Beyond Data

futurelab default header

By: David Armano

In the early 1700's—a curious, intelligent and good natured soul by the name of Ben Franklin was faced with a problem.  In his time spent working with agriculture, he had made a simple discovery.  He discovered that plaster made grains and grasses grow better.  The problem was that his neighbors did not believe him.

So, Ben did the logical thing any resourceful individual would to.  He fired up Powerpoint—called his local Forrester representative and started methodically making his case for plaster using charts and stats to back it all up.

No, actually he didn't.  Microsoft and Forrester weren't around back then.  What he did do was get his hands dirty.  Literally.  When spring arrived, he went to a field that was close to a path where people would walk by regularly.  He then dug out some letters into the dirt with his hands, put plaster in the ruts and planted some seeds in them.

Time passed and as people walked by the field, they could see this message emerging in a brighter shade of grass that stood out from the rest of the field:


Ben's neighbors got the point.  Here's the sixty four thousand dollar question.  If Ben were alive today, working for a large company with the typical corporate culture in place—would he have been asked to supply a research document/deck in spite of the fact that he had just proven his point?  Don't get me wrong.  We shouldn't do away with research.  Quantitative and qualitative research is critical to pretty much any industry around.  What I'm asking, is do we encourage enough demonstrating?  Do we reward people when they take matters into their own hands to prove that an idea might be worth something?  Our do we get upset that they've bypassed conventional procedures?

Original Post: