Saint replay: Changing landscape for real estate development strategy: Part 1 David and Goliath

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(For the holiday season, The Saint Report is republishing a five-part series on understanding the changing landscape for real estate development strategy by Mike Saint, who founded The Saint Consulting Group in 1983. This is a natural topic for Mike, who has led Saint Consulting’s growth to become the world’s leading political land use consultancy)

By P. Michael Saint, Chairman and CEO, The Saint Consulting Group

Let’s talk about David and Goliath. Not the metaphor. The Bible story.

For those of you who have not had a chance to read 1 Samuel 17:1-58 lately, here is a summary:
Goliath is a 9-foot-plus-tall Philistine warrior, dressed in heavy armor, who challenges the Israelites to fight him “mano a mano,” winner take all.
The Israelites are all scared of the giant, who has an obvious weight, height and strength advantage over any normal size man in hand to hand combat. And Goliath has killed all those who have fought him man to man in the past.

Enter David, a slight of build, teenage shepherd.
Pulling up well short of Goliath (and beyond the reach of the mighty warrior or his weapons), David pulls out his trusty sling shot, loads a stone, and launches it right into the forehead of the giant, knocking him unconscious so that he, David, can take Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head.

In my opinion, applying this lesson to land use fights, the key to this story is that David, outgunned in traditional close quarters conflict, changes the rules of the game. The fight will not be fought up close and personal, where David is guaranteed to lose but will be fought from afar.
At sling shot distance, David not only has a chance to prevail, he has an advantage. Goliath is not dressed nor equipped to fight at a distance. He has no weapons to respond to David’s propelled rocks. David wins.

Should we feel sorry for Goliath because David chose to fight on a field where he, David, and not Goliath had the advantage? Or should we applaud David for thinking outside the box and expanding the field of competition to a broader area, where he had a chance to survive?

Mike Saint is chairman and CEO of The Saint Consulting Group, email

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