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« …And they flew. | Main | And may your future be worthy of your dreams. »

October 21, 2016


Posted by FR team Reader comments in the original posting august 2011


Why only corporate world? What about the ones in Washington, very people we trusted who are destroying a great nation because of "EGO"
Posted by: Jason | August 25, 2011 at 10:08 PM

Egos have destroyed many relationships. I lost the person I loved, job that was a heaven and colleagues who (looking at now) very reasonable; all because of E G O.
Posted by: One who lost everything. | August 25, 2011 at 10:33 PM

So what you are saying is that Engineer should compromise on his believes (which were right) and let go. I do not agree. Engineer was honest and like it happens in corporate world, got canned for doing the right thing because it did not pump superior Ego?
Posted by: Engineer | August 25, 2011 at 10:56 PM

Here is an excellent quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer
"Ego is simply an idea of who you are that you carry around with you. As such, it cannot be surgically removed by having an egoectomy! This idea of who you think you are will persistently erode any possibility you have of connecting to intention."
Posted by: longtime Fan of FR | August 25, 2011 at 11:08 PM

In early 70s our had the head of the state who like to be called "The King of The Kings and The Monarch of the Universe, The light of The Aryans, His Imperial Majesty Shah X Y Z of the great state of ABC."
A few years there was a revolution in our country and he was sent to exile and he died a very miserable man; abandoned by the ones who had called him a friend when he was in power. Even his EGO did not carry that far to save him.
Posted by: Reza | August 25, 2011 at 11:25 PM

You have a valid point. I don't think the world is as cut and dry as we would like but I do not recommend lying to stroke another ego as well. I think maybe the best compromise lies in the middle.
Is it possible that the engineer could have approached the situation differently? There doesn't have to be one way of doing things especially when the other person you are dealing with is already unreasonable and resistant. I liken this to dealing with an alcoholic. No matter how much you appeal to reason that alcohol is bad, no matter what data you provide to how many deaths are caused, or you express how hurt their friends and family are; sometimes an alcoholic has to hit rock bottom in order to turn their lives around. Often people need to see it for themselves, through their own mistakes before they can change or see things differently.
In this case, it didn't matter who was right as both ended up dead, a product of their own egos having to assert themselves and who was "right." Perhaps the engineer could have sent the larger one, had it fail under his superior's command, and then sent the right one after? He didn't have to compromise his beliefs but if he perhaps approached it a different way he wouldn't have lost his job (or his head).
Bruce Lee said that he practices, "...the art of fighting without fighting." Perhaps there is something to be learned from that.
Posted by: Rajiv Shah | August 25, 2011 at 11:37 PM

EGO - You cannot help except to play the rule. Rule#1 - The Boss is always right. Rule#2 - If you do not agree with your Boss, go back to Rule#1. What you can do is to work around the situation and find the best timing to turn things around. Let the Boss win first and then bring him back to earth and win over him when situation is right.
Posted by: Danny Choo | August 25, 2011 at 11:50 PM

We cannot assume that either the leader or the engineer would consider that their ego is driving their actions. The leader will speak of responsibility and leadership and decisiveness. The engineer will talk about relying on theory or data. Where is ego? It is hidden, but never to be admitted from within. Only to be analyzed as such by external parties.
A more pertinent consideration in my opinion: what *should* the engineer have done? He had the opportunity to change the outcome but failed (to convince the leader). He acted based on his conviciton but against authorization and in contrary to his own word (having promised to send the larger mast). His theory or data may have been right, but he failed in the communication and that should be just as critical for any good engineer.
Sometimes there can be found a novel solution that supercedes the obvious choices and meets all requirements (technical or bureaucratic) without too much extra effort.
Surely the most famous ancient example of finding a dramatic and superior solution is the story of Alexander the Great in Phyrgia and the Gordian Knot ...possibly the first case of "hacking" in history ;-)
While in university, I also had opportunity to hear Freeman Dyson (British physicist) talk about an experience he had had with Richard Feynman (American). Given the mathematical problem of optimizing the geometric packing of shapes, modeled by foam spheres into a cubic box, Feynman looked at the shapes and the box, then proceeded to squeeze and jam all of the available shapes in the box. (In effect what he did was not merely to act cute, but to demonstrate that using established methods and rules may or may not yield the best and most efficient solution.)
So here is what I would have considered to do: Send both the large and small masts to the leader, with explanatory note or messenger to use the smaller mast as a back-up, or to follow-through with the details after the larger mast had made it's impact.
Can other's think of a more clever solution?
Posted by: microCEO | August 26, 2011 at 02:14 AM

I have a great book on Siege Warfare. There were accounts about when confronted with the wall, they would simply tunnel under (and some who did not tunnel deep enough and the wall collapsed down on them). As for the comment about the smaller mast, this I believe is the same idea behind the military’s copperhead missile (thin copper rod which impacts so hard, it forms a plasma and burns its way through the armour to the tank’s interior and then causes a multitude of damage to those inside).
Hope you have a good weekend. Getting ready out here for the hurricane.
Posted by: Eastcoast | August 26, 2011 at 06:05 AM

The military, like many companies, takes the chain of command concept seriously. If the soldier/engineer presents analysis to the general and the general decides against the recommended course of action, the soldiers don't get to ignore it and do whatever they feel is right. At least in the corporate world, if you disagree with your CO you're free to leave.
Posted by: fred | August 26, 2011 at 07:27 AM

An engineer's job is not to be "right," or to prove repeatedly that he's the smartest guy in the room. The engineer's job is to solve problems. Knocking down the wall was not time-critical, and there was nothing to be gained by defying management orders to prove he had analyzed the situation better. It's not enough to be smart, you have to know how to be effective.
Posted by: Thomas | August 26, 2011 at 08:19 AM

Micro CEO -
Well said. This is a good example of how to approach a problem differently and come to a solution that would please both sides.
EGO is tricky. It seems like it is your best friend, your protector even. Often all it serves to do is distance yourself from others as it is ultimately self-serving.
This wasn't about who was right it was ultimately about two egos clashing and a lyric from the band Guns N Roses comes to mind (which is used from the film COOL HAND LUKE):
"What we've got here is a failure to communicate - some men you just can't reach..."
Posted by: Benjamin | August 26, 2011 at 12:21 PM

My takeaway is that the engineer looked at the situation only from a technical perspective while the king looked at the issue only as disobedience. Both were wrong and ultimately, lost their lives. The big picture perspective is what micro CEO mentioned in his response. I learnt this the hard way at work, not so long ago :)
Posted by: Sam | August 26, 2011 at 04:59 PM

Truly good, in my case specially a good reminder
Posted by: MGCT | August 27, 2011 at 08:14 AM

It seems that a lot of the egos is not asking the right questions to the right people, or explaining the options.
Posted by: Kay | August 27, 2011 at 08:17 AM

Listening to suppliers' reasons carefully is always important...My takeaway from this story
Posted by: Zhicong Deng | August 27, 2011 at 10:20 PM

It is easy to see after the result is out. Both Mucianus and the engineer had their "believes". Mucianus was the consul and had the power. In today's world, many CEOs have been fired by the board. Not all decisions made by the board are correct, look at what have happened in HP and AMD.
Posted by: NJ | August 28, 2011 at 08:20 PM


Engineers said Newtonian physics does not allow a howitzer to shoot more than 20 miles and then came Gerald Bull who had one that shot 30 miles! He also built one that shot 100 miles straight up and this was in the 60s when engineers already knew everything about guns! One last point, disregarding orders in a time of war is bad and is never acceptable. A person may think they know better and in some (one) instance may be right, but an army runs on discipline and without it there is chaos. And when you disobey you take your chances and it usually ends badly.


Oh this is a good one… lots for young employees to learn from this!


As so many leaders do, Mucianus asked the wrong question. He didn't request the "best" mast to knock down the wall, he requested the "biggest." His order, instead of focusing on the result he wanted, contained his own opinion of the solution that he was not qualified to arrive at. This is an incredibly common failing among business executives. They claim to hire the best people, but then second-guess and overrule them. A sad waste of everyone's time.


This great story came in the right time. I have exactly the similar situation to address at work now.


Problem Solving 101

Step 1: Define Problem Statement (agree on common objective).
As already stated by others, instead of focusing on the common objective (the WHAT), Consul Mucianus and Mister Engineer were campaigning only for their respective solution (the HOW). Neither could see through the other's words because of ego and closed minds.

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