In a warm romantic moment one evening, this fellow says to his girlfriend: “Do you love me just because my father left me a fortune?”
“No, not at all, honey,” she replies. “I would love you no matter who left you the fortune.”
Meantime, on the other side of town, in a suburban house, a husband says to his wife: “Let us go out tonight and have some real fun.”
“Okay,” she says, “but if you get home before me, leave the hall light on.”
In each case, these wisecracks work, because the audience has a preconceived idea of the type of answer there should be. Then there is this really attractive girl, who gets all her good looks from her father – he is a plastic surgeon.
Okay, let’s get back on a more intellectual pathway. In any consideration of the outcome of a project, or the results of some investigation, one always has to carefully examine the circumstances surrounding the first level of thinking that goes into the exercise.
Well, yes, that is obvious, one might say, but it is amazing how often this is not done. It is actually hard work to conceive of the actual surroundings and circumstances, and to build a mental picture. For example, if one wants to try to examine why Napoleon declared himself emperor, it is important to understand the circumstances of the time and place.
Napoleon did it because he had to, not so much because he wanted to. But we are not going into his-tory now – we will pursue technology. It is also true of technology to understand the initial circumstances. If one country, or a particular company, chooses a certain solution, or pathway, it is because that solution is good for the country or the company. If another country or company then has a peek, it is very dangerous for it to choose the same solution or pathway without first exhaustively checking if the fundamental circumstances of the two playing fields are the same.
Playing soccer on a golf course does not work. If one company starts playing soccer, because some other company in some other country is doing so, it is silly, if one finds out later that the first group has a soccer field, so to speak, but the followers have a golf course.
There is this ad currently showing on TV, for Bridgestone tyres, that tends to irritate me. It shows this happy guy whose BMW has just run over a nail in the road and has a flat tyre. The ad then tells us: “Bridgestone run-flat tyres let you travel up to 80 km at up to 80 km/h after air loss.” I am sure that this is great news when you get a flat tyre in the middle of the Karoo, at dusk, and you are driving one of those cars that now brag that they have no spare wheel because the car has run-flat tyres.
That run-flat system may be fine for Germany, where a motorist can expect to find some service station within 80 km of anywhere. Note also the use of the words “up to” in the ad.
In South Africa, to drive any car around without a spare wheel is nuts. Have the run-flat if you like, but not in place of the spare. To me, when I see that ad, and others that are similar, I immediately imagine German designers designing a car for German conditions – the soccer field. South Africa has the golf course, so the design criteria do not apply here.
I remember an occasion when I was in Germany, and a group of folks were stunned to discover that I had often driven a car all day, like driving from inland to the coast. It was then that I discovered that driving from Pretoria to Cape Town was the same distance as driving from Rome to Amsterdam. European drivers just have no concept of these distances in a car. To them rally drivers drive these distances, not normal, respectable citizens.
This fundamental idea of the applicability of the initial circumstances applies to many systems in our industry. I come across many cases in which a company has bought some piece of machinery from a foreign country, only to find later that the local conditions and circumstances are so different, that the device just does not function here as it did there.
So be careful. Invest the time and effort in understanding the original playing field and compare it to your own before you choose your team, or start playing the game.