07 November 2010

If It Ain't Broke, Fix It!

That in just four years the National Trust and its partners managed to bring back from near ruin the magnificent pile of Erddig calls to mind the oft-used phrase of a friend, "They did it because they didn't know it was supposed to be impossible."

Few things are more irritating than the cry that one shouldn't fix that which is not broken, that one should recognise the 'impossibility' of something, that one should be content with the satisfactory. This cry generally emanates from those who lack ambition, who fail to understand that breakthroughs result from personal involvement in unrelenting hard work, not from the preaching of slogans, or from the half-cocked application of barely understood 'magic fixes.'

Charles Babbage invented the speedometer and cowcatcher, pioneered dendrochronology, proposed the uniform charge postal service, and, with his difference engine (above), fathered the computer. As he had it: "Propose to an Englishman any principle, or any instrument, however admirable, and you will observe that the whole effort of the English mind is directed to find a difficulty, a defect, or an impossibility in it. If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible; if you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple."

Long life to those that strive for lasting improvement, who extend themselves and sometimes fail, but try again; who risk and make mistakes, then seek to put these right. If only the pedestrian placemen, who mistake movement for action, who want merely to pick up their monthly pay cheques, would give way to the thoughtful, the ardent, and those with integrity. "This has been got out by a friend" - Ian Dury.

1 comment:

YMGW said...

A coda: entirely coincidental to jotting the above was reading Angus Wilson's 1961 "The Old Men at the Zoo" - very highly recommended as a satire on the damage done to organisations and their employees by amateur managers.