“It’s tough to imagine how a World War II fighter plane could impact your business today.”

A good friend and fellow website design expert, Adrian Hanft told me a story that he read about a group of brilliant mathematicians that the US government hired during World War II.   You see, the government wanted these brainiacs to figure out a way to help us win the war so they brought all of the mathematicians a problem like none they had seen before.  They had a number of airplanes that had all experienced serious damage while in combat and they showed the planes to the mathematicians and strangely enough, all of the planes had bullet holes in the same location on each plane.  All of the planes had been shot right down the middle of the plane in the fuselage.  For some reason, none of the planes were shot in the wings.  The military was recommending that they add additional armor to the fuselage where all of the bullets seemed to hit the planes.  That makes sense doesn’t it?

However, the team of geniuses hired by the military disagreed.  They said that the armor should cover the parts of the planes where there were no holes.  What??? Did you read that right?  Yep.  They recommended that the military add additional armor to just the parts of the planes where the bullet holes never appeared.  Why on earth did they say that?  Well, I’ve posed that question to a number of people over the past couple weeks and have gotten a wide variety of answers.  One person said that it was because the planes would crash if they had too much armor added to them.  Another person thought it was because the mathematicians were German spies working to weaken the US military.  Good guesses but both are wrong.  What do you think could have been their reasoning for recommending that the armor be added to the parts of the planes where there were no bullet holes?


If you can’t think of a good reason, you’re not alone.  That’s why this question was only answered by the nation’s most intelligent men.  The reason is because the planes that were hit in the fuselage didn’t crash.  They were the ones that were able to make it back to their bases.  Frankly, the bullet holes in those planes weren’t a serious problem.  They might have been unsightly, but, otherwise, they weren’t a problem.  After all, those planes didn’t crash.  On the other hand, the planes that were hit in the wings didn’t make it back and they crashed and burned.

This poses an interesting question.  Are you looking at the problems in your life or in your business and perhaps, you’re focusing on what appears to be the problem, when in fact the real problem is difficult to spot because it’s not in front of you?   Imagine if you think you’re solving your problems by adding armor to the fuselage, but the bullet holes in the fuselage aren’t really even your problem.  I have a feeling that this happens more often that we’re aware.  The trouble is…I’ve been looking for instances of this in my own life ever since Adrian told me about this story and I’ve yet to find an application.  That’s why I’m turning to you.  I’m obviously not a genius hired by the military but maybe some of you are.  I think that this idea has real power, but I need someone smarter than I am to help me work though this and show me how to see the blind spots that one wouldn’t even know to look for.

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