Friday Fable. Aesop’s “The Crow and the Pitcher”*

Posted by jlubans on April 23, 2015

Caption: Mr. Corvix knows water displacement theory.

“A CROW perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to it with delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach and thus saved his life.”

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

On the job, when we had a problem to solve and the only apparent option was to spend more to do the same thing, I would ask a few questions: What would happen if we stopped doing this? What could we do instead? How does this add value for our clients? And, finally, What do you (the people with the problem) recommend we do?
No, I was not being the bully-boss putting out inane questions. My questions were meant to trigger a creative response – to create urgency, a necessity, like Aesop’s crow encountered, to get us out of the rut of incremental thinking. The crow’s ingenuity, pushed by necessity, saves his life. It was my intent to prompt insightful thinking, to consider alternatives and options, like what can we substitute, combine, modify, or, yes, eliminate? I know some staff were figuratively shaking their heads and thinking: “There simply are no other ways to do this. If only you knew why we do what we do, then you would not ask these silly questions!” Unlike the crow, they’d willingly go thirsty.
Creative and resourceful staff, when given the opportunity to pause and reflect, often will find a way. And, overtime, the best staff won’t need any prompting; they’ll let you know what they’ve come up with and implemented! Yes, with freedom at work comes a mutual responsibility: for the boss to let go and for those doing the work to make decisions about how to do that work.

*Source: FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop’s fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886. Available at the Gutenberg Project.

© John Lubans 2015

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