Where Are You Hiding Your Trojan Horse?

In my last article I challenged you to look back in history and to think of your favorite examples of people daring to defy conventional wisdom.

Here are a couple of mine. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries BC, one of the great epic wars of ancient times was fought. The Greeks assembled a massive flotilla of warships and brought its might against the city of Troy. Their mission was to take back Helen, the abducted Greek queen, and to punish the Trojans for the fiendish act. But the city had formidable defenses, and the two armies remained deadlocked. There they stood, shield to shield, lance to lance, neither able to budge the other. The siege went on for ten fruitless years.

Then the Greeks had the famous idea that changed everything. The Greek army pretended to dissolve camp and sail away. They left behind a large wooden horse, which the Trojans mistook as a token of peace. They dragged it inside the city walls and began to celebrate. Little did they suspect that under the cover of night a handful of enemy soldiers hiding inside the statue would emerge to pry open the city’s gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had circled back in full force. Once inside, the Greeks won the battle quickly and decisively against the utterly surprised and unprepared Trojans.

Were the Greeks cheaters? Or did they simply exploit a taken-for-granted assumption of war? By changing the rules of conduct and expanding the boundaries of engagement, the Greeks defied conventional wisdom and achieved one of the most famous victories in history. In the process, the Trojan horse ended the conflict swiftly, minimizing the cost of victory in terms of effort, time, and number of lives lost on both sides.

For the second example let’s visit Florence, Italy, where Michelangelo’s famous statue of David stands. The crown jewel of the city’s medieval architecture is the towering Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiora, better known as the Duomo. Much like David, the Duomo is a symbol of flouting conventionality. Fodor’s guidebook to Florence, Tuscany, and Umbria observed:

“It was to be the largest dome in the world, surpassing Rome’s Pantheon. But when the time finally came to build the dome in 1418, no one was sure how—or even if—it could be done. Florence was faced with a 143-ft (44 m) hole in the roof of its cathedral, and one of the greatest challenges in the history of architecture.


Fortunately, local genius Filippo Brunelleschi was just the man for the job. Brunelleschi won the competition to design the dome, and for the next 18 years he oversaw its construction. The enormity of his achievement can hardly be overstated. Working on such a large scale required him to invent hoists and cranes that were engineering marvels. Perhaps most remarkably, he executed the construction without a supporting wooden framework, which has previously been thought indispensable.

What do these examples inspire you to do in your business? Are there opportunities for marketers to give people something that unfolds like a Trojan horse? Can you re-architect your product in a radical way? It’s important to remember that just being responsive to customer demands is no longer enough in today’s fast changing and unpredictable market place.  If instead you’re market driving, you may be able to create your own Trojan Horse.

Gabor George Burt is an internationally recognized expert on innovation, creativity and strategy development. His spheres of expertise help organizations to overstep perceived limitations and to carve out successful growth strategies. Share the excitement surrounding Gabor’s upcoming book Slingshot at www.slingshotliving.com or on Twitter (@slingshotliving ).