The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Failure Has All The Answers …


Planes are being lost.

The British Government wants to reinforce their planes so they ask an engineer to look where best to do it.

So this expert gets in one of the damaged planes and studies where the bullet holes are.

After a lot of exploring, he discovers the damage is mainly around the tail and so recommends that is where the reinforcement should be focused.

As he relays his report, one of the generals responds with this …

“Instead of looking at the planes that came back, we should study the planes that didn’t … that’s when we’ll discover what really needs reinforcing.”

And right there is a reminder that to truly understand – or solve – a situation, you have to look at what has failed, not just what has been successful.

Companies … researchers … planners … take note.


25 Comments so far
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Well said Robert. It is not about solving the problem, it is about solving the correct problem. Many don’t understand that, preferring to believe that solving any problem they have decided is a problem, is good enough. Unfortunately that includes as many planners as it does creative directors.

Comment by George

fuck you. at least creatives talk about problems they can solve when planners come out with some shit that no fucker understands let alone can fix except for shooting the planner in the fucking back of their head.

Comment by andy@cynic

I see both of your points.

Of course not everyone is about doing what’s easy rather than what’s right [even though the ones who do would argue they’re doing the right thing, even when they have little or no evidence to prove it] … however it is alarming how little people are guided on how to identify what is the real issue as opposed to being seduced by little things that distract them from pushing to find the real, underlying problem.

That said, it’s not just agency people’s issue – clients also suffer from a similar trait – and in some ways they’re even worse culprits as they dictate the limited time an agency has to fix everything which often immediately impacts the potential of getting to the root of the problem … especially if you work for an agency who has an attitude of ‘please the client’ rather than ‘be useful to the client’.

Comment by Rob

you lost my attention from the first fucking line.

Comment by andy@cynic

so what youre saying campbell is a planner almost lost us the fucking war.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hungarian mathematician actually.

Comment by John

and if the planes didnt come back, how the fuck did they find them?
the war was managed by a bunch of fuckwits.

Comment by andy@cynic

The ones that came back had bullet holes in certain places. It’s therefore inferred that the ones that didn’t come back were hit in other places and those are the areas you need to reinforce.

Why do I know this? Because this story has featured at conferences for decades. You read it here last.

Comment by John

A plane is pretty big, so are you saying they just reinforced the plane except where bullets had hit but failed to destroy? That strategy must have added a lot of weight to the plane.

Comment by Pete

Apparently so. Some of those that returned safe were riddled with holes, so it’s not like the additional reinforcement had to be widespread.

Comment by John

“You read it here last.” The perfect comment.

Comment by Bazza

On the bright side John, I guess I’ve just kept this blog ‘on brand’ as regards it’s ability to be topical.

Comment by Rob

The USA saved your ass.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Yes you did. Eventually.

Comment by George

The Russians helped too.

Comment by John

This post sounds the sort of thing Farrage and Johnson would say for brexit.

Comment by Pete

Is the answer “don’t fail”?

Comment by Bazza

In response to your request for a snarkier response Rob, I’ll add that:

1) Many planes were studied.
2) They were bombers not Spitfires
3) The conclusion was reached by the researcher not a general.
4) There are no generals in the airforce.

Happy now?

Comment by John

Much better. Except in my defence, I was quoting the article I read rather than paraphrasing the story – mainly because, as you pointed out, I didn’t know about it despite the fact every conference attendee for the last 40 years seems to know it.

Oh, and the article states the person who pointed out the folly of focusing only on the planes that came back was an American – deployed to help the RAF – and his rank was ‘general’, because they have those in their ranks.

Maybe they got it wrong – like most Hollywood war movies do – but I point it out for clarity. Yours mainly. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Spitfire? Where did Robert say that? I never thought you would fall for mistaking association as fact.

Comment by George

why the fuck are you protecting rob?

Comment by andy@cynic

There’s a photo of one at the top of the post George.

Comment by John

This is the man you’re looking for … archetypal British ‘Man in a Shed’ genius.

Comment by Ian Gee

Comment by John

Him too.

Comment by Ian Gee

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