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Story Time

Illustrative little stories

Fish Story:
When I was a high-schooler, our family moved to an area that had trout streams. As I wanted to learn to trout fish, I read books and magazine articles about it. They presented the concepts of water flows around rocks, where trout would locate themselves in water flows, and the types of lures that might be appropriate under different circumstances. This was interesting information. The situation at the stream was quite different, however. Clearly neither the trout nor the stream had read the books. It was the actual specifics of stream and trout that needed to be addressed. There is no such thing as "a generalized trout in a generalized stream." General principles have local specifics that must be understood.
Elephant Story:
It's all a matter of viewpoint, as illustrated by Dwight Waldo’s parable of the elephant. Five blind men each encounter a different part of one elephant: trunk, tail, leg, ear, side. Each man describes what he has found as like a snake, broom, tree, leaf or wall. Each man has a different perception of the same thing, none complete. (Waldo, Dwight (1961). "Organizational theory: An elephantine problem." Public Administration Review, Vol. 21 (Fall): 210-215.)
Key Story:
One night a man was walking along the street and saw another man, on hands and knees under a streetlight, obviously searching for something. Our helper asked the searcher what he was looking for. The searcher, who had obviously had a lot to drink, responded, in slurred speech, "My car keys." Our helper then squatted down and started searching for the keys. Not finding them he felt more specific information might be helpful, so he asked, "Where did you lose your keys?" To which the searcher responded, pointing to a car some distance away, "Over there next to the car." The helper was surprised and asked "But why are you searching over here?" The searcher responded "The light’s no good over there." A search for a solution may not always address the problem.

             Raleigh, NC USA

Copyright © 2017 Thomas D. Wason