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    Illustration Colletion Illustration Colletion Document Transcript

    • Stories and analogiesIllustrations and analogies for motivation,inspiration, learning and trainingHere are some stories, analogies, research findings andother examples that provide wonderful illustrations forlearning, and inspiration for self-development.Read about the travellers and the monk, tickle me elmo,get in the wheelbarrow, the shoe box story, the scorpionand the frog, murphys plough, Pavlovs dogs, themonkeys and the stairs, and more.Look at the stories index for stories listed by subject.Or go straight to the stories.Analogies, stories, fables and case-studies are greatways to illustrate teaching, training and business lessons.Stories, examples, fables and research references addcolour and substance to presentations and reports, andreinforce learning of all types.Some of these stories are ironic and so can best be usedto illustrate pitfalls and vulnerabilities rather than bestpractice. If you know who wrote any of the unattributedstories below please let us know so that credit can begiven.Read and enjoy and send me your own favourite storiesand anecdotes.Some of these stories might be offensive to certainpeople in certain situations. If you are a strong advocateof political correctness or are easily offended pleasedont read this page, or the rest of this website, and forgoodness sake dont go near the acronyms page.
    • So, please dont use any of these stories in any situationsthat might cause offence to people.See also the quotes page, which contains many moremotivational, educational and amusing anecdotes forwriting, speaking, learning, teaching and training.Please note that The Person Who Had Feelings story,which was on this page for some while (with suggestedbut uncertain attribution to Barbara Dunlap) has beenremoved at the request of Barbara Dunlap Van Kirk, itsauthor, who has kindly contacted me to explain that sheis indeed the author, and that the work is protected andso is not to be reproduced. The version on this page wasalso somewhat different to Barbaras original. I hope tohelp Barbaras work be more widely and fully accessiblein the future.stories indexMost recent first:story title learning, lessons, messages, examples of usesthe blind man and communications, empathy,the advertising story connecting with people, advertising, marketing, language meaning, intervention, helping others, expertisethe shoes story positive thinking vs negative thinking, opportunities vs problems, attitude, mindsetthe pub story racial discrimination, lateral thinking, language meaningthe inflatables story context and meaning, discipline and
    • admonishment, self-respectthe mechanic and perceptions, differences, the devilthe surgeon story is in the detailthe zodiac signs example of story mnemonicmnemonic (memory aid)the two bulls story tactics, strategic thinking, planning, impulse, enthusiasm, wisdom, maturitythe thief and the planning, resources, projectpaintings story managementthe gardeners positive thinking, attitude, seeingbadge story the good side, successful businessthe rich man and the possessions, enjoyment,jewels story materialism, owning thingsthe atheist and the loyalty, payback and reward, takingbear story sides, changing sidesthe fairy story strategic alliances, ageism, sexism, tactical awareness, the sisterhood, loyalty, motives, assumptions, choices, karma, be careful what you wish forcircus story developing young people, coaching, advising, talent development, career choicesstranded car creativity, thinking outside of thedilemma story box, decision-making, ethicsthe school story attendance, sickness, overcoming fears, responsibilitythe soldiers and the leadershiptrench story
    • the john wayne story communications, confusion, understanding, instructionsthe blind men and dependency, risk, stretching,the road story motivation, achievement, lifting personal limitsthe doctor and the ethical decision-making, challengethief story and change choicesthe preacher and the duty, regardless of demand andfarmer story reward - adapt provision according to needsthe old lady and the tactical advantage, underestimatinghearing-aid story peoplemobile phone story assumptions, approvals, authority, control, security, identitythe trench-digger initiative, self-development, self-story discipline, making things happen, career advancement, getting experience before you get the job, getting a job requiring experience when you have none - also making assumptions and imagining or suspecting the worstthe double-positive make your point and then knowstory when to stop, language, communications, lateral thinking, quick-thinkingthe bath and bucket lateral thinking, makingstory assumptions, dangers of judging peoplethe stamp story customer services, communications, product design,
    • customer inertiathe shot at dawn ethics and culture, leadershipstory integrity and styles, decision- making, policy-makingdirect mail campaign human nature, integrity, delegationclanger story and training, and advertising is a funny business...the god and eve gender and sexual discrimination,story equality, battle of the sexes debates, after-dinner speechesthe wrong guy interviews, preparation, thinking oninterview story your feet, communications, media nonsense, persuasion (this is the famous BBC Guy Goma interview story and video clip)the very old lady positive attitude, self-image,story ageism, age and beauty, perspective, wisdomthe train travellers relationships, assumptions,story marriage, weddings speeches, best man speeches, sex, sexismthe william pitt story working creatively to reach agreement, managing situations and environments, facilitation of agreements, negotiationthe biscuit factory making assumptions, other peoplesstory perspectives, individual needs and motivationsthe eggs story time management, creative thinking and problem-solving, marriage, weddings speeches, best man
    • speeches, sex, sexismthe translator story communications, assumptions, creativity, deceit, language, relationships, karma, cheats dont prosperthe buddha and the conflict, responding to otherabuse story peoples negative behaviour, angry customers, disruptive kids, bad- tempered bossesthe gandhi shoe selflessness, compassion,story generosity, logic, objectivitythe greta garbo negotiation tactics, negotiatingnegotiation story position, independence and the power of choicethe jesse james tactics, strategy, planning, morality,story good and bad in us all, yin and yangthe gorilla story negotiating, understanding communications, agreeing clear objectives and responsibilitiesthe priest and the time management, being late,politician story public speakinglipstick kisses on the creative thinking, creative problem-mirror story solving, creative management techniques, avoiding confrontationmeasuring by analysis, measurement, statisticsaverages storythe blind golfers an ironic example of lack ofstory empathy, and different peoples perspectives
    • the sales and for teams, motivation, team-marketing rugby building, departmental cooperation,analogy story training, public speakingthe lock and key kindness and generosity, goodstory pebble ripples, memorable customer service experiencesthe stranger and the making assumptions, think beforegingernuts story you act, different perspectivesthe england football foundational failure, strategicstory analysis, alignment and philosophy, viabilitythe new employees importance of induction training forstories new starters, initiative and lateral thinking, interpretation, delegation, rules, checking and monitoringthe bedtime story communications, communications methods, relationships, marriage, weddings speeches, best man speeches, sex, sexismthe sergeant majors management styles examples,rude parrot story autoctratic management, submissive behaviour, threats, meeting difficult behaviour head-onthe farmer and the helping others, inspiration, gratitudeboy story and appreciation, good comes from doing good, the power of legenthe brewery story to challenge belief systems and assumptions, and the need for questioning pointless routine or policythe rowing identifying and managing
    • competition story performance improvement, establishing cause and accountability, theory x vs theory y, daft executive judgementsthe performance theory x shortcomings, mis-evaluation story managementthe no exit story different perspectives, viewpoints, how different perspectives cause one thing to appear as two different thingsthe old couple story positive/negative outlook, blame, attitudetwo brothers and the initiative, responsibility, thinkinggeese story outside the box, anticipating, strategic anticipation, adding value to service, value and rewardthe piano story mentoring, coaching, understanding the other persons development needsthe angry customer funny customer service example,story keeping calm, keeping control, managing conflict, angry customersthe clap and cheer positive attitude, taking pride instory whatever you dothe bank story a lesson in customer service, how bad policy encourages poor servicethe fish baking story to challenge belief systems and assumptions, and illustrate pointless routine and the need for questioning
    • the donkey story positive attitudes, turning problems into opportunitiesthe shepherd story IT consultants, business consultancy, knowing your factsthe speed camera creative thinking, teamwork,story understanding and using modern technology - do not try this at home..the three engineers different approaches to problem-story solving, modern ITthe sweet old couple dangers of making assumptions,story understand before you intervenethe men and women the other persons perspective,differences story gender empathy, for weddings, best-man speeches, johari window, empathy, NLP, etcthe aunt karen story using lessons, morals, analogies, examples, interpretation, relatives, families, drinkingthe tickle me elmo induction training, communications,story giving instructions, delegation, confusionthe get in the belief, trust, faith, commitment,wheelbarrow story walking the walkthe charles plumb supporting others, supporting roles,parachutes story leadership, acknowledging others, saying thank youthe chickens story communications, confusing instructions, testing, research and development
    • the chihuahua and creative thinking, quick thinking,the leopard story escaping, averting disaster, bluff and boldnessthe cannibals story management, managers, secretaries, initiative, habits, conforming, rules and rule-breakingthe dog and the be content with what you have,bone story greed and envy seldom pay (more Aesops fables)the "always done it time management, challengingthat way.." story habits, assumptions, procedures, belief systemsthe dam story how to write a good letter, making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, and how to defend wrong accusations with humourthe blind men and perception, truth, perspective,the elephant empathy, communications and understandingthe owl and the executive policy-making, theoryfield-mouse story versus practicethe rat and the lion do good, what goes around comesstory around, karmathe two mules story show off expensive things at your peril, the more you have the more you have to losethe travellers and positive attitude, life outlook,the monk story positive philosophy, finding what we seek, self-fulfilling propheciesthe human new starters induction, ironic
    • resources story reference to human resources management, keeping promises, employment standards, changing jobsthe shoe box story delusion, men and women, marriage, relationships, secrets, weddings and best-man speechesthe businessman ambition, work and fulfilment,and the fisherman purpose of life, wealth creation,story change for changes sakethe microsoft story computers, WYSInotWYG, ironic reference to computer software problemsthe "it will for that making a difference, compassion,one" story personal and social responsibilitythe negotiation story negotiating, men and women, funny responsesthe mcclelland david mcclellands achievementmotivation story motivation experiment, motivation references and examplesthe butterfly story coaching, teaching, enabling, facilitating, interventionsthe swimming pool reviews and asessments, assessingstory people, things are not always what they seemthe butcher story business ethics, chickens come home to roost, sins discovered, getting caught out, lying to customersthe pavlovs dogs behaviour, conditioning, fears and
    • story neuroses, embedded attitudes and responsesthe beans up the accentuate the positive,nose story visualization, auto-suggestion, negative suggestions and attitudesthe hawthorne effect elton mayos motivationstory experiments, motivationthe naval stand-off negotiation, do your research, knowstory your factsthe room service understanding, communicating,story interpretation, empathy, meaning, language and translationthe project story project management, six phases of a project, leadership and managementthe mswindows car the power of PR, clever publicity,story using humour for publicity, dont get mad get eventhe balloon story business, IT, humour, funny business storythe monkey story company policy, organizational development, group behaviour, group beliefs, inertia and assumptionsthe creativity story ten ways to murder creativity, leadership, growth and development, innovation and motivationthe scorpion and the responsibility, blame, reality,frog story acceptance, delusion, expectations,
    • personal responsibility, empathythe rocks in bucket time management, personalstory change, managing your activities and environment, project management, life-balancethe rocks in the alternative funny version, studentsbucket story II perspectivethe murphys plough positive thinking, negative thinking,story retaliating before being attacked, thinking the worst of people, tit- for-tat, eye-for-an-eyeStories for teaching, training,lessons and amusementStories add interest and enjoyment to learning, teachingand training - for teachers, trainers and students.Stories also increase impact and make ideas andconcepts far more memorable.Stories can be used to illustrate all sorts of themes andlessons, and most stories are extremely flexible.The themes suggested for the stories in this collectionare the obvious examples.Use your imagination - in most stories you can find manyother themes to suit your own purposes.the blind man and the advertisingstoryAn old blind man was sitting on a busy street corner in
    • the rush-hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign,next to an empty tin cup, he had written: Blind - Pleasehelp.No-one was giving him any money.A young advertising writer walked past and saw the blindman with his sign and empty cup, and also saw the manypeople passing by completely unmoved, let alonestopping to give money.The advertising writer took a thick marker-pen from herpocket, turned the cardboard sheet back-to-front, andre-wrote the sign, then went on her way.Immediately, people began putting money into the tincup.After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blindman asked a stranger to tell him what the sign now said."It says," said the stranger, " Its a beautiful day. You cansee it. I cannot. "(My Dad told me this story when I was a teenager in the1970s. I saw it recently on a video on the web. This storyillustrates in a timeless way how important choice ofwords and language is when we want to truly connectwith and move other people. Thanks BC and SD)the shoes story (positive thinking,negative thinking, attitude,perspective, mindset)You will perhaps have heard this very old story illustratingthe difference between positive thinking and negativethinking:
    • Many years ago two salesmen were sent by a British shoemanufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back onmarket potential.The first salesman reported back, "There is no potentialhere - nobody wears shoes."The second salesman reported back, "There is massivepotential here - nobody wears shoes."This simple short story provides one of the best examplesof how a single situation may be viewed in two quitedifferent ways - negatively or positively.We could explain this also in terms of seeing a situationsproblems and disadvantages, instead of its opportunitiesand benefits.When telling this story its impact is increased by usingexactly the same form of words (e.g., "nobody wearsshoes") in each salesmans report. This emphasises thattwo quite different interpretations are made of a singlesituation.See also the glass half-full/empty quotes.the pub story (racial issues,discrimination, exclusion, inclusion,lateral thinking, different meanings inlanguage and communications)A Sikh, a Muslim, an Englishman, an Irishman, aScotsman, a Welshman, a Jew, a Buddhist and a Hindugo into a pub.The barman looks up and says, "Is this some kind of ajoke?"
    • (This short aside can be used to illustrate or drawattention to issues related to racialstereotyping/discrimination. Separately it offers anexample of lateral thinking, and also an example ofdouble meaning in language. The ethnicities may bechanged for your own situation or part of the world.)the inflatables story (context iseverything, discipline andadmonishment)In the land of inflatables (bear with me..), at the inflatableschool, what did the inflatable teacher say to the naughtyinflatable boy caught misbehaving with a pin?"You let me down, you let yourself down, and worst of allyou let the whole school down."the mechanic and the surgeon story(perceptions, the devil is in thedetail, the nature of big differences)A heart surgeon took his car to his local garage for aregular service, where he usually exchanged a littlefriendly banter with the owner, a skilled but not especiallywealthy mechanic."So tell me," says the mechanic, "Ive been wonderingabout what we both do for a living, and how much moreyou get paid than me..""Yes?.." says the surgeon."Well look at this," says the mechanic, as he worked on abig complicated engine, "I check how its running, open it
    • up, fix the valves, and put it all back together so it worksgood as new.. We basically do the same job dont we?And yet you are paid ten times what I am - how do youexplain that?"The surgeon thought for a moment, and smiling gently,replied,"Try it with the engine running.."zodiac star signs story (forremembering the signs of the zodiac,and memory aid example for teachingmnemonics methods)This story is a mnemonic (pronounced nemonic -meaning memory aid) for remembering the twelve Signsof the Zodiac, in order, starting in January.While this example is useful for pub quizzes, moreimportantly the method of creating a storymnemonic can be used to retain all sorts of difficult-to-remember pieces of information, for yourself, and taughtto others. Mnemonics stories need not make sense -they simply need to be memorable.In January, a goat (Capricorn), drinking from a stream(Aquarius) said, "Look, a fish (Pisces)."A ram (Aries), and a bull (Taurus), carrying the twins(Gemini) said "Theres also a crab (Cancer)."A lion (Leo) roared in agreement, which startled theyoung maiden (Virgo) so that she dropped and smashedher scales (Libra)."Thats no crab - its a scorpion (Scorpio)," said thearcher (Sagittarius).
    • Note that the Signs of the Zodiac are normally deemed tostart and end anything between the 18th and the 24th dayof each month, depending on interpretation. It is not byany means a precise science.the two bulls story (tactics, wisdom,planning, youthfulness vs maturity,impulse vs patience)Two bulls, one young and full of enthusiasm, and theother older and wiser, see a herd of cows.The young bull says, "Lets charge down this hillside andhave our wicked way with a couple of those cows."The old bull replies, "No, how about we stroll gently downthis hillside and have our wicked way with them all."You will perhaps have heard this story told with morefruity language. Feel free to adapt it for your ownsituation.(Thanks A Dobson for suggesting it. See also Softlysoftly, catchee monkey.)the thief and the paintings story(planning, preparation, resources,project management)A thief was caught after stealing some paintings from theLouvre in Paris, when his getaway van ran out of fuel.Given bail at his first hearing, a reporter asked him on thesteps of the courthouse how he forgot such a vital part ofhis plan."Simple," said the thief, "I had no Monet for Degas to
    • make the Van Gogh."(Ack CB)the gardeners badge story (positivethinking, attitude, seeing the goodside)A landscape gardener ran a business that had been in thefamily for two or three generations. The staff were happy,and customers loved to visit the store, or to have thestaff work on their gardens or make deliveries - anythingfrom bedding plants to ride-on mowers.For as long as anyone could remember, the currentowner and previous generations of owners wereextremely positive happy people.Most folk assumed it was because they ran asuccessful business.In fact it was the other way around...A tradition in the business was that the owner alwayswore a big lapel badge, saying Business Is Great!The business was indeed generally great, although it wentthrough tough times like any other. What never changedhowever was the owners attitude, and the badge sayingBusiness Is Great!Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariablyasked, "Whats so great about business?" Sometimespeople would also comment that their own business wasmiserable, or even that they personally were miserable orstressed.Anyhow, the Business Is Great! badge always tended
    • to start a conversation, which typically involved the ownertalking about lots of positive aspects of business andwork, for example:w the pleasure of meeting and talking with different people every day p the reward that comes from helping staff take on new challenges and experiences c the fun and laughter in a relaxed and healthy work environment e the fascination in the work itself, and in the other peoples work and businesses p the great feeling when you finish a job and do it to the best of your capabilities t the new things you learn every day - even without looking to do so l and the thought that everyone in business is blessed - because there are many millions of people who would swap their own situation to have the same opportunities of doing a productive meaningful job, in a civilized well-fed country, where we have no real worries.And so the list went on. And no matter how miserable aperson was, theyd usually end up feeling a lot happierafter just a couple of minutes listening to all thisinfectious enthusiasm and positivity.It is impossible to quantify or measure attitude like this,but to one extent or another its probably a self-fulfillingprophecy, on which point, if asked about the badge in aquiet moment, the business owner would confide:"The badge came first. The great business followed."
    • the jewels story (enjoyment,fulfillment, possession, wealth,materialism, greed)Once there was a very rich and greedy man. He lovedand hoarded jewels.One day a visitor asked to see them.So the jewels were brought out, amid much expensivesecurity, and the two men gazed at the wonderful stones.As the visitor was leaving he said, "Thank you for sharingyour jewels with me.""I didnt give them to you," exclaimed the rich man, "Theybelong to me.""Yes of course," replied the visitor, "And while we enjoyedthe jewels just the same, the real difference between usis your trouble and expense of buying and protectingthem."(Thanks Jackie Carpenter, adapted from an original itemin New Internationalist 137.)the atheist and the bear story(loyalty, conviction, payback andreward, changing sides)A committed atheist (thats someone who steadfastlydoes not believe in a god of any sort) was on a trekkingholiday when he became lost in some dense woods.A large angry bear, with ten starving cubs back home andclaws like kitchen knives, suddenly emerged from the
    • undergrowth.The atheist screamed in terror, turned and ran. The bearwas quicker however, and after a long and desperatechase eventually cornered the atheist in a gully.The exhausted atheist sank to his knees, shaking.The bear, seeing that its prey was trapped, moved slowlytowards the petrified man, drooling. The bear wasdrooling too.The atheist lifted his head, with tears in his eyes, anduttered the words he thought he would never say in all hislife: "God help me..."With these simple three words, a blinding flash oflightning lit up the sky. There was a deafening crash ofthunder. The clouds parted. A brilliant light shone down.The forest fell silent. The bear froze still, in a trance. Theatheist stood gaping, transfixed.A voice came loud from above. Louder than twentyAC/DC concerts all happening at the same time. We cansafely assume this voice to have been the voice of a godof some sort."You atheists make me seriously mad," boomed the god,"You deny me all your life. You tell others to deny me too.You put your faith in all that bloody Darwinian airy-fairyscientific nonsense, and then what a surprise - you getlost because you cant read your stupid map, and nowyoure about to get eaten by an angry bear all of asudden youre on your knees snivelling and begging formy help?......... You must be joking..."The atheist looked down, realising that he was notarguing from a position of strength.
    • "Okay, I take your point," said the atheist, thinking on hisfeet, while he still had them, "I can see its a bit late forme to convert, but what about the bear?... Maybe youcould convert the bear instead?""Hmmn... interesting idea..." said the god, thinking hard,"...Okay. It shall be done." At which the brilliant lightdimmed and vanished; the clouds closed; and the noisesof the forest resumed.The bear awoke and shook its head, a completelydifferent expression on its face. Calm, at peace.The bear closed its eyes, bowed its head, and said, "Forwhat we are about to receive, may the Lord make us trulythankful, Amen.." THE END _________________________________N.B. The grace prayer in the punchline is the versioncommonly taught in UK schools. Alternatives might workbetter depending on the audience, for example:"Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, let this food of ours beblessed. Amen.." (suggesting an Australian bear ofunspecific denomination)"Lasst uns beten! O Herr, segne uns und diese deinegaben, die wir von deiner Güte nun empfangen werden.Durch Christus, unseren Herrn! Amen.." (suggesting aGerman Catholic bear)You will perhaps devise your own endings. Perhaps yourown animals. Perhaps your own god.It has been suggested that this story could offend certainsensitivities.
    • I apologise therefore to bears everywhere.(Adapted from a story sent by S Hart, thank you.)A much shorter and simpler version of this story (thanksD Baudois) is as follows:the missionary man and the lion storyA missionary came upon a hungry lion in the middle ofthe African plain.The missionary knelt and prayed, "God, please give thislion a christian soul!"The lion stopped, knelt, and prayed also: "Lord above,may this meal be blessed.."the fairy story (strategic alliances,tactical awareness, ageism, sexism,being careful about what you wishfor and how you go about getting it)A couple were dining out together celebrating their 40thwedding anniversary.After the meal, the husband presented his wiferomantically with a beautiful very old gold antique locketon a chain.Amazingly when his wife opened the locket, a tiny fairyappeared.Addressing the astonished couple, the fairy said, "Yourforty years of devotion to each other has released mefrom this locket, and in return I can now grant you bothone wish each - anything you want.."
    • Without hesitating, the wife asked, "Please, can I travel tothe four corners of the world with my husband, as happyand in love as weve always been?"The fairy waved her wand with a flourish, and magicallythere on the table were two first-class tickets for around-the-world holiday.Staggered, the couple looked at each other, unable tobelieve their luck."Your turn," said the fairy and the wife to the husband.The husband thought for a few seconds, and then said,with a little guilt in his voice, "Forgive me, but to reallyenjoy that holiday of a lifetime - I yearn for a youngerwoman - so I wish that my wife could be thirty yearsyounger than me."Shocked, the fairy glanced at the wife, and with aknowing look in her eye, waved her wand.....and the husband became ninety-three.(Adapted from a suggestion from J Riley, thanks.)circus story (developing youngpeople, talent, career choice,parenting)This short story - its a joke really - can be used toillustrate attitudes to developing young people, careerdirection, and especially the advice and aspirations ofparents and coaches, which might be different to thedreams of the individual...In a circus, the Bearded Lady and the Worlds Strongest
    • Man fell in love, and decided to start a family.Soon the Bearded Lady fell pregnant.A few weeks before she was due to give birth, theBearded Lady and the circus ring-master were talking."Hows it going?" the ring-master asked, "Are you well?""Yes thanks - very excited," said the bearded lady, "Wehave so many plans for the baby - we want to besupportive parents.""Thats nice," said the ring-master, "Do you want a boyor a girl?""Oh, we really dont mind as long as its healthy," said theBearded Lady, "And it fits into the cannon.."(Thanks DC)stranded car dilemma story (creativethinking, ethics, decision-making)This story is adapted from a scenario which featured in awidely circulated email, in which (supposedly) jobapplicants were given loosely the following question toanswer, to indicate their personality and decision-makingmotives (supposedly). The job application context isextremely doubtful, but the lesson in creative thinking isinteresting, especially if people are not given too long todwell on it:You are driving alone in two-seater car on a desertedroad in blizzard conditions, when you see another carwhich has recently run off the road and into a tree. Thereare three people in the stranded car, none of whom isinjured:
    • an old friend, who once saved your life a your childhood sweetheart greatest lost love y an elderly ladyNo-one has a phone. The likelihood of any more passingtraffic is effectively zero. The conditions are toodangerous for people to walk anywhere. It is not possibleto tow the crashed car. The nearest town is an hoursdrive away.The question is: Given that your car is just a two-seater,in what order should the stranded people be taken to thenearest town?Answerthe school story (attendance,sickness, responsibility, parenting,and various other uses)My apologies if this story is well-known to you. Its an oldjoke, yet a useful illustration for various themes.A mother repeatedly called upstairs for her son to get up,get dressed and get ready for school. It was a familiarroutine, especially at exam time."I feel sick," said the voice from the bedroom."You are not sick. Get up and get ready," called themother, walking up the stairs and hovering outside thebedroom door."I hate school and Im not going," said the voice from thebedroom, "Im always getting things wrong, makingmistakes and getting told off. Nobody likes me, and Ivegot no friends. And we have too many tests and they arei
    • too confusing. Its all just pointless, and Im not going toschool ever again.""Im sorry, but you are going to school," said the motherthrough the door, continuing encouragingly, "Really,mistakes are how we learn and develop. And please trynot to take criticism so personally. And I cant believethat nobody likes you - you have lots of friends atschool. And yes, all those tests can be confusing, but weare all tested in many ways throughout our lives, so all ofthis experience at school is useful for life in general.Besides, you have to go, you are the headteacher."(Based on a suggestion from P Hallinger, thanks.)the soldiers and the trench story(leadership)The story goes that sometime, close to a battlefield over200 years ago, a man in civilian clothes rode past a smallgroup of exhausted battle-weary soldiers digging anobviously important defensive position. The sectionleader, making no effort to help, was shouting orders,threatening punishment if the work was not completedwithin the hour."Why are you are not helping?" asked the stranger onhorseback."I am in charge. The men do as I tell them," said thesection leader, adding, "Help them yourself if you feelstrongly about it."To the section leaders surprise the stranger dismountedand helped the men until the job was finished.
    • Before leaving the stranger congratulated the men fortheir work, and approached the puzzled section leader."You should notify top command next time your rankprevents you from supporting your men - and I willprovide a more permanent solution," said the stranger.Up close, the section leader now recognized GeneralWashington, and also the lesson hed just been taught.(This story is allegedly based on truth. Whatever, similarexamples are found in history, and arise in modern timestoo, so please forgive the mythical possibility of theabove attribution; the storys message is more importantthan its historical accuracy.)the john wayne story (instructions,communications, understanding,confused messages)It is said that when filming the biblical epic The GreatestStory Ever Told, the director George Stevens was tryingto encourage extra passion from John Wayne whendelivering the highly significant line, "Truly, this was theSon of God.""You are talking about Jesus - think about it," saidStevens, "Youve got to say it with awe."For the next take John Wayne duly summoned his mostintense feelings. He paused dramatically, and said:"Aw, truly this was the Son of God."the blind men and the road story(stretching, dependency, risk,achievement under pressure)
    • A blind man had been waiting a while at a busy road forsomeone to offer to guide him across, when he felt a tapon his shoulder."Excuse me," said the tapper, "Im blind - would youmind guiding me across the road?"The first blind man took the arm of the second blind man,and they both crossed the road.Apparently this is a true story. The first blind man was thejazz pianist George Shearing. He is quoted (in BartlettsAnecdotes) as saying after the event, "What could I do? Itook him across and it was the biggest thrill of my life."There are times when we think we cannot do somethingand so do not stretch or take a risk. Being forced tostretch and take a risk can often help us to reduce ourdependencies (on others, or our own personal safetymechanisms), and to discover new excitement andcapabilities. The poem Come to the Edge is anotherwonderful perspective on risk and stretching.the doctor and the thief story (ethicaldecision making - also adaptability,flexibility, accepting what cannot bechanged)A man goes to the doctor and says "Doctor, Ive becomea compulsive thief."The doctor prescribes him a course of tablets and says,"If youre not cured in a couple of weeks would you getme a widescreen television?"This is not a lesson of ideal behaviour, its a humorousillustration of options - whether to try to change
    • something, to accept it or to actively support it. Suchdecisions normally have two main reference points - thedifficulty of the change, and the ethical implications ofthe situation.The Serenity Prayer is a different and less cynical view ofchange and choices.the preacher and the farmer story(understanding the needs of yourpeople, caring for minorities andindividuals, looking deeper than themainstream)An old hill farming crofter trudges several miles throughfreezing snow to his local and very remote chapel forSunday service. No-one else is there, aside from theclergyman."Im not sure its worth proceeding with the service -might we do better to go back to our warm homes and ahot drink?.." asks the clergyman, inviting a mutuallyhelpful reaction from his audience of one."Well, Im just a simple farmer," says the old crofter, "Butwhen I go to feed my herd, and if only one beast turnsup, I sure dont leave it hungry."So the clergyman, feeling somewhat ashamed, delivershis service - all the bells and whistles, hymns andreadings, lasting a good couple of hours - finishingproudly with the fresh observation that no matter howsmall the need, our duty remains. And he thanks the oldfarmer for the lesson he has learned."Was that okay?" asks the clergyman, as the two set off
    • home."Well Im just a simple farmer," says the old crofter, "Butwhen I go to feed my herd, and if only one beast turnsup, I sure dont force it to eat what I brought for thewhole herd..."From which we see the extra lesson, that while our dutyremains regardless of the level of need, we have theadditional responsibility to ensure that we adapt ourdelivery (of whatever is our stock in trade) according tothe requirements of our audience.(Adapted from a suggestion from P Hallinger, and basedapparently on a story told by Roland Barth, whom Iassume to be the US educationalist.)the old lady and the hearing-aidstory (assumptions aboutweaknesses, underestimating people,tactical advantage)An old lady had a hearing-aid fitted, hidden underneathher hair.A week later she returned to the doctor for her check-up."Its wonderful - I can hear everything now," she reportedvery happily to the doctor."And is your family pleased too?" asked the doctor."Oh I havent told them yet," said the old lady, "And Ivechanged my will twice already.."(Thanks BC. Based on a letter published in thenewspaper several years ago, written by the doctor. I
    • suspect variations of this story have been told manytimes elsewhere too.)the mobile phone story(assumptions, authority, control, therisks of modern communications andtechnology, privacy, security,identity theft, etc)Several men were in a golf club locker room.A mobile phone rings."Yes I can talk," says the man answering the call, "Youreshopping are you? Thats nice."The listening men smile to each other."You want to order those new carpets? Okay.. And theyllinclude the curtains for an extra five thousand?.. Sure,why not?"More smiles among the listeners."You want to book that week on Necker Island?.. Theyreholding the price at twenty-two thousand?.. Sounds abargain.. You want a fortnight?.. If thats what you wanthoney, okay by me."Smiles turn to expressions of mild envy."And you want to give the builder the go-ahead for thenew conservatory? Seventy-five thousand if we say yestoday? Sounds fair.. sure, thats fine."The listeners exchange glances of amazement."Okay sugar, see you later.. Yes, love you too," says theman, ending the call.
    • He looks at the other men and says, "Whose phone isthis anyhow?.."the trench-digger story (initiative,self-development, making thingshappen, career advancement, how toget a job requiring experience whenyou have none)This is adapted from (apparently) a true story.An elderly couple retired to the countryside - to a smallisolated cottage overlooking some rugged and rockyheathland.One early morning the woman saw from her window ayoung man dressed in working clothes walking on theheath, about a hundred yards away. He was carrying aspade and a small case, and he disappeared from viewbehind a copse of trees.The woman thought no more about it but around thesame time the next day she saw the man again, carryinghis spade and a small case, and again he disappearedbehind the copse.The woman mentioned this to her husband, who said hewas probably a farmer or gamekeeper setting traps, orperforming some other country practice that would beperfectly normal, and so not to worry.However after several more sightings of the young manwith the spade over the next two weeks the womanpersuaded her husband to take a stroll - early, before theman tended to arrive - to the copse of trees toinvestigate what he was doing.
    • There they found a surprisingly long and deep trench,rough and uneven at one end, becoming much neaterand tidier towards the other end."How strange," the old lady said, "Why dig a trench here- and in such difficult rocky ground?" and her husbandagreed.Just then the young man appeared - earlier than hisusual time."Youre early," said the old woman, making light of theirobvious curiosity, "We wondered what you were doing -and we also wondered what was in the case.""Im digging a trench," said the man, who continued,realising a bigger explanation was appropriate, "Imactually learning how to dig a good trench, because thejob Im being interviewed for later today says thatexperience is essential - so Im getting the experience.And the case - its got my lunch in it."He got the job.(Adapted from a suggestion - thanks R Columbo)double-positive story (make yourpoint and then know when to stop,language, communications, lateralthinking, quick-thinking)On hearing one of his students use the expression, "Idont know nothing about it..." a teacher took theopportunity to explain about double negatives and correctgrammar to the class.The teacher explained, "In the English language a doublenegative makes the statement positive, so your assertion
    • that you dont know nothing about it is actually anadmission that you do know something about it."Encouraged by the interest in this revelation amongcertain class members, the teacher went on todemonstrate more of his knowledge of world languages:"Of course not all languages operate according to thesame grammatical rules, for example, in Russian, adouble negative remains negative, although perhapssurprisingly, there is not a single language anywhere inthe world in which a double positive makes a negative.."At which a voice from the back of the classroom calledout ironically "Yeah, right.."(This is adapted from a story sent to me by M Morris.Apparently the original story was based on a true incidentat a Modern Language Association meeting in New Yorkin the mid-1970s, reported in the NY Times. The quick-witted response in the original story, actually "Yeah,yeah..", seemingly came from from Sidney Morganbesser,a professor of philosophy who was noted for his speedyretorts. Thanks M Morris, Apr 2007.)the bath and the bucket story (lateralthinking, making assumptions,dangers of judging people)Given the title (on the subject of buckets..) and its quicksimple message, this story is a good partner analogy tothe rocks in a bucket time management story.The story illustrates lateral thinking, narrow-mindedness,the risks of making assumptions, and judging people andsituations:
    • A party of suppliers was being given a tour of a mentalhospital.One of the visitors had made some very insulting remarksabout the patients.After the tour the visitors were introduced to variousmembers of staff in the canteen.The rude visitor chatted to one of the security staff, Bill, akindly and wise ex-policeman."Are they all raving loonies in here then?" said the rudeman."Only the ones who fail the test," said Bill."Whats the test?" said the man."Well, we show them a bath full of water, a bucket, a jugand an egg-cup, and we ask them whats the quickestway to empty the bath," said Bill."Oh I see, simple - the normal ones know its the bucket,right?""No actually," said Bill, "The normal ones say pull out theplug. Should I check when theres a bed free for you?"the stamp story (customer services,communications, product design,customer inertia)The staff at an old peoples home were puzzled when oneof the residents began gargling with TCP. They asked herwhy but all she would say was that something hadhappened at the post-office. This is what actuallyoccurred.The old lady, who rarely ventured out, had visited the
    • post office to post a letter.She bought a stamp, and since there was a long queuebehind her she stepped aside. She put her change in herpurse, licked the stamp and put it on her letter. Despitepressing and thumping and licking it again, the stampfailed to stick."Excuse me, this stamp wont stick," said the old lady."You need to peel the paper off the back," explained theclerk.The old lady put on her spectacles, fiddled for a fewseconds to peel off the backing paper - and then lickedthe stamp again."It still wont stick," interrupted the old lady again."Its a self-stick stamp," said the assistant."Well this one isnt sticking at all - theres somethingwrong with it," demanded the old lady."Well it wont stick now because youve licked it.""Well Im totally confused now," said the old lady."Just give it here and Ill post it for you," said the cashier,and doing her best to explain continued, "These newstamps dont need licking. They are self-sticking. Theysave time. They are already sticky."The old lady continued to look blankly at the assistant."Look," said the well-meaning but desperate post-officeclerk, "Just imagine theyve already been licked..."Which sent the old lady scurrying out of the door andacross the road to the chemist.(Thanks Stephen Rafe for the original tale from which the
    • above was adapted. Stephen also provided anotherexample of confused customer service communications,in which the customer was convinced for a while that thecustomer service person was somehow carrying on hiswork from inside prison, because the bad line was due tohim speaking from his cell-phone..)the shot at dawn campaign story(ethics and culture, leadershipintegrity and styles, decision-making, policy-making,)By December 1916 more than 17,000 British troops wereofficially diagnosed as suffering from nervous or mentaldisability (wed say shell-shock or post-traumatic stressdisorder these days), despite which the British militaryauthorities continued to charge and convict sufferers withcowardice and desertion, and to sentence to death byfiring squad many of those found guilty.On 16 August 2006 the British government announcedthat it would pardon 308 British soldiers who were shot byfiring squad for cowardice and desertion during theFirst World War of 1914-18. The decision was ratified byParliament on 7 November 2006, and represented aremarkable u-turn by this and previous governments whohad always firmly refuted any evidence and justificationfor pardoning the victims.This reversal followed and was largely due to decades ofpersistent lobbying and campaigning by organisationsand individuals, many being families and descendents ofthe victims. It is not easy to imagine their suffering,especially of the widows and parents long since gone, forwhom this decision came a lifetime too late.
    • The story emphasises two things: first, that people inauthority have a responsibility to behave with integrity.Second, that where people in authority fail to act withintegrity, the persistence and determination of ordinarypeople will eventually force them to do so.Here is more background about the Shot At Dawncampaign, and the history of this particularly shamefulexample of British institutional behaviour.It provides lessons to us all about doing the right thing,and calling to account those who do not.See the related discussion ideas for developingawareness and understanding of the issues and how theyrelate to us all.N.B. Some people will not agree with thisinterpretation. This makes it such an interestingsubject for debate, especially in transferring theissues and principles to modern challenges inorganisations, and the world beyond.direct mail campaign clanger story(human nature, integrity, delegationand training, and advertising is afunny business...)This is a true story. Some years ago a client engaged aconsultant to help with a small postal mailing to thepurchasing departments of blue chip corporations. Theconsultant sourced the list (which was provided onMSExcel) and drafted the letter. Thereafter the client waskeen to take control of the project, ie., to run the mail-merge and the fulfilment (basically printing, envelope-stuffing and mailing).
    • The consultant discovered some weeks later that a juniormember of the clients marketing department had sortedthe list (changed the order of the listed organisations inthe spreadsheet), but had sorted the company namecolumn only, instead of all columns, with the result thatevery letter (about 500) was addressed and sent to a bluechip corporation at another entirely different corporationsaddress.Interestingly the mailing produced a particularly highresponse, which when investigated seemed to stem fromthe fact that an unusually high percentage of letters wereopened and read, due apparently to the irresistibletemptation of reading another corporations mail...the god and eve story (gender andsexual discrimination, equality, battleof the sexes debates, after-dinnerspeaking, etc)"God, Ive been thinking.." says Eve one day."Whats on your mind Eve?" says God."Well, I know that you created me and this beautifulgarden and all of these wonderful creatures, but latelyIve been feeling that maybe theres more to life.""Go on..." says God."Sometimes I get a bit bored - I fancy a bit of fun. And Iget a bit fed up with all the heaving lifting and carrying,and warding off the mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers,not to mention that bloody snake. This garden can bedangerous place.""I see," says God, pausing for thought.
    • "Eve, I have a cunning plan," says God, "I shall createMan for you.""Man?" asks Eve, "What is Man?""Man..." says God, "Is a flawed creature. He will havemany weaknesses and disgusting habits. Man will lie,cheat and behave like an idiot - in fact mostly hell be acomplete pain in the backside. But on the plus side hellbe big and strong, and will be able to protect you, andhunt and kill things, which might be handy sometimes. Hewill tend to lose control of mind and body when aroused,but with a bit training can reach an acceptable standardin the bedroom department, if you know what I mean.""Hmm," says Eve, "Seems like this Man idea might beworth a try, but tell me God, is there anything else I needto know?""Just this," says God, "Man comes with one condition...In keeping with his arrogant, deluded, self-importantcharacter, Man will naturally believe that he was madefirst, and frankly we all have better things to do thanargue, so you must keep all this a secret between us, ifthats okay with you. You know, woman to woman.."(unknown origin - if you can shed any light on the originplease contact me - thanks CB)the wrong guy interview story(interviews, preparation, thinking onyour feet, communications)This is a true story. It concerned Guy Goma, a lovelycuddly business graduate from the Congo, who on 8thMay 2006 attended the BBC building in West London foran interview for an IT job. At the same time, the BBC
    • News 24 TV channel was expecting a Guy Kewney (nowsadly deceased), editor of the website Newswireless.net,for a live 10.30am studio interview about the Apple courtcase judgement. (Apple Corps, owned by survivingBeatles McCartney and Starr, lost their case againstApple Computers, in which they sought to prevent theApple name being used in relation to iTunes musicdownloads.)Due to failed communications, entirely the BBCs fault(both Guys were blameless in this), the BBC News 24staff grabbed the wrong Guy (waiting in a differentreception to Guy Kewney), who, being an unassuming,foreign and extremely polite fellow, dutifully took hisplace in the studio, and after declining make-up (really),was introduced on live TV to viewers as Guy Kewney,editor of the technology website Newswireless, and thenasked three questions by the BBC News 24 businesspresenter Karen Bowerman about the Apple judgementsand its implications for internet music downloading.Meanwhile the real Guy Kewney sat and watched himselfon the monitor in the BBC reception. See the wrong Guyinterview. (At some stage in the future the link to the BBCinterview clip might cease working - I dont know howlong they keep these things. Let me know when and ifyou can no longer see the video clip and Ill try to sourceit elsewhere. As at Jun 2010 - thanks Joe - it seems thatthe clip is not so easy to play as it once was, althoughthe video is still available via the BBCs Launch in standalone player link for the wrong Guy item.Whats so utterly fascinating about this story and thesupporting video, is:Guy Goma initially expresses surprise about the interview
    • situation, but, largely due to his broken English and heavyFrench accent the interviewer interprets and leads MrGomas response to mean that he is surprised about thecourt judgement. If you listen carefully Guy Goma doesactually mention his interview in his first answer. See thetranscript below. However the pressure of the situation istoo great and he has little option other than to play outthe role that the fates have created for him. He actuallydoes quite well, given that he knows little about thesubject. Subsequent media reports that Guy Goma was ataxi driver are false - hes a business graduate. He laterattended his IT job interview but regrettably wasunsuccessful. You can read what Guy Kewney thought ofit all on his own blog at www.newswireless.net (there areseveral entries - read them all to see the full picture).As mentioned, sadly Guy Kewney has since died, on 8Apr 2010. His blog as at Sep 2010 still stands. Please letme know if it ceases to be available. On hearing of GuyKewneys passing (thanks D Guy - another differentGuy..) I considered whether to remove or retain this itemand obviously I decided to retain it. I never met GuyKewney. From what I understand he seems to have beena lovely man. The opportunity to say this is part of mydecision.the wrong guy interview transcriptKaren Bowerman: ...Well, Guy Kewney is editor of thetechnology website Newswireless.[Camera switches to Guy Gomas face, portraying amixture of shock, disbelief and impending disaster.]KB: Hello, good morning to you.Guy Goma: Good morning.KB: Were you surprised by this verdict today?
    • GG: I am very surprised to see... this verdict, to come onme because I was not expecting that. When I came theytold me something else and I am coming. Got aninterview... [another word, impossible to discern] .... abig surprise anyway.KB: A big surprise, yes, yes. [seeming a little anxious]GG: Exactly. [growing in confidence]KB: With regard to the costs involved do you think nowmore people will be downloading online?GG: Actually, if you go everywhere you are gonna see alot of people downloading to internet and the websiteeverything they want. But I think, is much better fordevelopment and to empower people what they want andto get on the easy way and so faster if they are lookingfor.KB: This does really seem the way the music industrysprogressing now, that people want to go onto the websiteand download music.GG: Exactly. You can go everywhere on the cyber cafeand you can take [maybe check?], you can go easy. Itsgoing to be very easy way for everyone to get somethingto the internet.KB: Thank you [actually sounds more like Thank Kewney- as if Ms Bowerman was a little distracted, no wonder].Thanks very much indeed.Lessons from this:L Good clear communications are essential when managing any sort of interview. m Pressure situations can easily lead people (especially interviewees) to give false impressions, which are no help to anyone. h The behaviours demonstrated in this incident illustrate
    • the power of suggestion, and NLP, albeit used mostly inadvertently in this case; the point is that all communications involve a hell of a lot more than just words.. w The power of the media to interpret just about anything for their own journalistic purposes is bloody frightening.the very old lady story (positiveattitude, self-image, ageism)A very old lady looked in the mirror one morning. She hadthree remaining hairs on her head, and being a positivesoul, she said, "I think Ill braid my hair today." So shebraided her three hairs, and she had a great day.Some days later, looking in the mirror one morning,preparing for her day, she saw that she had only twohairs remaining. "Hmm, two hairs... I fancy a centreparting today." She duly parted her two hairs, and asever, she had a great day.A week or so later, she saw that she had just one hair lefton her head. "One hair huh...," she mused, "I know, apony-tail will be perfect." And again she had a great day.The next morning she looked in the mirror. She wascompletely bald."Finally bald huh," she said to herself, "How wonderful! Iwont have to waste time doing my hair any more.."(Ack CB)the train travellers story(relationships, assumptions, etc)
    • A wealthy businessman who is used to getting his ownway finds himself sharing a sleeper compartment with abeautiful young woman as they travel to Brussells on thetrain. It is winter and the heating is not working so thecompartment is cold.The two settle down to sleep."Two strangers, on a train..." says the businessman."Yes," says the woman."A man and a woman - away from home - probablynever meet again.." Says the businessman."Yes," says the woman."Its cold, isnt it?" says the businessman."Yes," says the woman."Could you pass me another blanket?" says thebusinessman, "... Or maybe we could pretend to be manand wife for tonight?..""Yes, that would be good," says the woman, "Get yourown bloody blanket."the william pitt story (workingcreatively to reach agreement,managing situations andenvironments, facilitation ofagreements)There is the story of William Pitt, 1759-1806, Britishstatesman and Prime Minister from 1783-1801, who oncesought to expedite a crucial agreement in Parliament forthe movement of the British fleet to defend against theFrench. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord
    • Newcastle, had certain objections, but when Pitt calledon the Chancellor endeavouring to resolve thedifferences, he found the Chancellor distinctly unhappy inbed suffering with gout. The bedroom was freezing, andwhen Pitt remarked on this, Lord Newcastle replied thatthe cold weather would hinder the fleet movement, butmore particularly that the combination of the coldconditions and the gout would prevent any furtherdiscussion of the issue at that time, which Pitt quicklyjudged to be at the root of the problem. Begging theChancellors pardon, Pitt calmly removed his boots,climbed into bed and drew up the covers (apparentlythere was another bed in the room..), whereupon the twowere able to discuss the matter and soon agreed a unitedway forward.the biscuit factory story (makingassumptions, other peoplesperspectives, individual needs andmotivations)This is a true story. Some years ago the followingexchange was broadcast on an Open Universitysociology TV programme.An interviewer was talking to a female production-lineworker in a biscuit factory. The dialogue went like this:Interviewer: How long have you worked here?Production Lady: Since I left school (probably about 15years).Interviewer: What do you do?Production Lady: I take packets of biscuits off the
    • conveyor belt and put them into cardboard boxes.Interviewer: Have you always done the same job?Production Lady: Yes.Interviewer: Do you enjoy it?Production Lady: Oooh Yes, its great, everyone is sonice and friendly, we have a good laugh.Interviewer (with a hint of disbelief): Really? Dont youfind it a bit boring?Production Lady: Oh no, sometimes they change thebiscuits...My thanks to Shirley Moon for this lovely story, who alsopoints out the following lessons within it:p Do not impose your own needs and ambitions on to other people who may not share them. o Dont assume that things that motivate you will motivate someone else. m Recognise that sources of happiness may vary widely between people.See also the sections on personality styles, multipleintelligence and learning styles, and motivation, which allrelate to this story.a short story about eggs (timemanagement, creative thinking andproblem-solving)A young woman was in her kitchen.A pan of water was simmering on the stove.
    • She was making boiled eggs for breakfast.He walked in.Their eyes met."Make love to me here, now," she said.They made love on the kitchen table."Couldnt resist me, huh?" he said."The egg timer is broken," she replied.Of course this story is a bit far-fetched given that an eggtimer lasts for three whole minutes..(Ack Detoxman)the translator story (communications,assumptions, creativity, deceit,language, relationships, just deserts)The story goes that a prominent, married, philandering,wealthy politician took advantage of a young femaleItalian translator during an overseas visit. Shortly after hisreturn home he received a phone call at his office fromthe woman informing him that she was pregnant and thathe was definitely the father.Seemingly experienced at dealing with such situations,the politician instructed the young woman, "I will arrangefor you and the child to be provided for. Do not worryabout money. I will pay ten times the typical Italiansettlement, but this must be kept secret.""I see," said the young woman, a little taken aback, butsince she knew the man and his reputation she was not
    • unduly surprised, and was also entirely happy never tosee or speak to him again.He went on, "Dont ever call me again. Send me apostcard with some sort of coded message confirmingdate of birth, that the child is healthy and whether a boyor girl. Use your imagination - you are a translator afterall.""As you wish," said the young woman, and ended thecall.A little under nine months later the politicians wife (whowas also his PA) was opening his mail. When she cameto a particular postcard the politician noticed andsuddenly became attentive."Heres a postcard..." said his wife."Oh yes," said the politician, "What does it say?""Just a silly joke I think," said his wife, continuing, as shewatched the colour drain from her husbands face, "Itsays: March 12th - Just had three big beautiful bowls ofspaghetti - all with meatballs.. "(Ack SF)the helpful old lady story (check thefacts, false assumptions, etc)One afternoon, an old lady, laden with shopping, noticedtwo small boys on the front step of a house. With theirbags and uniforms they were obviously going home afterschool. They were on tip-toe trying to reach the door-bell with a stick."Poor little lads, they cant get in," she thought, "Parentsthese days just dont seem to care."
    • So she marched up the path, reached over the boys andgave the bell a long firm push.The surprised boys turned around and screamed "Quick,run!" and promptly disappeared over the garden wall.the buddha and the abuse story(responding to other peoplesnegative behaviour; angry customers,disruptive kids, bad-temperedbosses, etc)A tale is told about the Buddha, Gautama (563-483BC),the Indian prince and spiritual leader whose teachingsfounded Buddhism. This short story illustrates that everyone of us has the choice whether or not to take personaloffence from another persons behaviour.It is said that on an occasion when the Buddha wasteaching a group of people, he found himself on thereceiving end of a fierce outburst of abuse from abystander, who was for some reason very angry.The Buddha listened patiently while the stranger ventedhis rage, and then the Buddha said to the group and tothe stranger, "If someone gives a gift to another person,who then chooses to decline it, tell me, who would thenown the gift? The giver or the person who refuses toaccept the gift?""The giver," said the group after a little thought. "Any foolcan see that," added the angry stranger."Then it follows, does it not," said the Buddha, "Whenevera person tries to abuse us, or to unload their anger onus, we can each choose to decline or to accept the
    • abuse; whether to make it ours or not. By our personalresponse to the abuse from another, we can choose whoowns and keeps the bad feelings."(This is related to Transactional Analysis)the gandhi shoe story (selflesscompassion, generosity withoutstrings)Mohandas [Mahatma] Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948),the great Indian statesman and spiritual leader is notedfor his unusual humanity and selflessness, which thisstory epitomises. Gandhi was boarding a train one daywith a number of companions and followers, when hisshoe fell from his foot and disappeared in the gapbetween the train and platform. Unable to retrieve it, hetook off his other shoe and threw it down by the first.Responding to the puzzlement of his fellow travellers,Gandhi explained that a poor person who finds a singleshoe is no better off - whats really helpful is finding apair.Separately, Gandhi was once asked what he thought ofWestern Civilisation. Gandhi replied: "I think that it wouldbe a very good idea."The notion still applies.(More inspirational and amusing quotes.)greta garbo negotiation story(negotiation tactics, negotiatingposition, independence and thepower of choice)
    • Great Garbo (1905-90), the 1930s Swedish-born filmstar, demonstrated how to negotiate with a bullyingadversary, and particularly the tactic of walking away.After Garbo had become established as a major star, shedecided to negotiate a contract that suitably reflected herconsiderable box-office value to the producers.Accordingly she demanded a weekly fee of $5,000 -compared to the derisory $350 a week shed previouslybeen paid. When film mogul Louis Mayer heard Garbosdemand he offered her $2,500. Garbo replied simply, inher Swedish-American accent, "I think I go home.." Andoff she went.Garbo returned to her hotel and stayed there, notbudging, while Mayer stewed - for seven months - atwhich Mayer eventually caved in and gave Garbo whatshe asked for.(Interestingly Garbo never actually said, "I want to bealone". There phrase was in fact "I want to be left alone,"which her character Grusinskaya said in Garbos 1932film Grand Hotel. The resonance of the words withGarbos real life didnt just extend to her negotiatingstyle: she retired in 1941 with the world still at her feet,and lived the rest of her life an obsessive recluse in NewYork after becoming a US citizen in 1951.)the jesse james story (tactics,morality, good and bad in us all)The notorious American Wild West bank robber JesseJames (1847-82) was hunted and demonised by theauthorities, but was held in high regard by many ordinaryfolk. Heres an example of why:The story goes that Jesse James and his gang had taken
    • refuge for a few days in ramshackle farmhouse after oneof their raids. The old widow who lived there fed the men,and apologised for her modest offerings and the poorstate of the accommodation. While the gang laid low,they learned from the widow that she faced eviction fromher landlord and was expecting a visit from his debtcollector any day. Taking pity on the old lady, as they left,the gang gave her some of the spoils of their robbery tosettle her debt - several hundred dollars, which was asmall fortune in those days. The gang moved on, but onlyto a nearby copse, where for a couple more days theywatched and waited for the arrival - and departure - ofthe debt collector, whom they promptly held up androbbed.Of course robbing anyone is bad, but if youve got to robsomeone...the gorilla story (negotiating,understanding communications,agreeing clear objectives andresponsibilities)A zoo had among its animals a female gorilla, whosemood was becoming increasingly difficult. The vetconcluded that she was on heat and that a mate shouldbe found. The vet contacted some other nearby zoos tofind a partner for the broody female, but to no avail. Thefemale gorillas behaviour continued to worsen, but thevet noticed that she grew calmer, and strangelyresponsive, whenever a particularly well-built and none-too-handsome keeper entered the enclosure. Being anunprincipled and adventurous fellow, the vet put anoutrageous proposition to the keeper: For a fee of five
    • hundred pounds would the keeper consider spending alittle quality time with the gorilla, purely in the interestsof research of course?....The keeper, also an unprincipled and adventurous fellow,pondered the suggestion, and after a few minutes agreedto the offer, subject to three conditions. The vet,intrigued, listened to the keepers demands:"First," the keeper said, "No kissing.""Fine," said the vet."Second, no-one must ever know - if this gets out Ill killyou.""You have my word," said the vet, "And your finalcondition?""Its just," said the keeper a little awkwardly, "Can I have acouple of weeks to raise the five hundred quid?"(With acknowledgements to Shane and apologies to vetsand zoo-keepers everywhere.)the priest and the politician story(time management, being late, publicspeaking)After twenty-five years in the same parish, FatherOShaunessey was saying his farewells at his retirementdinner. An eminent member of the congregation - aleading politician - had been asked to make apresentation and a short speech, but was late arriving.So the priest took it upon himself to fill the time, andstood up to the microphone:"I remember the first confession I heard here twenty-five
    • years ago and it worried me as to what sort of place Idcome to... That first confession remains the worst Iveever heard. The chap confessed that hed stolen a TV setfrom a neighbour and lied to the police when questioned,successfully blaming it on a local scallywag. He said thathed stolen money from his parents and from hisemployer; that hed had affairs with several of his friendswives; that hed taken hard drugs, and had slept with hissister and given her VD. You can imagine what Ithought... However Im pleased to say that as the dayspassed I soon realised that this sad fellow was a frightfulexception and that this parish was indeed a wonderfulplace full of kind and decent people..."At this point the politician arrived and apologised forbeing late, and keen to take the stage, he immediatelystepped up to the microphone and pulled his speechfrom his pocket:"Ill always remember when Father OShaunessey firstcame to our parish," said the politician, "In fact, Im prettycertain that I was the first person in the parish that heheard in confession.."(Ack Stephen Hart)lipstick kisses on the mirror story(creative thinking, creative problem-solving, creative managementtechniques, avoiding confrontation)A school head was alerted by the caretaker to apersistent problem in the girls lavatories: some of the girlstudents were leaving lipstick kisses on the mirrors. Thecaretaker had left notices on the toilet walls asking for the
    • practice to cease, but to no avail; every evening thecaretaker would wipe away the kisses, and the next daylots more kisses would be planted on the mirror. It hadbecome a bit of a game. The head teacher usually took acreative approach to problem solving, and so the nextday she asked a few girl representatives from each classto meet with her in the lavatory."Thank you for coming," said the head, "You will seethere are several lipstick kisses in the mirrors in thiswashroom.."Some of the girls grinned at each other."As you will understand, modern lipstick is cleverlydesigned to stay on the lips, and so the lipstick is noteasy at all to clean from the mirrors. We have thereforehad to develop a special cleaning regime, and my hope isthat when you see the effort involved you will help spreadthe word that wed all be better off if those responsiblefor the kisses use tissue paper instead of the mirrors infuture.."At this point the caretaker stepped forward with a spongesqueegee, which he took into one of the toilet cubicles,dipped into the toilet bowl, and then used to clean one ofthe lipstick-covered mirrors.The caretaker smiled. The girls departed. And there wereno more lipstick kisses on the mirrors.(Thanks H)measuring by averages story(analysis, measurement, statistics,etc)
    • Three statisticians went hunting in the woods. Beforelong, one of them pointed to a plump pigeon in a tree,and the three of them stopped and took aim. The firstfired, missing the bird by a couple of inches to the left.Immediately afterwards the second fired, but also missed,a couple of inches to the right. The third put down hisgun exclaiming, "Great shooting lads, on average Ireckon we got it..."(ack K Hutchinson)the blind golfers story (an ironicexample of lack of empathy, anddifferent peoples perspectives)A clergyman, a doctor and a business consultant wereplaying golf together one day and were waiting for aparticularly slow group ahead. The business consultantexclaimed, "Whats with these people? Weve beenwaiting over half and hour! Its a complete disgrace." Thedoctor agreed, "Theyre hopeless, Ive never seen such arabble on a golf course." The clergyman spotted theapproaching greenkeeper and asked him what was goingon, "Whats happening with that group ahead of us?Theyre surely too slow and useless to be playing, arentthey?" The greenkeeper replied, "Oh, yes, thats a groupof blind fire-fighters. They lost their sight saving ourclubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let themplay for free anytime." The three golfers fell silent for amoment. The clergyman said, "Oh dear, thats so sad. Ishall say some special prayers for them tonight." Thedoctor added, rather meekly, "Thats a good thought. Illget in touch with an ophthalmic surgeon friend of mine tosee if theres anything that can be done for them." After
    • pondering the situation for a few seconds, the businessconsultant turned to the greenkeeper and asked, "Whycant they play at night?"(Other job-titles can be substituted instead of businessconsultant to suit the purpose of the story, for example,government advisor, venture capitalist, engineer, projectmanager, accountant, finance director, quality manager,etc)the sales and marketing rugbyanalogy story (for teams, motivation,team-building, departmentalcooperation, training, publicspeaking)I am assured this is a true story. A consultant was askedto give a talk at a sales conference. The CEO asks him tofocus on the importance of cooperation and teamworkbetween the sales and marketing teams, since neithergroup has a particularly high regard for the other, and thelack of cohesion and goodwill is hampering effectivenessand morale. The marketing staff constantly moan aboutthe sales people doing their own thing and failing tofollow central strategy; and the sales people say that themarketing people are all idle theorists who waste theirtime at exhibitions and agency lunches and have neverdone a decent days work in their lives.Being a lover of rugby, the consultant decides to use theanalogy of a rugby teams forwards and backs workingtogether to achieve the best team performance:"......So, just as in the game of rugby, the forwards, likethe marketing department, do the initial work to create
    • the platform and to make the opportunities, andthen pass the ball out to the backs, the salesdepartment, who then use their skills and energy toscore the tries. The forwards and the backs, just likemarketing and sales, are each good at what they do:and they work together so that the team wins..." saidthe consultant, finishing his talk.The audience seemed to respond positively, and theconference broke for lunch. At the bar the consultantasked one of the top sales-people what hed thought ofthe analogy - had it given him food for thought?"Yes, I see what you mean," said the salesman, "It doesmake sense. The sales people - the backs, yes? - thebacks need the marketing department - the forwards,yes? - to make the opportunities for us, so that we, thebacks, can go and score the tries - to win the business.We work together as a team - each playing our own part- working as a team."The consultant beamed and nodded enthusiastically, onlyto be utterly dashed when the salesman added as anafterthought, "I still think our forwards are a bunch ofwankers..."(with thanks to Martin Deighton)the lock and key story (kindness andgenerosity, good pebble ripples,memorable customer serviceexperiences)A British family were on holiday in a rented motor-homein the USA. Travelling through California they visited theMagic Mountain amusement park close by Los Angeles.
    • Mid-afternoon, halfway through what was turning out tobe a most enjoyable day at the park, Mum, Dad and thethree kids came upon a particularly steep plummetingride. In the queue, the ride attendants strongly warnedeveryone about the risks of losing hats, spectacles, coinsand keys, etc., and these warnings were echoed by largesigns around the ride. During the ride, Dad lost the keys.Due to the fact that the motor-home was a replacementvehicle resulting from a breakdown earlier in the holiday,there were no spare keys. And there were six keys on thelost bunch: ignition, front doors, side door, fuel tank,propane tank, and storage cupboards.The park attendants drove the family back to the motor-home, suggesting the least damaging ways to break intoit.Fortunately a window had been left slightly open,enabling the middle son to be put in and to open thedoors from the inside.Inside the motor-home Mum and Dad discussed what todo. They were stranded.Middle son (all of six years old) said hed got a key - saidhed found it - but no-one was listening properly."Perhaps it will fit, Ill get it." (The optimism of youngchildren of course knows no bounds.)Not thinking for one second that little lads key would fit,Dad tried it. Incredibly the key fitted the ignition - and thedrivers door. Middle son is a hero. It seems hed foundthe key in a cupboard when packing his clothes soonafter the motor-homes were swapped after the firstvehicle broke down.The next day back at the camp site, Dad called a local
    • locksmith to see what could be done."I might be able to make new keys from the locks, if youbring the vehicle to me," said the locksmith, so the familydrove to the locksmith, whose business was in a smallshopping centre in the California countryside.The locksmith looked at the motor-home, and said hedtry. "If you come back in an hour Ill know better what Ican do for you."The family went to the nearby shops and a coffee bar topass the time. Dad returned to the locksmith to see howthings were going. The locksmith says he thought hecould make new keys for all the locks, but it would be along job.In fact the job took the locksmith most of the day. Thefamily hung around the locksmiths, visited the shopsagain, and generally made a day of being at the littleshopping centre. While working on the locks and thekeys, the locksmith talked with the family about England,about America, about the rides at Las Vegas, aboutmotor-homes, about business, about locks, aboutfamilies and kids, about lots of things.Late on in the afternoon the locksmith said that hednearly done - "But you have time to go get something toeat if you want. When you come back Ill be done." Sothe family went to a burger bar for something to eat.An hour later the family returned to the locksmiths shop.It was 4pm and theyd been at the shopping centre since10.00 in the morning.When Dad entered the locksmiths shop the locksmithwas smiling. He put two new gleaming bunches of keyson the counter. "Here you go - a new set of keys for all
    • the locks, and a spare set too," said the locksmith, "And Itell you what Im going to do..."Dad offered his credit card, gratefully."You know, Ive had such a great time with you guystoday," says the locksmith, "You can have these for free."This is a true story. It happened over ten years ago. I stilltell people about it now, like Im telling you. The companyis Newhall Valencia Lock & Key, in the El CentroShopping Center, Canyon Country, California. This littlecompany gave me and my family an experience thattranscended customer service, and I was delighted whenI found their business card in my kitchen drawer the otherday, because it prompted me to share this story and toproperly express my thanks.Just a final note - Im not suggesting that great customerservice is about giving your products and services away.Obviously thats not a particularly sustainable businessmodel. What Im saying though, is that there are timeswhen youll see opportunity to do something really specialfor a customer, or for another human being, and whenyou do it, the ripples of your good pebble can stretcharound the world, and last for years and years. So, withinthe boundaries of whats possible and viable for you,drop in a good pebble whenever you can and make someripples of your own.the stranger and the gingernuts story(making assumptions, think beforeyou act, different perspectives)At the airport after a tiring business trip a ladys return
    • flight was delayed. She went to the airport shop, boughta book, a coffee and a small packet containing fivegingernut biscuits. The airport was crowded and shefound a seat in the lounge, next to a stranger. After a fewminutes reading she became absorbed in her book. Shetook a biscuit from the packet and began to drink hercoffee. To her great surprise, the stranger in the next seatcalmly took one of the biscuits and ate it. Stunned, shecouldnt bring herself to say anything, nor even to look atthe stranger. Nervously she continued reading. After afew minutes she slowly picked up and ate the thirdbiscuit. Incredibly, the stranger took the fourth gingernutand ate it, then to the womans amazement, he picked upthe packet and offered her the last biscuit. This being toomuch to tolerate, the lady angrily picked up herbelongings, gave the stranger an indignant scowl andmarched off to the boarding gate, where her flight wasnow ready. Flustered and enraged, she reached insideher bag for her boarding ticket, and found her unopenedpacket of gingernuts...(Adapted from a suggestion submitted by S Frost.Apparently the story appears in a variety of urban legendsdating from at least 30 years ago, and is also describedin Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, bookfour, 1984, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. Ack LBaldock.)the england football story (cause andeffect, foundations of failure,fundamental strategy, structure,planning and philosophy, strategicanalysis)
    • When a business fails or struggles in some other waypeople commonly look for recent tactical or incidentalcauses, but the roots of failure are usually far deeper infoundational strategies, structures and philosophies.The poor performance of the England football team at theFIFA 2010 World Cup offers an example of a ventureinflicted with fundamental problems, and therefore likelyto fail.Here are some indicators (as at FIFA World Cup 2010) offoundational weakness and vulnerability in the basicorganization and ethos of the England national footballeffort. Think of it like a business. Success is difficultwhen foundations are flaky and misaligned. With a littleimagination it is easy to relate these lessons/examples tothe business world.The English Premiership (Englands top domestic leagueand effectively the pool from which the national team isselected) is dominated by clubs which are:s Mostly owned, and the teams managed/coached, by people/companies from outside of the UK, who have little interest in the success of the England national team, and in many cases have very strong national football loyalties overseas. f Mostly staffed by players from outside of England (two-thirds are from overseas), which restricts the pool of available English national talent, and also the opportunities for English home-grown talent to develop and become experienced. d Clubs are very strongly profit-driven, and are so debt-ridden as to be effectively bankrupt. d As a consequence of these commercial pressures,
    • players are forced to play too many games in a season (generally far more than their international counterparts), without break, and so that when the World Cup happens it is during the one month in the year when players would normally be resting and recovering.The leadership of the Football Association, guardian ofEnglands national game, has for some years beenchaotic and disjointed, indicators being:c Recent resignations of Chief Executive and Chairman. R Regular scandals and infighting. R Lack of control over domestic game and clubs.Other foundations of failure indicators:O England has approximately 10% of the number of FIFA qualified coaches compared to European countries like Spain, Germany, Italy, and France (about 2,700 compared to about 20,000 or 30,000 in these other countries). t The coach of the national team is not English and cannot speak English properly. It is not ideal to have coach who cannot communicate effectively, and by virtue of his foreign nationality cannot possibly have English national pride in the truest sense. Would an Englishman ever coach the Italian or German national team? This is not xenophobia (dislike of foreigners) or discrimination, it is practicality and common sense. s The coach is paid £5 million (or £6m, depending on interpretation) per year, regardless of performance; moreover failure and early departure is effectively
    • rewarded because of a contracted fixed two-year term termination payment (although the effect of this is probably to maintain a failed situation - because the cost of change is prohibitive). t England players are paid around £100,000 per week; for doing another job (playing for their clubs). Failure at national level may be slightly upsetting for a day or two, but it does not really hurt or matter. t At least one England squad member had to be asked by the coach to make himself available for his country. Another could not be persuaded. National representation is a peak sporting achievement. Its worrying when candidates reject this notion, and just as worrying when such candidates are pursued and recruited. r Culturally the integrity and ethos of football - especially what it means to be a footballer - has been lost to the corporate world. The focus (of the role-models and therefore the kids) is no longer on ball skills and being the best - its on the brands, the replica shirts, the day-glo boots and the millionaire celebrity lifestyles. Not much works well when hype dominates substance.A national football team is in many ways like a business.It needs solid strategic and philosophical foundations.Misalignment at a basic level eventually producesproblems at the level of tactical or operationalimplementation. Like a national football team, if abusiness fails at a tactical or operational level, the causes- and therefore the solutions - are generally muchdeeper than they seem.This story can be useful in demonstrating/exploring the
    • strategic business analysis tools such as SWOT, PESTand Porters Five Forces model, and in researchingfundamental drivers/indicators of strategic viability.the new employee stories(importance of induction training fornew starters, initiative and lateralthinking, interpretation, delegation,rules, checking and monitoring)These (allegedly true) short stories provide amusingexamples of lateral thinking and initiative, and stafftraining (or lack of) at the workplace. It is better to trainpeople properly rather than assume that new startershave the necessary initiative to work out for themselveswhat they should be doing..the new bus driver storyWhile transporting some unfortunate mental patients fromone secure place to another, the newly appointed busdriver stopped at a roadside restaurant for natural break.On his return to the bus, all twenty patients were gone.Being a resourceful fellow and fearing the consequencesof his negligence, he drove to the next bus stop, wherehe claimed to be a replacement for the usual service.Allowing twenty people aboard, the driver made straightfor his destination, where he warned staff at the gatesthat the patients were deluded and extremely volatile.The angry patients were duly removed, sedated andincarcerated, and remained in detention for three days,until staff were able to check the records and confirmtheir true identities. The actual patients were never found.
    • the new elevator cleaner storyA new hotel employee was asked to clean the elevatorsand report back to the supervisor when the task wascompleted. When the employee failed to appear at theend of the day the supervisor assumed that like manyothers he had simply not liked the job and left. However,after four days the supervisor bumped into the newemployee. He was cleaning in one of the elevators. "Yousurely havent been cleaning these elevators for fourdays, have you?" asked the supervisor, accusingly. "Yessir," said the employee, "This is a big job and Ive notfinished yet - do you realise there are over forty of them,two on each floor, and sometimes they are not eventhere.."the bedtime story (communications,men and women, communicationsmethods, relationships)A man and his wife had been arguing all night, and asbedtime approached neither was speaking to the other. Itwas not unusual for the pair to continue this war ofsilence for two or three days, however, on this occasionthe man was concerned; he needed to be awake at4:30am the next morning to catch an important flight, andbeing a very heavy sleeper he normally relied on his wifeto wake him. Cleverly, so he thought, while his wife wasin the bathroom, he wrote on a piece of paper: Pleasewake me at 4:30am - I have an important flight to catch.He put the note on his wifes pillow, then turned over andwent to sleep.The man awoke the next morning and looked at theclock. It was 8:00am. Enraged that hed missed his flight,
    • he was about to go in search of his errant wife to give hera piece of his mind, when he spotted a hand-written noteon his bedside cabinet.The note said: Its 4:30am - get up.the sergeant majors rude parrotstory (examples of managementstyles)A retired sergeant major inherited a talking parrot from arecently departed relative who had run a busy docksidepub. For the first few days in his new home the normallytalkative parrot was distinctly shy. The old major, despitehis stern and disciplined ways, felt sorry for the bird, andgently encouraged it with soft words and pieces of fruit.After a week or so the parrot began to find its voice - alittle at first - and then more so. Responding to the kindtreatment, the parrots vocabulary continued to recover,including particularly the many colourful expressions ithad been taught in the dockside pub. The old sergeantmajor began to be quite irritated by the parrots incessantrudeness, and after a few more days of worseningprofanities, decided action was required to bring the birdunder control. The sergeant major tried at first toincentivise the parrot with the promise of reward for goodbehaviour, but to no avail. He next tried to teach the birda lesson by withdrawing its privileges, again to no avail;the parrot remained stubbornly rude. Finally the old majorflipped into battleground management mode; he grabbedthe bird, clamped his hands around its beak, and thrustthe struggling, swearing parrot, into the top drawer of thefreezer, slamming the door tightly shut. The swearing andstruggling noises continued inside the freezer for a few
    • seconds and then abruptly stopped. The sergeant majorlistened for a while and then, concerned that the parrotsshock might have been terminal, carefully opened thefreezer door and opened the drawer to look. The parrotslowly clambered out of the drawer and perched on itsedge."I must apologise for my rude and disrespectfulbehaviour," said the parrot, "I promise never to use badlanguage again. And by the way, what did the turkey do?"the farmer and the boy in the bogstory (helping others, inspiration,gratitude and appreciation, goodcomes from doing good)This widely used story is often told as if its a true story. Itis most certainly not. It is an urban legend, but even assuch, the story contains great lessons and is veryinspirational.Fleming was a poor Scottish farmer. One day at work in afield he heard a cry for help. Following the sound,Fleming came to a deep bog, in which a boy was stuckup to his chest, screaming and sinking. Farmer Flemingtied a rope around his own waist and the other end to atree, and waded into the bog. After a mighty struggle inwhich it seemed they would both perish, the exhaustedfarmer pulled himself and the boy to safety. He took thelad back to the farmhouse, where Mrs Fleming fed him,dried his clothes, and when satisfied he had recovered,sent him on his way home.The next day a carriage arrived at the Flemings humblefarmhouse. An well-dressed man stepped out and
    • introduced himself as the father of the boy whom Fleminghad saved. "You saved my sons life," said the man toFleming, "How can I repay you?""I dont want payment," Fleming replied, "Anyone wouldhave done the same."At that moment, Flemings own young son appeared atthe farmhouse door."Is he your son?" the man asked."Yes," said Fleming proudly."I have an idea. Let me pay for his education. If hes likehis father, hell grow to be a man well both be proud of."And so he did. The farmers son attended the very bestschools, graduated medical college, and later becamethe world-renowned nobel prize-winning scientist anddiscoverer of penicillin, Sir Alexander Fleming.It is said that many years later, the grown man whodbeen saved from the bog as a boy, was stricken withpneumonia.Penicillin saved his life. His name? Sir Winston Churchill.(I repeat this is an urban legend - it is not a true story -so I recommend you present it as such when you tell it.Ack B McFarlane)the brewery story (to challenge beliefsystems and assumptions, and theneed for questioning pointlessroutine or policy)It has been suggested to me that this is a true story: Avery old traditional brewery decided to install a new
    • canning line, so as to enable its beer products to bemarketed through the supermarket sector. Thisrepresented a major change for the little company, andlocal dignitaries and past employees were invited towitness the first running of the new canning line, whichwas followed by an buffet and drinks.After the new line had been switched on successfully,and the formalities completed, the guests relaxed in smallgroups to chat and enjoy the buffet. In a quiet cornerstood three men discussing trucks and transport anddistribution, since one was the present distributionmanager, and the other two were past holders of thepost, having retired many years ago. The three menrepresented three generations of company distributionmanagement, spanning over sixty years.The present distribution manager confessed that his jobwas becoming more stressful because company policyrequired long deliveries be made on Monday andTuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all otherdeliveries mid-week."Its so difficult to schedule things efficiently - heavenknows what well do with these new cans and the tightdemands of the supermarkets..."The other two men nodded in agreement."It was the same in my day," sympathised the presentmanagers predecessor, "It always seemed strange to methat trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdayscouldnt be used for little local runs, because the localdeliveries had to be left until Friday.."The third man nodded, and was thinking hard, strugglingto recall the policys roots many years ago when hed
    • have been a junior in the despatch department. After apause, the third man smiled and then ventured asuggestion."I think I remember now," he said, "It was the horses.....During the Second World War fuel rationing wasintroduced. So we mothballed the trucks and went backto using the horses. On Mondays the horses were well-rested after the weekend - hence the long deliveries. ByFriday the horses so tired they could only handle theshort local drops..."Soon after the opening of the new canning line thecompany changed its delivery policy.(Ack R Chagar)See also the weve always done it that way story and thefish baking story and the monkey story.the rowing competition story(identifying and managingperformance improvement,establishing cause andaccountability, theory x vs theory y,daft executive judgements)The boards of the two fiercely competitive companiesdecided to organize a rowing match to challenge eachothers organisational and sporting abilities. The firstcompany was strongly theory X: ruthless, autocratic,zero staff empowerment, etc. The second company wasmore theory y: a culture of developing people, devolvedresponsibility and decision-making.Race day arrived. The Y companys boat appeared from
    • the boat-house first, with its crew: eight rowers and ahelmsman (the cox). Next followed the X company boatand its crew - eight helmsmen and a single rower.Not surprisingly the Y companys boat won an easyvictory.The next day the X company board of directors held aninquest with the crew, to review what had been learnedfrom the embarrassing defeat, which might be of benefitto the organization as a whole, and any future re-match.After a long and wearing meeting the X company boardfinally came came to their decision. They concluded thatthe rower should be replaced immediately because clearlyhe had not listened well enough to the instructions hedbeen given.(Ack JJ Lasseur)the performance evaluation story(theory x shortcomings, managementmyopia)Following a poor first-half year performance the board ofCompany X tasked a senior manager to investigate whatwas happening on the factory floor, since the directorsbelieved poor productivity was at the root of the problem.While walking around the plant, the investigating managercame upon a large warehouse area where a man stoodnext to a pillar. The manager introduced himself as theperson investigating performance on the factory floor,appointed by the board, and then asked the man by thepillar what he was doing. "Its my job," replied the man, "Iwas told to stand by this pillar."The investigator thanked the man for his cooperation and
    • encouraged him to keep up the good work. Theinvestigator next walked into a large packing area, wherehe saw another man standing next to a pillar. Theinvestigator again introduced himself and asked the manwhat he was doing. "Ive been told to stand by this pillar,so thats what I do." said the man.Two weeks later the investigator completed his report andduly presented his findings to the board, who held a briefmeeting to decide remedial action. The board called theinvestigator back into the room, thanked him for his work,and then instructed him to sack one of the men hedfound standing by pillars, since obviously this was aduplication of effort.(Ac JJL)no exit story (different perspectives,viewpoints, how differentperspectives cause one thing toappear as two different things)A man checked into a hotel for the first time in his life,and goes up to his room.Five minutes later he called the reception desk and said:"Youve given me a room with no exit. How do I leave?"The desk clerk said, "Sir, thats absurd. Have you lookedfor the door?"The man said, "Well, theres one door that leads to thebathroom. Theres a second door that goes into thecloset. And theres a door I havent tried, but it has a donot disturb sign on it."(Ack B McFarlane)
    • See also the blind men and the elephant story below.the old couple story(positive/negative outlook, blame,attitude)An elderly couple, married for sixty years, took a rarevacation. They were not well-off but were in good health,perhaps because the wife had insisted on a strict diet ofhealthy foods, no alcohol, no smoking, and lots of gymexercise for most of their lives. Sadly their plane crashedhowever, and duly they both entered heaven, where StPeter escorted them through the Pearly Gates, and into awaiting limousine. Driving through beautiful countrysidethey drew up at a beautiful mansion and were showninside. It was furnished in gold and fine silks, with asplendid kitchen and a sumptuous lounge stocked withwonderful food and drink - there was even a waterfall inthe master bathroom. A maid was hanging beautifuldesigner clothes in the walk-in wardrobes. They gaspedin astonishment when St Peter said, "Welcome to heaven.This will be your home now."The old man asked Peter how much all this was going tocost. "Nothing," Peter replied, "this is your heavenlyreward."The old man looked out of the window and saw amagnificent championship golf course."What are the green fees?" he asked suspiciously."This is heaven," St Peter replied, "You can play for freewhenever you wish."Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffetlunch, with every imaginable cuisine laid out before them.
    • Anticipating the old mans next question, St Peter said,"Dont ask, this is heaven, it is all free for you to enjoy."The old man looked around and glanced nervously at hiswife. "Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterolfoods, and the decaffeinated tea?" he asked."This is heaven. You can eat and drink as much as youlike, and you will never get fat or sick.""I dont need to go to the gym?" the old man pressed."Not unless you want to," St Peter replied."No testing my sugar or blood pressure or...""Never again. All you do here is enjoy yourself."The old man glared at his wife, "You and your bloodybran muffins. We could have been here ten years ago!"(Ack CB)two brothers and the geese story(initiative, responsibility, thinkingoutside the box, anticipating,strategic anticipation, adding valueto service, value and reward)Two sons work for their father on the familys farm. Theyounger brother had for some years been given moreresponsibility and reward, and one day the older brotherasks his father to explain why.The father says, "First, go to the Kellys farm and see ifthey have any geese for sale - we need to add to ourstock."The brother soon returns with the answer, "Yes they have
    • five geese they can sell to us."That father then says, "Good, please ask them the price."The son returns with the answer, "The geese are £10each."The father says, "Good, now ask if they can deliver thegeese tomorrow."And duly the sone returns with the answer, "Yes, they candeliver the geese them tomorrow."The father asks the older brother to wait and listen, andthen calls to the younger brother in a nearby field, "Go tothe Davidsons Farm and see if they have any geese forsale - we need to add to our stock."The younger brother soon returns with the answer, "Yes,they have five geese for £10 each, or ten geese for £8each; and they can deliver them tomorrow - I asked themto deliver the five unless they heard otherwise from us inthe next hour. And I agreed that if we want the extra fivegeese we could buy them at £6 each."The father turned to the older son, who nodded his headin appreciation - he now realised why his brother wasgiven more responsibility and reward.(adapted from a suggestion - thanks PI)the piano story (mentoring,coaching, understanding the otherpersons development needs)A mother wished to encourage her small girls interest inthe piano and so took her a local concert featuring anexcellent pianist. In the entrance foyer the mother met anold friend and the two stopped to talk. The little girl was
    • keen to see inside the hall and so wandered off,unnoticed by her mother. The girls mother becameconcerned when she entered the hall and could see nosign of her daughter. Staff were notified and anannouncement was made asking the audience to look outfor the little lost girl. With the concert due to start, thelittle girl had still not been found. In preparation for thepianists entrance, the curtains drew aside, to reveal thelittle girl sitting at the great piano, focused inconcentration, quietly picking out the notes of TwinkleTwinkle Little Star.The audiences amusement turned to curiosity when thepianist entered the stage, walked up to the little girl, andsaid "Keep playing."The pianist sat down beside her, listened for a fewseconds, and whispered some more words ofencouragement. He then began quietly to play a bassaccompaniment, and then a few bars later reachedaround the little girl to add more accompaniment. At theend of the impromptu performance the audienceapplauded loudly as the pianist took the little girl back toher seat to be reunited with her mother. The experiencewas inspirational for everyone, not least the small girl.It takes just a few moments to make somebodys day, tohelp someone with their own personal aims and dreams -especially someone who looks up to you forencouragement and support. (Ack PC)the angry customer story (funnycustomer service example)Allegedly a true story from the old airport in Denver: amajor airline had cancelled a very busy flight and a lone
    • check-in agent is busy trying to sort out all the displacedpassengers. A very angry and aggressive man barges hisway to the front of the queue to confront her. He sayssays that he is flying first class and demands to go onthe flight. The agent politely explains the situation andasks that people take their place in the queue. The manbellows at her, "Do you know who I am?" - at which theagent calmly picks up the microphone for the PA system,and announces to the airport, "This is (airline name) desk64; we have a gentleman here who does not know whohe is. If anyone can come and identify him please do so."The man, now purple with rage, yells at her, "Well f**kyou.." - to which the agent replies, "And youll have tostand in line for that as well, Sir.."(Ack MS)the clap and cheer story (positiveattitude, taking pride in whatever youdo)A small boy was auditioning with his classmates for aschool play. His mother knew that hed set his heart onbeing in the play - just like all the other children hopedtoo - and she feared how he would react if he was notchosen. On the day the parts were awarded, the littleboys mother went to the school gates to collect her son.The little lad rushed up to her, eyes shining with prideand excitement. "Guess what Mum," he shouted, andthen said the words that provide a lesson to us all, "Ivebeen chosen to clap and cheer."(Ack F Laufs)the bank story (a lesson in customer
    • service, how bad policy encouragespoor service)I am assured this is a true story from a UK bank. Thebank concerned had introduced a charge to be leviedwhen people paid in money to be credited to an accountheld by a different bank. The charge was 50p and hadbeen in force for about 6 months or so. A well to do,upper-class lady enters the bank and presents thecashier a cheque (check) which she asks to be paid intoan account held by a different bank. The cashier dulytells the lady that there will be a charge of 50p.Indignantly, she tells him, "I wasnt charged the last time."To which the cashier immediately replies, "Well that willbe a pound then..."(Ack MS)the fish baking story (to challengebelief systems and assumptions, andillustrate pointless routine and theneed for questioning)A little girl was watching her mother prepare a fish fordinner. Her mother cut the head and tail off the fish andthen placed it into a baking pan. The little girl asked hermother why she cut the head and tail off the fish. Hermother thought for a while and then said, "Ive alwaysdone it that way - thats how babicka (Czech forgrandma) did it."Not satisfied with the answer, the little girl went to visither grandma to find out why she cut the head and tail offthe fish before baking it.
    • Grandma thought for a while and replied, "I dont know.My mother always did it that way."So the little girl and the grandma went to visit greatgrandma to find ask if she knew the answer.Great grandma thought for a while and said, “Becausemy baking pan was too small to fit in the whole fish”.(Ack M Hamanova)See also: the weve always done it that way story and themonkey story and the brewery story.the donkey story (positive attitudes,turning problems into opportunities)One day a farmers donkey fell into a well. The farmerfrantically thought what to do as the stricken animal criedout to be rescued. With no obvious solution, the farmerregretfully concluded that as the donkey was old, and asthe well needed to be filled in anyway, he should give upthe idea of rescuing the beast, and simply fill in the well.Hopefully the poor animal would not suffer too much, hetried to persuade himself.The farmer asked his neighbours help, and before longthey all began to shovel earth quickly into the well. Whenthe donkey realised what was happening he wailed andstruggled, but then, to everyones relief, the noisestopped.After a while the farmer looked down into the well andwas astonished by what he saw. The donkey was stillalive, and progressing towards the top of the well. Thedonkey had discovered that by shaking off the dirtinstead of letting it cover him, he could keep stepping ontop of the earth as the level rose. Soon the donkey was
    • able to step up over the edge of the well, and he happilytrotted off.Life tends to shovel dirt on top of each of us from time totime. The trick is to shake it off and take a step up.(Ack TB)the shepherd story (IT consultants,business consultancy, knowing yourfacts - ironic example)A shepherd was tending his flock in a field, when a newsports car screeched to a stop on the road nearby in acloud of dust. The driver, a young man in expensivedesigner clothes and sunglasses, leans out of thewindow and shouts over to the shepherd, "If I tell youexactly how many sheep you have here, can I take one?"The shepherd looks up slowly up at the young man, thenlooks at his peaceful flock, and calmly answers, "Sure,why not?"The young man steps out of his car holding a state-of-the-art palmtop pda, with which he proceeds to connectsto a series of websites, first calling up satellite navigationsystem to pinpoint his location, then keying in thelocation to generate an ultra-high resolution picture ofthe field. After emailing the photo to an image processingfacility, the processed data is returned, which he thenfeeds into an online database, and enters the parametersfor a report. Within another few seconds a miniatureprinter in the car produces a full colour report containingseveral pages of analysis and results. The young manstudies the data for a few more seconds and returns tothe shepherd.
    • "You have exactly one-thousand five-hundred andeighty-six sheep, including three rams, and seven-hundred and twenty-two lambs.""Thats right," says the shepherd, mildly impressed. "Well,I guess that means you get to take one of my sheep."The young man makes his choice and loads the animalonto the back seat of his car, at which the shepherdsays, almost as an afterthought, "Hey there, if I can tellyou what your business is, will you give me back mysheep?"The young man, feeling confident, agrees."Youre a consultant," says the shepherd."Wow, thats right," says the young man, taken aback,"How did you guess that?""No guessing required," answers the shepherd, "Youshowed up here even though nobody called you. Youtook a fee for giving me an answer that already know, toa question I never asked, and you know nothing about mybusiness. Now give me back my dog."(Adapted from a version sent by S Faure. Thanks also TCurran.)speed camera story (creativethinking, teamwork, understandingand using modern technology - donot try this at home....)This allegedly true story, supposedly leaked by theAustralian Department of Transport, concerns fourAustralian young men and a mobile speed camera policevan. Three of the four lads engaged the speed camera
    • operators in conversation about the camera equipment,and the number of cars caught, etc., while the fourthunscrewed the vans front registration plate. Bidding thepolice farewell, the lads returned home, screwed theregistration plate to their own car and proceeded tocomplete 17 very fast round trips through the speedcameras radar. The traffic penalties departmentsubsequently issued 17 speeding tickets to itself.the three engineers story (differentapproaches to problem-solving,modern IT, etc)A mechanical engineer, a systems engineer, and asoftware engineer are in a car driving down a steepmountain road when the brakes fail. The driverdesperately pumps the brake pedal, trying to control thespeeding vehicle around cliff-edge bends, while thepassengers do their best not to panic. As the car hurtlestowards an impossible corner the driver spots an escaperoute into a hedge and a haystack beyond, where the careventually grinds to a surprisingly safe stop. The threeengineers all get out, shaken, relieved, and take turns toassess the situation.Hmm, says the mechanical engineer, It looks like abrake line was leaking - lets repair the split, bleed thebrakes, and we should be able to get on our way..."The systems engineer thinks for a while and says, Maybewe need to contact the manufacturer and the dealer toconfirm exactly what the problem is..."The software engineer slowly climbs into the drivers seatand, gesturing for the others to join him, says, Howabout we get back on the road and see if it happens
    • again?..(An alternative final line, suggested kindly and brilliantlyby David Shiell, would be: "How about if we close all thewindows and try again..")the sweet old couple story (dangersof making assumptions, understandbefore you intervene)A little old couple walked into a fast food restaurant. Thelittle old man walked up to the counter, ordered the food,paid, and took the tray back to the table where the littleold lady sat. On the tray was a hamburger, a small bag offries and a drink. Carefully the old man cut the hamburgerin two, and divided the fries into two neat piles. Hesipped the drink and passed it to the little old lady, whotook a sip and passed it back. A young man on a nearbytable had watched the old couple and felt sorry for them.He offered to buy them another meal, but the old manpolitely declined, saying that they were used to sharingeverything. The old man began to eat his food, but hiswife sat still, not eating. The young continued to watchthe couple. He still felt he should be offering to help. Asthe little old man finished eating, the old lady had still notstarted on her food. "Maam, why arent you eating?"asked the young man sympathetically.The old lady looked up and said politely, "Im waiting forthe teeth.."the men and women differences story(the other persons perspective,
    • gender empathy, for weddings, best-man speeches, johari window,empathy, NLP, etc)Not really a story, more of a silly list that circulates byemail from time to time.Some things that men generally take for granted, and failto realize that women cannot.t Your last name stays put. Y The garage is all yours. T Wedding plans take care of themselves. W Chocolate is just another snack. C You can never be pregnant. Y You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. Y Car mechanics tell you the truth. C The world is your urinal. T You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. r You dont have to stop and think of which way to turn a a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. S Wrinkles add character. W Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental - $100. W People never stare at your chest when youre talking to them. t The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected.
    • New shoes dont cut, blister, or mangle your feet.NOne mood - all the time.OPhone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.PYou know stuff about tanks.YA five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.AYou can open all your own jars.YYou get extra credit for the slightest act ofthoughtfulness.tIf someone forgets to invite you, he or she can stillbe your friend.bYour underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.YThree pairs of shoes are more than enough.TYou almost never have strap problems in public.YYou are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes.YEverything on your face stays its original color.EThe same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.TYou only have to shave your face and neck.YYou can play with toys all your life.YYour belly usually hides your big hips.YOne wallet and one pair of shoes one color for allseasons.sYou can wear shorts no matter how your legs look.YYou can do your nails with a pocket-knife.YYou have freedom of choice concerning growing amoustache.e
    • You can do Christmas shopping for twenty-five relatives on 24th December in forty-five minutes.(Ack CB and Tom Robinson - please contact us if youknow the author of the original 20 items to which Tomrefers in his explanation of his own particular input: "... Ireceived the e-mail originally back in 2002, with around20 reasons why its good to be a bloke... I spent most ofthe following 3 days making the number up to 50..." )the aunt karen story (relevance andreliability of lessons, morals andexamples)A teacher told her young class to ask their parents for afamily story with a moral at the end of it, and to return thenext day to tell their stories.In the classroom the next day, Joe gave his example first,"My dad is a farmer and we have chickens. One day wewere taking lots of eggs to market in a basket on thefront seat of the truck when we hit a big bump in theroad; the basket fell off the seat and all the eggs broke.The moral of the story is not to put all your eggs in onebasket..""Very good," said the teacher.Next, Mary said, "We are farmers too. We had twentyeggs waiting to hatch, but when they did we only got tenchicks. The moral of this story is not to count yourchickens before theyre hatched..""Very good," said the teacher again, very pleased with theresponse so far.Nextm it was Barneys turn to tell his story: "My dad told me
    • this story about my Aunt Karen.... Aunt Karen was a flightengineer in the war and her plane got hit. She had to bailout over enemy territory and all she had was a bottle ofwhisky, a machine gun and a machete.""Go on," said the teacher, intrigued."Aunt Karen drank the whisky on the way down to prepareherself; then she landed right in the middle of a hundredenemy soldiers. She killed seventy of them with themachine gun until she ran out of bullets. Then she killedtwenty more with the machete till the blade broke. Andthen she killed the last ten with her bare hands.""Good heavens," said the horrified teacher, "What didyour father say was the moral of that frightening story?""Stay away from Aunt Karen when shes been drinking..."(Ack CB - if you know the origin please tell us)the tickle me elmo story (inductiontraining, communications, givinginstructions, delegation)This allegedly took place in a factory in the USA whichmanufactured the Tickle Me Elmo toys, (a childrensplush cuddly toy which laughs when tickled under thearm). The legend has is it that a new employee was hiredat the Tickle Me Elmo factory and she duly reported forher first days induction training, prior to being allocateda job on the production line. At 08:45 the next day thepersonnel manager received a visit from an excitedassembly line foreman who was not best pleased aboutthe performance of the new recruit. The foremanexplained that she was far too slow, and that she wascausing the entire line to back-up, delaying the whole
    • production schedule. The personnel manager asked tosee what was happening, so both men proceeded to thefactory floor. On arrival they saw that the line was indeedbadly backed-up - there were hundreds of Tickle MeElmos strewn all over the factory floor, and they were stillpiling up. Virtually buried in a mountain of toys sat thenew employee earnestly focused on her work. She had aroll of red plush fabric and a bag of marbles. The twomen watched amazed as she cut a little piece of fabric,wrapped it around a pair of marbles and carefully begansewing the little package between Elmos legs. Thepersonnel manager began to laugh, and it was somewhile before he could compose himself, at which heapproached the trainee. "Im sorry," he said to her, notable to disguise his amusement, "But I think youmisunderstood the instructions I gave you yesterday....Your job is to give Elmo two test tickles."the get in the wheelbarrow story(belief, trust, faith, commitment,courage, conviction)The story goes: upon completing a highly dangeroustightrope walk over Niagara Falls in appalling wind andrain, The Great Zumbrati was met by an enthusiasticsupporter, who urged him to make a return trip, this timepushing a wheelbarrow, which the spectator hadthoughtfully brought along.The Great Zumbrati was reluctant, given the terribleconditions, but the supporter pressed him, "You can do it- I know you can," he urged."You really believe I can do it?" asked Zumbrati."Yes - definitely - you can do it." the supporter gushed.
    • "Okay," said Zumbrati, "Get in the wheelbarrow..."the charles plumb parachutes story(supporting others, acknowledgingothers, saying thanks)Charles Plumb was a navy jet pilot. On his seventy-sixthcombat mission, he was shot down and parachuted intoenemy territory. He was captured and spent six years inprison. He survived and now lectures on the lessons helearned from his experiences.One day, a man in approached Plumb and his wife in arestaurant, and said, "Are you Plumb the navy pilot?""Yes, how did you know?" asked Plumb."I packed your parachute," the man replied.Plumb was amazed - and grateful: "If the chute youpacked hadnt worked I wouldnt be here today..."Plumb refers to this in his lectures: his realisation that theanonymous sailors who packed the parachutes held thepilots lives in their hands, and yet the pilots never gavethese sailors a second thought; never even said hello, letalone said thanks.Now Plumb asks his audiences, "Who packs yourparachutes?..... Who helps you through your life?....Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually?....... Thinkabout who helps you; recognise them and say thanks."(Ack JK, and thanks to the person who wrote to confirmthat Charles Plum still speaks and lectures.)the chickens story (communications,confusing instructions, testing,
    • research and development)This is allegedly a true story. Engineers at a majoraerospace company were instructed to test the effects ofbird-strikes (notably geese) on the windshields ofairliners and military jets. To simulate the effect of agoose colliding with an aircraft travelling at high speed,the test engineers built a powerful gun, with which theyfired dead chickens at the windshields. The simulationsusing the gun and the dead chickens worked extremelyeffectively, happily proving the suitability of thewindshields, and several articles about the projectappeared in the testing industry press.It so happened that another test laboratory in a differentpart of the world was involved in assessing bird-strikes -in this case on the windshields and drivers cabs of newvery high speed trains. The train test engineers had readabout the pioneering test developed by the aerospaceteam, and so they approached them to ask forspecifications of the gun and the testing methods. Theaerospace engineers duly gave them details, and the trainengineers set about building their own simulation.The simulated bird-strike tests on the train windshieldsand cabs produced shocking results. The supposedstate-of-the-art shatter-proof high speed trainwindshields offered little resistance to the high-speedchickens; in fact every single windshield that wassubmitted for testing was smashed to pieces, along witha number of train cabs and much of the test booth itself.The horrified train engineers were concerned that the newhigh speed trains required a safety technology that wasbeyond their experience, so they contacted theaerospace team for advice and suggestions, sending
    • them an extensive report of the tests and failures.The brief reply came back from the aero-engineers: "Youneed to defrost the chickens...."(Ack S Money)the chihuahua and the leopard story(creative thinking, quick thinking,escaping, averting disaster, bluff andboldness)Like most great stories, this one exists in differentversions, although the meaning is the same. Many featurea poodle, or another small breed of dog instead of achihuahua.A lady takes her pet chihuahua with her on a safariholiday. Wandering too far one day the chihuahua getslost in the bush, and soon encounters a very hungrylooking leopard. The chihuahua realises hes in trouble,but, noticing some fresh bones on the ground, he settlesdown to chew on them, with his back to the big cat. Asthe leopard is about to leap, the chihuahua smacks hislips and exclaims loudly, "Boy, that was one deliciousleopard. I wonder if there are any more around here."The leopard stops mid-stride, and slinks away into thetrees."Phew," says the leopard, "that was close - that evil littledog nearly had me."A monkey nearby sees everything and thinks hell win afavour by putting the stupid leopard straight. Thechihuahua sees the monkey go after the leopard, andguesses he might be up to no good.
    • When the leopard hears the monkeys story he feelsangry at being made a fool, and offers the monkey a rideback to see him exact his revenge.The little dog sees them approaching and fears theworse.Thinking quickly, the little dog turns his back, pretendsnot to notice them, and when the pair are within earshotsays aloud, "Now wheres that monkey got to? I sent himages ago to bring me another leopard..."the cannibals story (management,managers, secretaries, initiative,habits, conforming, rules and rule-breaking)A big corporation hired several cannibals. "You are allpart of our team now," said the HR manager during thewelcome briefing. "You get all the usual benefits and youcan go to the cafeteria for something to eat, but pleasedont eat any of the other employees." The cannibalspromised they would not.A few weeks later the cannibals boss remarked, "Youreall working very hard, and Im satisfied with you.However, one of our secretaries has disappeared. Do anyof you know what happened to her?" The cannibals allshook their heads, "No," they said.After the boss left, the leader of the cannibals said to theothers angrily, "Right, which one of you idiots ate thesecretary?"A hand rose hesitantly in admission. "You fool!" said theleader, "For weeks weve been eating managers and no
    • one noticed anything, but nooo, you had to go and eatsomeone important!..."(Ack A Fiorello)the dog and the bone story (becontent with what you have, greedand envy seldom pay)A dog held a juicy bone in his jaws as he crossed abridge over a brook. When he looked down into the waterhe saw a another dog below with what appeared to be abigger juicier bone. He jumped into the brook to snatchthe bigger bone, letting go his own bone, He quicklylearned of course that the bigger bone was just areflection, and so he ended up with nothing.More Aesops fables(Thanks J Phillips)the "weve always done it that way.."story (time management, challenginghabits and questioning procedures,challenging assumptions and beliefsystems)Apparently this is based on a true incident. A qualitymanagement consultant was visiting a small andsomewhat antiquated English manufacturing company, toadvise on improving general operating efficiency. Theadvisor was reviewing a particular daily report which dealtwith aspects of productivity, absentee rates, machinefailure, down-time, etc. The report was completedmanually onto a photocopied proforma that was several
    • generations away from the original master-copy, so itsheadings and descriptions were quite difficult tounderstand. The photocopied forms were particularlyfuzzy at the top-right corner, where a small box had aheading that was not clear at all. The advisor wasinterested to note that the figure 0 had been written inevery daily report for the past year. On questioning themembers of staff who completed the report, they told himthat they always put a zero in that box, and when heasked them why they looked at each other blankly."Hmmm.., Im not sure about that," they each said, "Iguess weve just always done it that way."Intrigued, the consultant visited the archives to see if hecould find a clearer form, to discover what was originallybeing reported and whether it actually held anysignificance. When he found the old reports, he saw thatthe zero return had continued uninterrupted for as farback as the records extended - at least the past thirtyyears - but none of the forms was any clearer than thosepresently in use. A little frustrated, he packed away theold papers and turned to leave the room, but somethingcaught his eye. In another box he noticed a folder,promisingly titled master forms. Sure enough inside it hefound the original daily report proforma master-copy, inpristine condition. In the top right corner was themysterious box, with the heading clearly shown ......Number of Air Raids Today.See also the brewery story, the fish baking story and themonkey story.the dam story (how to write a goodletter, making assumptions, jumping
    • to conclusions, and how to defendwrong accusations with humour)Here are two letters, according to the story both real, thefirst allegedly sent to a man named Ryan DeVries by theMichigan Department of Environmental Quality, State ofMichigan; the second is Mr DeVries amusing response.The letters provide a great example of the dangers ofmaking assumptions and jumping to conclusions, andalso how to reply to a false accusation with humour andstyle.the Michigan DOEQ letterSubject: DEQ File No.97-59-0023;T11N; R10W, Sec. 20;Montcalm CountyDear Mr. DeVries,It has come to the attention of the Department ofEnvironmental Quality that there has been recentunauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel ofproperty. You have been certified as the legal landownerand/or contractor who did the following unauthorizedactivity:Construction and maintenance of two wood debris damsacross the outlet stream of Spring Pond.A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type ofactivity. A review of the Departments files shows that nopermits have been issued. Therefore, the Department hasdetermined that this activity is in violation of Part 301,Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource andEnvironmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts
    • of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of theMichigan Compiled Laws, annotated.The Department has been informed that one or both ofthe dams partially failed during a recent rain event,causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. Wefind that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous andcannot be permitted. The Department therefore ordersyou to cease and desist all activities at this location, andto restore the stream to a free-flow condition byremoving all wood and brush forming the dams from thestream channel. All restoration work shall be completedno later than January 31, 2003. Please notify this officewhen the restoration has been completed so that ourstaff may schedule a follow-up site inspection.Failure to comply with this request or any furtherunauthorized activity on the site may result in this casebeing referred for elevated enforcement action. Weanticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation inthis matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office ifyou have any questions.Sincerely,District RepresentativeLand and Water Management DivisionMr Devries letter responseDear Sirs,Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20;Montcalm County.Your certified letter dated 12/17/02 has been handed tome to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the
    • Contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan. A coupleof beavers are in the process (State unauthorized) ofconstructing and maintaining two wood "debris" damsacross the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I didnot pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, Ithink they would be highly offended that you call theirskillful use of natures building materials "debris".I would like to challenge your department to attempt toemulate their dam project any time and/or any place youchoose. I believe I can safely state there is no way youcould ever match their dam skills, their damresourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dampersistence, their dam determination and/or their damwork ethic. As to your request, I do not think the beaversare aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior tothe start of this type of dam activity.My first dam question to you is: (1) are you trying todiscriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or (2) doyou require all beavers throughout this State to conformto said dam request? If you are not discriminating againstthese particular beavers, through the Freedom ofInformation Act, I request completed copies of all thoseother applicable beaver dam permits that have beenissued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a damviolation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of theNatural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.I have several concerns. My first concern is: arent thebeavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring PondBeavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay forsaid representation, so the State will have to provide
    • them with a dam lawyer. The Departments dam concernthat either one or both of the dams failed during a recentrain event causing flooding is proof that this is a naturaloccurrence, which the Department is required to protect.In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beaversalone rather than harassing them and calling them damnames. If you want the stream "restored" to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers, but if you aregoing to arrest them, they obviously did not pay anyattention to your dam letter, they being unable to readEnglish.In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have aright to build their unauthorized dams as long as the skyis blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream.They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoySpring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources andEnvironmental Protection lives up to its name, it shouldprotect the natural resources (Beavers) and theenvironment (Beavers Dams). So, as far as the beaversand I are concerned, this dam case can be referred formore elevated enforcement action right now. Why waituntil 1/31/2003? The Spring Pond Beavers may be underthe dam ice then and there will be no way for you or yourdam staff to contact/harass them then.In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to areal environmental quality (health) problem in the area. Itis the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. Idefinitely believe you should be persecuting thedefecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you aregoing to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step!(The bears are not careful where they dump!) Beingunable to comply with your dam request, and beingunable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I
    • am sending this response to your dam office.Thank youRyan Devries and the Dam BeaversFootnote: Im grateful to J DeKorne for pointing out thatthese letters are in fact based on real correspondenceinvolving Stephen Tvedten of Marne, Michigan. Theoriginal letters are here.the blind men and the elephant(perception, truth, perspective,empathy, communications andunderstanding)There are various versions of the story of the blind menand the elephant. The blind men and the elephant is alegend that appears in different cultures - notably China,Africa and India - and the tale dates back thousands ofyears. Some versions of the story feature three blindmen, others five or six, but the message is always thesame. Heres a story of the six blind men and theelephant:Six blind men were discussing exactly what they believedan elephant to be, since each had heard how strange thecreature was, yet none had ever seen one before. So theblind men agreed to find an elephant and discover whatthe animal was really like.It didnt take the blind men long to find an elephant at anearby market. The first blind man approached the beastand felt the animals firm flat side. "It seems to me that
    • the elephant is just like a wall," he said to his friends.The second blind man reached out and touched one ofthe elephants tusks. "No, this is round and smooth andsharp - the elephant is like a spear."Intrigued, the third blind man stepped up to the elephantand touched its trunk. "Well, I cant agree with either ofyou; I feel a squirming writhing thing - surely the elephantis just like a snake."The fourth blind man was of course by now quitepuzzled. So he reached out, and felt the elephants leg."You are all talking complete nonsense," he said,"because clearly the elephant is just like a tree."Utterly confused, the fifth blind man stepped forward andgrabbed one of the elephants ears. "You must all be mad- an elephant is exactly like a fan."Duly, the sixth man approached, and, holding the beaststail, disagreed again. "Its nothing like any of yourdescriptions - the elephant is just like a rope."And all six blind men continued to argue, based on theirown particular experiences, as to what they thought anelephant was like. It was an argument that they werenever able to resolve. Each of them was concerned onlywith their own idea. None of them had the full picture,and none could see any of the others point of view.Each man saw the elephant as something quite different,and while in part each blind man was right, none waswholly correct.There is never just one way to look at something - thereare always different perspectives, meanings, andperceptions, depending on who is looking.
    • See also the no exit story above for another analogyabout different perspectives.the owl and the field-mouse story(executive policy-making, theoryversus practice)A little field-mouse was lost in a dense wood, unable tofind his way out. He came upon a wise old owl sitting in atree. "Please help me, wise old owl, how can I get out ofthis wood?" said the field-mouse."Easy," said the owl, "Grow wings and fly out, as I do.""But how can I grow wings?" asked the mouse.The owl looked at him haughtily, sniffed disdainfully, andsaid, "Dont bother me with the details, I only decide thepolicy."(Thanks P Boden)aircraft engineering support (lessonsin communications and supportservice)An updated version of this item appears on the pilots andairtraffic control quotes page.According to the story, after every Qantas Airlines flight(other airlines, and military sources are suggested insteadalso) the pilots complete a a gripe sheet report, whichconveys to the ground crew engineers any mechanicalproblems on the aircraft during the flight. The engineerreads the form, corrects the problem, then writes detailsof action taken on the lower section of the form for the
    • pilot to review before the next flight. It is clear from theexamples below that ground crew engineers have a keensense of humour - these are supposedly real extractsfrom gripe forms completed by pilots with the solutionresponses by the engineers. Incidentally, Qantas has thebest safety record of all the worlds major airlines.(1 = The problem logged by the pilot.) (2 = The solutionand action taken by the mechanics.) 1.Left inside main tire almost needs replacement. 2.Almost replaced left inside main tire. 1.Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough. 2.Auto-land not installed on this aircraft. 1.Something loose in cockpit. 2.Something tightened in cockpit. 1.Dead bugs on windshield. 2.Live bugs on back-order. 1.Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent. 2.Cannot reproduce problem on ground. 1.Evidence of leak on right main landing gear. 2.Evidence removed. 1.DME volume unbelievably loud. 2.DME volume set to more believable level. 1.Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick. 2.Thats what theyre there for. 1.IFF inoperative.
    • 2.IFF always inoperative in OFF mode. 1.Suspected crack in windshield. 2.Suspect youre right. 1.Number 3 engine missing. 2.Engine found on right wing after brief search. 1.Aircraft handles funny. 2.Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious. 1.Target radar hums. 2.Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics. 1.Mouse in cockpit. 2.Cat installed. 1.Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer. 2.Took hammer away from midget.If you like stories and examples like these see also thetree swing pictures, which also provide an amusing anduseful comment on departmental relationships, customerservice and organizational communications.(Ack. CB)the rat and the lion story (do good,what goes around comes around,karma)One day a small rat surfaced from his nest to find himselfbetween the paws of a huge sleeping lion, whichimmediately awoke and seized the rat. The rat pleaded
    • with the fierce beast to be set free, and the lion, beingvery noble and wise, and in no need of such small prey,agreed to let the relieved rat go on his way.Some days later in the same part of the forest, a hunterhad laid a trap for the lion, and it duly caught him, so thatthe lion was trussed up in a strong net, helpless, withnothing to do than wait for the hunter to return.But it was the rat who came along next, and seeing thelion in need of help, promptly set about biting andgnawing through the net, which soon began to unravel,setting the great lion free.The moral of the story is of course to make the worldyour debtor - even the humblest of folk may one day beof use.the two mules story (show offexpensive things at your peril, themore you have the more you have tolose)Two mules travelled regularly together with their loads,from their town to the city. The first mule, a humblebeast, wore a tatty cloak, and carried sacks of oats forthe miller. The second mule was an arrogant animal, whowore a fine coat with jingling bells. He carried gold andsilver coins for the tax collector, and loved to brag abouthis responsibility and importance. Running late one day,the second mule suggested taking a short-cut, off themain road, despite his companions warnings about therisks of taking such a dangerous route. Sure enough,before too long, thieves attacked the second mule,stealing his valuable load, and leaving him injured by the
    • roadside."But why me?" moaned the stricken animal, "I amattacked and robbed while the vagabonds leave youuntouched?""I think even in this desperate place no thief would beinterested in a poor millers slave, or my humble load!"said the first mule, "But you ventured down thisdangerous track and made a show of yourself - you haveonly yourself to blame."the travellers and the monk story(positive attitude, life outlook)One day a traveller was walking along a road on hisjourney from one village to another. As he walked henoticed a monk tending the ground in the fields besidethe road. The monk said "Good day" to the traveller, andthe traveller nodded to the monk. The traveller thenturned to the monk and said "Excuse me, do you mind if Iask you a question?"."Not at all," replied the monk."I am travelling from the village in the mountains to thevillage in the valley and I was wondering if you knew whatit is like in the village in the valley?""Tell me," said the monk, "What was your experience ofthe village in the mountains?""Dreadful," replied the traveller, "to be honest I am glad tobe away from there. I found the people mostunwelcoming. When I first arrived I was greeted coldly. Iwas never made to feel part of the village no matter howhard I tried. The villagers keep very much to themselves,they dont take kindly to strangers. So tell me, what can I
    • expect in the village in the valley?""I am sorry to tell you," said the monk, "but I think yourexperience will be much the same there".The traveller hung his head despondently and walked on.A while later another traveller was journeying down thesame road and he also came upon the monk."Im going to the village in the valley," said the secondtraveller, "Do you know what it is like?""I do," replied the monk "But first tell me - where haveyou come from?""Ive come from the village in the mountains.""And how was that?""It was a wonderful experience. I would have stayed if Icould but I am committed to travelling on. I felt as thoughI was a member of the family in the village. The eldersgave me much advice, the children laughed and jokedwith me and people were generally kind and generous. Iam sad to have left there. It will always hold specialmemories for me. And what of the village in the valley?"he asked again."I think you will find it much the same" replied the monk,"Good day to you"."Good day and thank you," the traveller replied, smiled,and journeyed on.(Thanks Carrie Birmingham)the human resources story (newstarter induction, ironic reference tohuman resources management,
    • keeping promises, employmentstandards)A highly successful Human Resources Manager wastragically knocked down by a bus and killed. Her soularrived at the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter welcomedher:"Before you get settled in," he said, "We have a littleproblem... you see, weve never had a Human ResourcesManager make it this far before and were not really surewhat to do with you.""Oh, I see," said the woman. "Cant you just let me in?""Well, Id like to," said St Peter, "But I have higher orders.Were instructed to let you have a day in hell and a day inheaven, and then you are to choose where youd like togo for all eternity.""Actually, I think Id prefer heaven", said the woman."Sorry, we have rules..." at which St. Peter put the HRManager into the downward bound elevator.As the doors opened in hell she stepped out onto abeautiful golf course. In the distance was a country club;around her were many friends - past fellow executives,all smartly dressed, happy, and cheering for her. They ranup and kissed her on both cheeks and they talked aboutold times. They played a perfect round of golf andafterwards went to the country club where she enjoyed asuperb steak and lobster dinner. She met the Devil, whowas actually rather nice, and she had a wonderful nighttelling jokes and dancing. Before she knew it, it was timeto leave; everyone shook her hand and waved goodbyeas she stepped into the elevator. The elevator went back
    • up to heaven where St. Peter was waiting for her."Now its time to spend a day in heaven," he said.So she spent the next 24 hours lounging around onclouds and playing the harp and singing, which wasalmost as enjoyable as her day in hell. At the days end StPeter returned."So," he said, "Youve spent a day in hell and youvespent a day in heaven. You must choose between thetwo."The woman thought for a second and replied, "Well,heaven is certainly lovely, but I actually had a better timein hell. I choose hell."Accordingly, St. Peter took her to the elevator again andshe went back down to hell.When the doors of the elevator opened she found herselfstanding in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage andfilth. She saw her friends dressed in rags, picking uprubbish and putting it in old sacks. The Devil approachedand put his arm around her."I dont understand," stuttered the HR Manager,"Yesterday I was here, and there was a golf course, and acountry club, and we ate lobster, and we danced and hada wonderful happy time. Now all theres just a dirtywasteland of garbage and all my friends look miserable."The Devil looked at her and smiled. "Yesterday we wererecruiting you, today youre staff."(Thanks CB and CC)the shoe box story (delusion, menand women, marriage, relationships,
    • secrets, weddings and best-manspeeches)There was once a man and woman who had beenmarried for more than 60 years. They had sharedeverything. They had talked about everything. They hadkept no secrets from each other except that the little oldwoman had a shoe box in the top of her closet that shehad cautioned her husband never to open or ask herabout. For all of these years, he had never thought aboutthe box, but one day the little old woman got very sickand the doctor said she would not recover. In trying tosort out their affairs, the little old man took down theshoe box and took it to his wifes bedside. She agreedthat it was time that he should know what was in the box.When he opened it, he found two crocheted doilies and astack of money totaling $25,000. He asked her about thecontents. "When we were to be married," she said, "Mygrandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage wasto never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry withyou, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doily." Thelittle old man was so moved, he had to fight back tears.Only two precious doilies were in the box. She had onlybeen angry with him two times in all those years of livingand loving. He almost burst with happiness. "Honey," hesaid, "that explains the doilies, but what about all of thismoney? Where did it come from?" "Oh," she said, "thatsthe money I made from selling the doilies."(Thanks C Byrd)the businessman and the fishermanstory (ambition, wealth creation,change for changes sake, purpose
    • of life, work and fulfilment - alsofeatured on a Kit-Kat snack-bar TVadvert)A management consultant, on holiday in a African fishingvillage, watched a little fishing boat dock at the quayside.Noting the quality of the fish, the consultant asked thefisherman how long it had taken to catch them."Not very long." answered the fisherman."Then, why didnt you stay out longer and catch more?"asked the consultant.The fisherman explained that his small catch wassufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.The consultant asked, "But what do you do with the restof your time?""I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, have anafternoons rest under a coconut tree. In the evenings, Igo into the community hall to see my friends, have a fewbeers, play the drums, and sing a few songs..... I have afull and happy life." replied the fisherman.The consultant ventured, "I have an MBA from Harvardand I can help you...... You should start by fishing longerevery day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch.With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. Withthe extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy asecond one and a third one and so on until you have alarge fleet. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman,you can negotiate directly with the processing plants andmaybe even open your own plant. You can then leave thislittle village and move to a city here or maybe even in theUnited Kingdom, from where you can direct your huge
    • enterprise.""How long would that take?" asked the fisherman."Oh, ten, maybe twenty years." replied the consultant."And after that?" asked the fisherman."After that? Thats when it gets really interesting,"answered the consultant, laughing, "When your businessgets really big, you can start selling shares in yourcompany and make millions!""Millions? Really? And after that?" pressed the fisherman."After that youll be able to retire, move out to a smallvillage by the sea, sleep in late every day, spend timewith your family, go fishing, take afternoon naps under acoconut tree, and spend relaxing evenings havings drinkswith friends..."(Ack Jean Kent)the microsoft story (computers,WYSInotWYG, ironic reference tocomputer software problems)A different slant on the human resources tale above...In 2050 A.D. Bill Gates dies in a car accident. He findshimself in the Purgatory waiting room, when God enters..."Well, Bill," says God, "Im confused. Im not sure whetherto send you to Heaven or Hell: you helped societyenormously by putting a computer in almost every homein the world, and yet youve also created some of themost unearthly frustrations known to mankind. Im goingto do something Ive never done before: Im going to letyou choose where you want to go."
    • Bill replies, "Well, thanks, God. Whats the differencebetween the two?"God says, "Im willing to let you visit both places briefly tohelp you make your decision.""Okay, where should I go first?" asks Bill.God says, "Thats up to you."Bill says, "OK, lets try Hell first."So Bill goes to Hell. Its a beautiful, clean, sandy beachwith clear waters. There are thousands of beautifulwomen running around, playing in the water, laughingand frolicking about. The sun is shining, the temperatureis just right. The whole thing looks perfect, and Bill is verypleased."This is great!" he tells God, "If this is Hell, I REALLY wantto see Heaven!""Fine," says God, and off they go.Heaven is a high place in the clouds, with angels driftingabout playing harps and singing. It very nice but not asenticing as Hell. Bill thinks for a moment and announceshis decision."Hmm, I think I prefer Hell." he tells God."Fine," says God, "As you desire."So Bill Gates is taken to Hell.Two weeks later, God decides to check up on Bill to seehow hes doing in Hell. When God arrives in Hell, he findsBill shackled to a wall, screaming amongst the hot flamesin a dark cave. Hes being burned and tortured bydemons.
    • "Hows everything going, Bill?" God asks.Bill replies, his voice full of anguish and disappointment,"This is awful, its not what I expected at all, I cantbelieve it. What happened to that other place with thebeaches and the beautiful women playing in the water?"God smiles and says, "That was the screen saver."(Ack CB and JM)the "it will for that one" story (makinga difference, compassion, socialresponsibility)A small boy was walking along a beach at low tide, wherecountless thousands of small sea creatures, having beenwashed up, were stranded and doomed to perish. A manwatched as the boy picked up individual creatures andtook them back into the water."I can see youre being very kind," said the watchingman, "But there must be a million of them; it cantpossibly make any difference."Returning from the waters edge, the boy said, "It will forthat one."the negotiation story (negotiating,men and women, funny responses)A sales-woman is driving home in the rain when she seesa little old lady walking by the roadside, heavily laden withshopping. Being a kindly soul, the sales-woman stopsthe car and invites the old lady to climb in. During theirsmall talk, the old lady glances surreptitiously at a brownpaper bag on the front seat between them. "If you are
    • wondering whats in the bag," offers the sales-woman,"Its a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband." The littleold lady is silent for a while, nods several times, and says........ "Good trade."the mcclelland motivation story(david mcclellands achievementmotivation experiment, motivationreferences and examples)A pioneering thinker in the field of workplace motivation,David McClelland developed his theories chiefly while atHarvard in the 1950-60s with experiments such as thisone.Volunteers were asked to throw rings over pegs rather likethe fairground game; no distance was stipulated, andmost people seemed to throw from arbitrary, randomdistances, sometimes close, sometimes farther away.However a small group of volunteers, whom McClellandsuggested were strongly achievement-motivated, tooksome care to measure and test distances that wouldproduce an ideal challenge - not too easy, and notimpossible.Interestingly a parallel exists in biology, known as theoverload principle, which is commony applied to fitnessand exercising, ie., in order to develop fitness and/orstrength the exercise must be sufficiently demanding toincrease existing levels, but not so demanding as tocause damage or strain.McClelland identified the same need for a balancedchallenge in the approach of achievement-motivatedpeople. People with a strong achievement-motivation
    • need set themselves challenging and realistic goals -they need the challenge, but they also need to be suretheyll accomplish the aim.More information about David McClellands motivationaltheories.the butterfly story (coaching,teaching, enabling, facilitating,interventions)A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a smallopening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly forseveral hours as it struggled to force its body through thelittle hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. Itappeared stuck.The man decided to help the butterfly and with a pair ofscissors he cut open the cocoon. The butterfly thenemerged easily. Something was strange. The butterflyhad a swollen body and shrivelled wings. The manwatched the butterfly expecting it to take on its correctproportions. But nothing changed.The butterfly stayed the same. It was never able to fly. Inhis kindness and haste the man did not realise that thebutterflys struggle to get through the small opening ofthe cocoon is natures way of forcing fluid from the bodyof the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready forflight.Like the sapling which grows strong from being buffetedby the wind, in life we all need to struggle sometimes tomake us strong.When we coach and teach others it is helpful torecognize when people need to do things for themselves.
    • (Ack Paul Matthews)the swimming pool story (reviewsand asessments, assessing people,things are not always what theyseem)Fred and Mabel were both patients in a mental hospital.One day as they both walked beside the swimming pool,Mabel jumped into the deep end and sank to the bottom.Without a thought for his own safety, Fred jumped in afterher, brought her to the surface, hauled her out, gave herthe kiss of life and saved her.The next day happened to be Freds annual review. Hewas brought before the hospital board, where the directortold him, "Fred, I have some good news and some badnews: the good news is that in light of your heroic actyesterday we consider that you are sane and can bereleased from this home back into society. The bad newsis, Im afraid, that Mabel, the patient you saved, shortlyafterwards hung herself in the bathroom with the beltfrom her bathrobe. Im sorry but shes dead.""She didnt hang herself," Fred replied, "I put her there todry."the butcher story (business ethics,chickens come home to roost, sinsdiscovered, getting caught out, lyingto customers)A butcher, who had had a particularly good day, proudlyflipped his last chicken on a scale and weighed it. "Thatwill be £6.35," he told the customer.
    • "Thats a good price, but it really is a little too small," saidthe woman. "Dont you have anything larger?"Hesitating, but thinking fast, the clerk returned thechicken to the refrigerator, paused a moment, then took itout again."This one," he said faintly, " will be £6.65."The woman paused for a moment, then made herdecision..."I know what," she said, "Ill take both of them!"(Thanks Doug Boit)the pavlovs dogs story (behaviour,conditioning, fears and neuroses,embedded attitudes and responses)Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who lived from1849-1936. He founded the Institute of ExperimentalMedicine in 1890, where his primary interest wasdigestion.Pavlovs Dogs is the name given to Ivan Pavlovs seminalresearch in the early 20th century which established someessential principles of Classical Conditioning in the fieldof human psychology. Classical Conditioning concernslearned or conditioned behaviour, (which also forms thebasis of behaviour therapy).We all have behaviours that we might seek to change.The Pavlovs Dogs illustration helps us to understandmore about why we respond sometimes irrationally tocertain situations.Pavlovs Dogs provides a wonderful and true example foranyone seeking to explain or understand how our past
    • experiences can prompt certain behaviours in the future,for example, phobias (irrational fears), neurosis (severenervous or emotional responses to particular situations),and even mild feelings of concern or anxiety that virtuallyall of us are prone to in one way or another (eg., publicspeaking, fear of heights, flying, being reprimanded ortested, etc.)The initial Pavlovs Dogs experiment was simply to placea dog in a sound-proof, smell-proof cubicle, with nooutside view - a controlled environment in other words. Asound was made when food was given to the dog, andthe amount of salivation the dog produced wasmeasured. After repeating this several times (calledtrials), the sound was made but no food was given. Thedog still salivated.This simple experiment established that the dog did notnecessarily need the food in order to respond to food.The dog was responding to a stimulus or trigger thatproduced the same response as the real thing. Pavlovcould make the dog salivate whenever the sound wasmade.This is expressed technically: a Conditioned Stimulus(the sound) can produce a Conditioned Response (thesalivation), which was the same UnconditionedResponse (salivation in response to food) for the originalUnconditioned Stimulus (the food).Pavlov also proved that slightly different sounds to theoriginal Conditioned Stimulus produced a similarConditioned Response, which he called Generalisation.Pavlov also obtained the same results by showing thedog a shape (a circle for food), and then established alevel of Discrimination by showing an oval when there
    • was no food.By continually repeating the Conditioned Stimulus, theConditioned response was seen to weaken, and theneventually to cease, which he called Extinction.Surprisingly though, after a day or two, when theConditioned Stimulus (sound) was started again the dogagain produced the Conditioned Response (salivation),which is called Spontaneous Recovery. This showedthat conditioned behaviours can become very deeplyembedded and well established.Classical Conditioning is responsible for all behaviour thatinvolves Reflexes - heart-rate, perspiration, muscle-tension, etc.Think about your own anxieties that produce thesereactions. They are probably Conditioned Responsesfrom something (a Conditioned Stimulus) that youexperienced in the past. Note also that if the originalresponse is very strong, the conditioning can result froma single event, technically referred to as One TrialLearning.If you find this interesting see the Eric Erikson section,and look at Transational Analysis theory. Dr ArthurJanovs book The Primal Scream is also fascinating andrelevant to this aspect of understanding personality andbehaviour.the beans up the nose story(accentuate the positive,visualization, auto-suggestion,negative suggestions and attitudes)This lovely analogy illustrates how accentuating the
    • negative can often produce the very result you areseeking to avoid. The metaphor is so strong that it gaverise to the expression Beans up the Nose, meaning toincrease the likelihood of unwanted result by highlightingthe potential for it to happen.Beans up the Nose is a great way to emphasise the needfor managers to accentuate the positive - not thenegative - when communicating instructions to theirpeople.A mother was preparing a meal for her young son. Sheemptied a tin of beans into a saucepan and put them onthe stove to cook. Just then the phone rang - she wasexpecting a call and wanted to take it. Mindful that shedbe leaving her little boy unsupervised for a minute or two,and wanting to prevent him doing anything daft while shewas out of the room, she firmly told him, "Stay here whileI answer the phone. Ill be back soon; dont misbehave,and whatever you do, dont go putting those beans upyour nose..."the hawthorne effect story (eltonmayos motivation experiments,motivation)The Hawthorne Effect: the proposition that workers aremore motivated more by emotional than economic factors(i.e., by being involved and feeling important, rather thanby an improvement in workplace conditions).So called after workplace behavioural research by EltonMayo at the Western Electric Companys Hawthorne plantin Cicero, Chicago, 1927-32, which ran on without Mayountil 1937. Mayo was a founding father of industrialpsychology, attached to Harvard University as professor
    • of industrial research from 1926, laying the foundationsfor later gurus, notably Herzberg (Motivation and HygieneFactors), Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs), McGregor (XYTheory), Peters and Waterman (In Search of Excellenceetc).At a peak, 20,000 Western Electric employees weresubject to research by a team of Harvard scientists andup to 100 investigators. This massive ten year programmegrew from the initial experiment in which improvedlighting was installed to assess the effect on workersmotivation and productivity. Sure enough, productivityincreased, but productivity also increased in the controlgroup of workers where conditions were unchanged,except that they were informed they were part of thestudy. This was perhaps the earliest significantdemonstration that people are not actually motivated byimproving their workplace conditions (Taylorism - afterFW Taylor - had been the common view, in which moneyand conditions were thought to be the prime motivators).The Hawthorne Effect, and the experiments at theHawthorne plant, proved that people are mainly motivatednot by economic factors, but emotional factors, such asfeeling involved and receiving attention.the naval stand-off story(negotiation, do your research, knowyour facts)This story is an alleged transcript of an actual radioconversation between a US naval ship and Canadianmaritime contact off the coast of Newfoundland inOctober 1995. The tale, in various versions and featuringdifferent nationalities, has circulated widely in emails and
    • in books for many years, and has been used bynumerous speakers and writers to illustrate lessonsrelating to negotiation, making assumptions, and relatedthemes. Unfortunately it is not true, but it is neverthelessa great story. If using this as a teaching analogy, you willprobably be forgiven for not revealing the truth of thematter until after telling the story.Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees North toavoid a collision.Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15degrees South to avoid collision.Americans: This is the captain of a US navy ship; I sayagain divert your course.Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USSLINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITEDSTATES ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BYTHREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS ANDNUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOUCHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THATSONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURESWILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OFTHIS SHIP.Canadians: We are a lighthouse; your call.the room service story(understanding, communicating,interpretation, empathy, meaning)This story was widely circulated by email around 2001-2,within which it was alleged to be the genuine transcript of
    • a telephone conversation between a guest and room-service in a hotel in Asia in the late 1990s, and itsupposedly appeared in an item published in the Far EastEconomic Review. This is all false however:Room Service is in fact a chapter from US comedianShelley Bermans book A Hotel Is A Funny Place. In truththe incident portrayed never happened in any hotel, inAsia or otherwise. Shelley Berman wrote Room Serviceas a piece of fictional humour. Shelley Berman has kindlyallowed this extract to appear on this site, and thispermission is gratefully acknowledged.As well as being one of the best loved and funniestcomedians and writers of his generation, Shelly Bermanis also a lecturer at the University of Southern California.More information at: Shelley Berman.The Room Service fictional exchange is a wonderful andamusing example of how and why the effectiveunderstanding relies not only on language andcommunication, but also on the abilities of thecommunicators to interpret meaning.excerpt from "A Hotel is a Funny Place ..."N.B. This material is a chapter from Shelley Bermanscopyrighted book. It is reproduced here with permission.Reading hints: You are on the phone. The other party isalso in the hotel:Morny, rune sore-bees.Oh sorry, I thought I dialed room service.Rye. Rune sore-bees. Morny. Jewish to odor sunteen?Yes, order something. This is room thirteen-on-five. Iwant…
    • Okay, torino-fie. Yes plea?Id like some bacon and eggs.Ow July then?What?Aches.Ow July then? Pry, boy, pooch…?Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry. Scrambled,please.Ow July thee baycome? Crease?Crisp will be fine.Okay. An Santos?What?Santos. July Santos?Uh…I dont know…I dont think so.No? Judo one toes?Look. I really feel bad about this, but I just dont knowwhat judo-one-toes means. Im sorry…Toes! Toes! Why Jew Don Juan toes? Ow bow eenlishmopping we bother?English muffin! Ive got it! You were saying toast! Fine.An English muffin will be fine. We bother? No. Just putthe bother on the side.Wad?Im sorry. I meant butter. Butter on the side.Copy?I feel terrible about this but… Copy.
    • Copy, tea, mill…Coffee!! Yes, coffee please. And thats all.One Minnie. Ass rune torino-fie, strangle-aches, creasebaycome, tossy eenlish mopping we bother honey sigh,and copy. Rye?Whatever you say. Okay.Tenjewberrymud.Youre welcome.Next time someone sends you the email you can informthem: the above dialogue never actually took place in anyhotel anywhere in the world. The Room Service dialogueis an intentionally composed humorous fiction and isentirely the creation of Shelley Berman, written as achapter in his book, A Hotel Is A Funny Place, publishersPrice/Sloan/Stern. Copyright 1972 and 1985. Any claim tothe contrary is utterly baseless and erroneous.Room Service is © Shelley Berman. Used with Permissionwith grateful thanks to Shelley Berman. Not to be sold orpublished.the project story (projectmanagement, six phases of aproject)Not exactly a story, but a widely referred to ironic modeldetailing the six phases of a project. Do you recognizethis model? 1.Enthusiasm 2.Disillusionment
    • 3.Panic 4.Search for the guilty 5.Punishment of the innocent 6.Praise and honours for the non-participantsthe mswindows car story (the powerof PR, clever publicity, using humourfor publicity, dont get mad get even)You may have seen this before as its been widelycirculated over the internet. Whether its true or not, its agreat example of the risks of arrogant PR, and then inresponse, fantastic PR thats utterly in tune with the moodof the moment. Despite all this though, a supremelypowerful supplier can, while they remain supremelypowerful, re-write the rules of customer service.At a computer expo (COMDEX) around 1997/98, BillGates of Microsoft was reported to have compared thecomputer and automotive industries, saying that "IfGeneral Motors had kept up with technology like thecomputer industry does, we would all be driving around intwenty-five dollar cars that go 1,000 miles to the gallon."In response to this alleged outburst, GM are supposed tohave issued a press release along the following lines,stating:If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we wouldall be driving cars with the following characteristics - 1.For no reason at all your car would crash twice a day, and you would have not a single clue as to the cause. 2.Every time they re-painted the lines on the road you
    • would have to buy a new car.3.Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, re-start and drive on.4.Occasionally, executing a manoeuvre such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to re-start, in which case you would have to re-install the engine.5.Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought Car95 or CarNT, but then youd have to buy more seats.6.(Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but it would only run on five percent of the roads. The Macintosh car owners would have to buy expensive GM upgrades for their cars which would make them run much slower.)7.The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a general car default warning light.8.The cars new seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.9.The airbag system would say Are you sure? before activating.10.Occasionally for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.11.GM would require all car buyers to additionally purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps
    • (which would be a GM subsidiary) even though the customer neither needed nor wanted them. Attempting to do without these extras would immediately cause the cars performance to diminish by fifty percent or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation under the anti-trust laws by the Justice Department. 12.Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as in the previous car. 13.And youd need to press the Start button to shut off the engine.the balloon story (business, IT,humour, funny business story)A man in a hot air balloon is lost. He sees a man on theground and reduces height to speak to him."Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?""Youre in a hot air balloon hovering thirty feet above thisfield," comes the reply."You must work in Information Technology," says theballoonist."I do," says the man, "How did you know?""Well," says the balloonist, "Everything you told me istechnically correct, but its no use to anyone.""You must be in business," says the man."I am," says the balloonist, "How did you know?""Well," says the man, "You dont know where you are, you
    • dont know where youre going, but you expect me to beable to help. Youre in the same position you were beforewe met, but now its my fault."(You can of course substitute other professions asappropriate.)the monkey story (company policy,organizational development, groupbehaviour, group beliefs, inertia andassumptions)Start with a cage containing five monkeys.Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place aset of stairs under it.Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start toclimb towards the banana.As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of themonkeys with cold water.After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with thesame result - all the monkeys are sprayed with coldwater.Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb thestairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.Now, turn off the cold water.Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with anew one.The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb thestairs.To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack
    • him.After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he triesto climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.Next, remove another of the original five monkeys andreplace it with a new one.The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked.The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment withenthusiasm.Again, replace a third original monkey with a new one.The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked aswell.Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea whythey were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why theyare participating in the beating of the newest monkey.After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkeys, allthe monkeys that have been sprayed with cold water havebeen replaced.Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches thestairs.Why not?Because as far as they know thats the way its alwaysbeen around here.And thats how company policy begins ...the creativity story (ten ways tomurder creativity, leadership, growthand development, innovation andmotivation)
    • Again not a story, instead a sardonic view of the way thatorganizations typically approach managing people andprojects, which of course kills the creative incentive andcapabilities of creative people. Do you recognize themodel? 1.Always pretend to know more than everybody around you. 2.Get employees to fill in time sheets. 3.Run daily checks on progress of everyones work. 4.Ensure that highly qualified people do mundane work for long periods. 5.Put barriers up between departments. 6.Dont speak personally to employees, except when announcing increased targets, shortened deadlines and tightened cost restraints. 7.Ask for a 200-page document to justify every new idea. 8.Call lots of meetings. 9.Place the biggest emphasis on the budget. 10.Buy lots of computers.the scorpion and the frog story(reality, acceptance, delusion,responsibility, blame, expectations,personal responsibility, empathy)Once upon a time a scorpion wanted to cross a brook.On the bank he saw a frog and asked if the frog wouldgive him a ride to the other side.
    • "Oh no," says the frog, "If I carry you on my back you willsting me.""But why would I sting you when we would both surelyperish," replied the scorpion.The frog eventually conceded that the scorpion had apoint, and agreed to the request.Half way across, the scorpion stang the frog, and theyboth began to drown."But why did you break your word and sting me, knowingit would be certain death for us both?" cried the frog."Because it is in my nature." said the scorpion.the rocks in bucket time managementstory (time management, personalchange, managing your activities andenvironment, project management)Use this time management story to show how planning isthe key to time management.Start with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, somesmall stones, some sand and water.Put the big rocks in the bucket - is it full?Put the small stones in around the big rocks - is it full?Put the sand in and give it a shake - is it full?Put the water in. Now its full.The point is: unless you put the big rocks in first, youwont get them in at all.In other words: Plan time-slots for your big issues beforeanything else, or the inevitable sand and water issues will
    • fill up your days and you wont fit the big issues in (a bigissue doesnt necessarily have to be a work task - itcould be your childs sports-day, or a holiday).rocks in the bucket story (alternativefunny version)A lecturer at a university is giving a pre-exam lecture ontime management. On his desk is a bag of sand, a bag ofpebbles, some big rocks and bucket. He asks for avolunteer to put all three grades of stone into the bucket,and a keen student duly steps up to carry out the task,starting with the sand, then the pebbles, then the rocks,which do not all fit in the bucket."The is an analogy of poor time management," trills thelecturer, "If youd have put the rocks in first, then thepebbles, then the sand, all three would have fit. This ismuch like time management, in that by completing yourbiggest tasks first, you leave room to complete yourmedium tasks, then your smaller ones. By completingyour smallest tasks first you spend so much time on themyou leave yourself unable to complete either medium oflarge tasks satisfactorily. Let me show you.."And the lecturer re-fills the bucket, big rocks first, thenpebbles, then sand, shaking the bucket between each sothat everything fits."But Sir," says one student, slouched at the back of thetheatre, "Youve forgotten one thing.."At which the student approaches the bucket, produces acan of lager, opens it and pours into the bucket. "Nomatter how busy you are," quips the student with a smile,"Theres always time for a quick beer."
    • (Ack Simon Dedman)the murphys plough story (positivethinking, negative thinking,retaliating before being attacked,thinking the worst of people, tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye)Use this story to illustrate the risks of failing to usepositive thinking. The story also illustrates the commontendency for us all to retaliate before we are attacked,and humankinds potential for tit-for-tat or eye-for-an-eye behaviour, on which most international politics hasbeen based since the beginning of civilisation.McGinty, a farmer, needed to plough his field before thedry spell set in, but his own plough had broken."I know, Ill ask my neighbour, farmer Murphy, to borrowhis plough. Hes a good man; Im sure hell have done hisploughing by now and hell be glad to lend me hismachine."So McGinty began to walk the three or four fields toMurphys farm.After a field of walking, McGinty says to himself, "I hopethat Murphy has finished all his own ploughing or hell notbe able to lend me his machine..."Then after a few more minutes of worrying and walking,McGinty says to himself, "And what if Murphys plough isold and on its last legs - hell never be wanting to lend itto me will he?.."And after another field, McGinty says, "Murphy was nevera very helpful fellow, I reckon maybe he wont be too
    • keen to lend me his plough even if its in perfect workingorder and hes finished all his own ploughing weeksago...."As McGinty arrives at Murphys farm, McGinty is thinking,"That old Murphy can be a mean old fellow. I reckon evenif hes got all his ploughing done, and his own machine issitting there doing nothing, hell not lend it to me just sowatch me go to ruin..."McGinty walks up Murphys front path, knocks on thedoor, and Murphy answers."Well good morning Mr McGinty, what can I do for you?"says Murphy.And McGinty says, with eyes bulging, "You can take yourbloody plough, and you can stick it up your bloody arse!"