See that? The Badger’s Mouth. You know. The most famous battle in the world?
The battle of Badger Mouth was the bloodiest battle ever on Earth. More humans killed each other in that battle than in any other. And it happened in 1211, before the efficient bombs, tanks, guns or artillery. Every person must have been killed the artisan way, by sword, arrow, axe or knife. Or by hand, strangled, clubbed to death, beaten, drowned or suffocated.
More than half a million.[link]. The bones lay for 30 miles around for the next decade.
I didn’t know it til I was watching a programme about the first day of the Somme and wondered how many people died during it. Searching google I found the list of the worst battles ever, and found the very worst were ones I had never heard of.
Here tells me that the Mongol conquests killed up to 17% of the total world population. We’ve heard of the Mongols though eh? How about the Taipang Rebelion where 100 million people were killed? Never heard of it. So, if I didn’t know that…what else is there I don’t know?
The systems thinking lesson
You’ll have heard of the battles of the Somme, Waterloo and Trafalgar if you’re British. Gettysburg and Iwo Jima if American.
If I don’t know about the events that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, then why would some manager have heard of Deming or puzzled what that actual theory was behind target setting. In comparison this isn’t the worst example of ignorance that you can come across.
Also, it’s not a test. Not a pub quiz for Demingites to throw quotes at each other. There’s no actual points to be won through knowing this. Someone could have never heard of Deming and yet still manage work through making it flow, only make decisions based on knowledge and treat work as a continuous experiment towards perfection.
But it helps.
It helps to know that a standard Western education leaves you knowing nothing about the worst wars ever.
It helps to know that control charts and variation is “covered” in only one afternoon of a 3 year degree course in Statistics.
It helps to know that the good stuff, it isn’t what you’re taught in school but what you go out and learn for yourself.
It helps to know that you don’t know most things.
[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” Donald Rumsfeld