Tie Your Shoelaces!

At the company meet-up held at “Dougal McGuire’s” Irish pub, Richard, the CTO,challenged Willie, the CEO, to a shoes lace tie off. Perplexed, Willie agreed.

The adjudicators Emelie – UX team lead, Henry – Marketing Director and Mike – Tech Team Lead, took up position at the front of the bar as a circle of staff and pub patrons formed around the competitors. The timer counted down as Willie recited the Bunny Ears kids rhyme, a source of great joy to the spectators. Richard finished with little notice by the crowd but he is sitting pretty, smug in his seat.

Looking at both shoelaces the judges scored them on design, style, and strength. Mike said Willie excellently executed the overall style and his Bunny Ears song deserved an entry in the local talent competition. Emelie noticed the two different designs, one set of shoelaces hanging left to right whereas the other was heel to toe.

A few of the crowd piped up as Henry stood up, “isn’t it typical the techie stuff goes to Henry.” After looking up and smiling, he proceeded to administer the strength test with all the prowess of a Swiss timekeeper. Pulling down on both laces, one lace sprung open…

Results by all three judges declared Richard the winner, adding that, despite losing, Willie was by far the most stylish.

After the furore died down, the judges and the two contenders got together over a beer to chat about the outcome of the challenge. How Willie’s lace failed the strength test obviously bemused him, so Mike volunteered an explanation, “the simple truth is that, as kids, we learn to tie a granny knot due to the instructions in the Bunny Ears rhyme. However, the correct knot to tie is a bow reef knot.”

“A granny knot can slip when heavily loaded” Mike continued. “A tightened granny knot can also jam and is often more difficult to untie than the reef knot. It is better to tie a reef knot in nearly all circumstances.

The bowknot is a doubly slipped reef knot, designed for quick release and easily comes untied when you pull either of the working ends. During the tying of the knot, the further the loops are pulled, the shorter the working ends become making the knot stronger.”

Willie realised that he had been teaching his own kids the same flawed technique. Being a sailor, he instantly understood the reasoning behind the bowknot. Slightly frustrated that for 45 years his shoes have been opening much too easily, but never questioning it because he had always done it that way.

A phrase he had heard numerous times over his career had just come full circle. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is – we’ve always done it this way.”

Tapping his glass to get the attention of the group again, Willie said, “Tonight has been an amazing learning experience. Having just figured out the importance of questioning the status quo, I’ve realised we need to learn to always be looking for better ways of doing things, even if it’s something as trivial as tying your shoelaces. It can have a profound effect on your life.”

Explaining the science behind the shoelaces, Willie estimated his shoes opened on average 4 times a day for the last 45 years. A kind estimate of 1 minute lost a day equated to 273.5 days over his lifetime, simply because he never questioned if there was a better way.

One of the company’s values is to be a learning organisation. This goes from top to bottom or from hats to shoes, if you like.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story contact:
Value Driven Software by emailing: info@valuedrivensoftware.com
or telephone on 020 3290 8874