The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

A theory of sheepdogs

While I was at university, one of my neighbors owned an Old English Sheepdog. You know, the dog with the fur over its eyes. I had the opportunity to observe this dog at close range for about nine months. It was the only Old English Sheepdog I had gotten to know this way, before or since. I was surprised by what I discovered.

My image of sheepdogs was based upon watching Border Collies in action. Border Collies are exceptionally quick-witted and intelligent creatures, so I assumed that all sheepdogs were quick-witted and intelligent, but I was wrong. This Old English Sheepdog I had for a neighbor was one of the dumbest animals I’ve ever encountered.

This puzzled me. How could a slow-thinking and not too smart dog ever function herding sheep?

The thing is, I didn’t know anything about sheep either. It was only some years later I discovered that sheep were even dumber than Old English Sheepdogs.

Thus was born my sheepdog theory. Bosses and supervisors don’t have to be exceptionally smart to get the job, they just have to be a little bit smarter. You don’t necessarily need the world’s best expert, you need the one who knows enough more than you to do in order to solve the problem.


Written by Tom Fox

06/01/2008 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Learning

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