Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Happens When You Learn the Wrong Lessons?

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana
Today, many cite this quote from the Spanish philosopher Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás (1863-1952) as the way to avoid repeating mistakes, or to rationalize some course of action they wish to pursue.  My question today is what happens when, in an effort to reflect on the past, the individual takes the wrong lessons from the examples they remember?

There is an old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”  In my line of work, far too many people use this to justify why they can’t move faster than they are.  For most it is a feeble rationalization that causes only frustration and the belief they do not know what they are doing from those who have to work for them.  They have come to accept that everything must be accomplished at a single pace… theirs.

The converse also holds true.  There are those who want to move with such speed that consideration of viable options are never brought up.  For them, there is little or no time for the steps necessary to successfully implement a strategy or allow a course of action to complete.  There is no time to consider how the realities of today’s world may differ from a time long past.  Sometimes in an effort to inspire great accomplishments it is good to use examples to show how quickly something can be accomplished, but if you don’t put those examples into the right context or you take the wrong lesson from them, I think the overall impact is not inspirational.  

For example, if you consider during World War II (1941-1945) our nation built over 12,000 Boeing B-17 and over 18,000 B-24 bombers what lesson should you take away?  Is it that when the nation’s entire industrial base is focused on supporting a total commitment we did truly amazing things, or should it be that we built a B-24 in 18 hours?  

When you use the information to question why it takes three years to get a single C-130 from order to delivery, do you inspire greater speed or perhaps call into question your basic understanding of market economics?

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