Monday, March 02, 2015

The Abilene Paradox - A Management Parable ...

Discovered this today on Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams' site - Very interesting for Maths Geeks and Number Nerds, by the way.

Not heard it before, but yes, it's very familiar. Originally by George Washington University Professor Emeritus of Management, Jerry B. Harvey.



THE ABILENE PARADOX


On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles North] for dinner.

The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.”

The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.”

The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?”

The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic.

The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.”

The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.”

The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.





Moral : Hard to tell. But my take on it is this: Individuals within a group, seeking to compromise, and perhaps over-wary of being 'bullish', too often allow the agenda to be set by others, who's motivation for a chosen set course may well be as ambivalent as everybody else's.

So, If you have a say in the matter, stick to your guns, state your case (that's Integrity) but go with the majority (that's Democracy).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sophie Scholl - "I Choose My Own Way To Burn" ...

Sophie Scholl
Sophie Scholl was one of the 20th Century's unsung heroines. As part of the White Rose Group, she opposed the Nazi ideals during WWII - at a time when most if not all of her friends and peers had been taken in by propaganda and rhetoric.

The White Rose's legacy has significance for many, both as a demonstration of exemplary spiritual courage, and as a well-documented case of social dissent in a time of violent repression, censorship, and conformist pressure.

She was captured and executed by guillotine for treason, along with her brother Hans.

She was just 21 years old.

Some of her quotations are beautiful, but none more so than this, her most famous epitaph.
The real damage is done by those millions who want to 'survive.' 
The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves - or enemies. 
Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. 
Those who live small, mate small, die small. 
It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. 
But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. 
Safe?! 
From what? 
Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. 
I choose my own way to burn.
This has been wonderfully translated here to modern times and events by Gavin Aung Than, the artist known as Zen Pencils, who creates graphic artworks from inspirational quotations.

And finally, Sophie's last words before her execution:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? 
Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go. 
But what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bill Hicks - It's just A Ride ...

Bill Hicks died in 1994. He was vastly under appreciated in his lifetime. He was less a comedian and more a philosopher with added 'dick' jokes. I've never forgotten this quotation. As an epitaph for the man it's unsurpassed.
The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it’s real - because that’s how powerful our minds are. 
The ride goes up and down, round and round, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun - for a while. 
Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” 
And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” 
And we … kill those people. 
It’s only a choice. 
No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. 
The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. 
The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. 
Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride; Take all that money we spend on weapons and defence each year and instead, spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world - which it would pay for many times over - not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer. 
Forever, in peace.
And an amazing graphic art version of this piece was done by the brilliant @zenpencils here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mind-Blowing Fact Of The Day - Why Tomatoes Were Thought To Be Poisonous ...

Discovered this fact on a random site now lost to the ether.

It's well known that tomatoes are from the Nightshade family, and thus needed to be viewed with suspicion when they first came to Europe from the Americas about 1500.

Many people became ill eating them - despite the fact that native Americans had been eating loads of them for centuries. It's only recently that scientists and historians have realised the reasons behind these illnesses - and it's not the tomatoes.

The reason is this: American natives ate tomatoes with their hands. In Europe, tomatoes were a luxury, afforded by the very few, who tended - and this is important - to use plates. Pewter plates. Actually, pewter plates with a quite high lead content.

Add a foodstuff with a relatively high acid content - like a tomato - and some of that lead leeched into the food, causing illness, and sometimes death. Hence, poor, innocent tomatoes were viewed with suspicion for 400 years until they were actually proven safe.

Actually, red tomatoes were initially a rarity in Europe, they wouldn't ripen properly as the varieties brought over from South American were always yellow in color, hence the italian name pomodoro - from 'pomi d’oro' - 'golden apple'.

And yes, of course, tomatoes are botanically, a fruit, as are green beans, aubergines, cucumbers, courgettes and all squashes such as pumpkins. Except not. Legally, they are all actually a vegetable under US and EU law, for food distribution and storage legislation purposes. So there.