I know this is off subject but I simply had to ask. Kudos!

  13. November 10, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Nevertheless there are some very unique fitness tips for old men through which they can surely maintain their holistic fitness for long time.
    If you want to hide yourself from increasing age and want to still show fit yourself in front of the people then you will have to do some aerobic exercises either in the gym or at
    home, containing swimming, cycling, stretching, yoga, and light weight lifting.
    To marinate the salmon, remove skin (optional) and cut fillet into equal
    pieces about the size of three fingers put together. Whisk
    the oil with soy sauce, honey, sherry, garlic, and
    ginger in a container large enough to hold all the salmon. ralph lauren sale
    ralph lauren sale ralph lauren uk ralph lauren sale cheap ralph lauren polos

  14. February 25, 2016 at 7:06 am

    good The final episode of the TV series “Ishq Ka Rang Safed” begins with Dhaani now waking nice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

January 2014

Twitter from John Falcioni

Twitter from Engineering for Change

%d bloggers like this: