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The blind men

There is an ancient Indian folk tale about the six old blind men who have dreamed to see the elephant, until an elephant driver came by and heard them and allowed them to come to his elephant and make themselves familiar with this wonder. This tale was turned into the following poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887).

The Blind Men and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

Illustration: the blind men and the elephant

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk
Cried, “Ho! what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope.
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Moral:

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen.

Illustration: arguments

And though the esteemed 19th century poet has directed the sting of his mighty pen at the theologians religious disputes, we may take and apply it most anywhere, to this day.

Every organization has multiple departments and people of many disciplines, educations and professions, different approaches and thinking, all of whom are brought together with the explicit purpose of making said organization run smoothly and render possible the production and supply to the customer of its product or service.

However, each has but a piece of information of the entire operation, of the complete process. Each can only see his own peace. And then they all come together in a meeting room and… well… not unlike the blind men, “prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen”.

Is it any wonder that real solutions to problems seem so elusive?

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