Fedoras and other hallmarks of failure

Have you noticed the HUGE amount of men in their 20s and 30s who wear Fedoras?

A fedora is a hat that Humphrey Bogart or Indiana Jones wears.


Cool in colour.


Cool in black and white.

However the typical fedora wearer these days looks more like this…


Uncool in neckbeard


Fedora? Trilby? Serial killer, regardless


As Urban Dictionary helpfully points out, a fedora is…

“A hat that went from the sure sign of an early 1900’s tough guy, to the sure sign of a 1980’s and onward loser who is desperately seeking for a style to call their own
In the first half of the 20th century, this was a hat synonymous with manly style. It was about looking cool without appearing juvenile.

In present times, the fedora is a trademark of the socially inept beta male. He is attempting to distance himself from pop culture with the distinct style of past fashion. But he captures none of the suave, and only comes off looking like an oblivious, pompous fool. “


“Here you go Guys! INSTANT COOL!”

Woah! Cruel. Yet accurate. It seems as if the internet is handing out fedoras with every account set up on Reddit. Typically accompanied by an ankle length leather coat a la Matrix.

The simple rule of thumb is…


So what’s this got to do with systems thinking then?



It is just copying.
A fedora does not make Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones makes Indiana Jones!

It is copying without understanding, thinking that the hat makes the person.

Other way round!

Here are some other things that are the wrong way round, like Fedoras.


It’s just a size of paper. In Lean though it has acquired a magic beyond that. It was a simple way of capturing and communicating a problem and thoughts about experimenting to solve it, all on a size of paper sufficiently large to hold the detail but small enough to hold in your hand. But some people have thought the size of paper is somehow magical like fedoras and will transfer the power of Toyota to those that wield it. There are all sorts of example templates to download. Look at what there is to choose from…



None of them show the thinking though, that’s invisible. Just picking up an A3 template and starting to fill it in is pointless. It’s not the size of pape that matters, it’s the invisible thinking that sits behind it that makes it useful or useless.

I know how seductive it is, the thing you can see looks magic,  but its the thing that you can’t see that is the actual magic. This weakness for things you can see over the thinking, it has a name. If you find yourself salivating over A3s or Kanbans or Value Stream Maps, Control Charts, flow charts, anything you can hold in your hand…you my friend are a toolhead.

It’s ok though, as long as you remember, look for Indiana Jones, not the fedora. Look for the thinking, not the tool.  I can say this with confidence because, reader, I used to be a toolhead, but I’m alright now.



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