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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

This is sometimes paraphrased as "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" and I saw this in demonstrated recently at the Bromyard Folk Festival.

What they did was to hire the same polished wooden dance floor they and other festivals used a few years back. So, in one sense you could say they had remembered and even celebrated the past - as you might expect for a folk festival.

What they'd forgotten was how difficult and dangerous this floor is to dance on. Basically it's as slippery as several eels and those who didn't fall over had to curtail their exuberance. Even a fairly sedate North West Morris side who danced in one of the intervals in the ceilidh had several falls.

So, why does this failure to learn from history happen? In some organisations, people turnover may mean that the decision-makers simply don't know about past disasters (or triumphs for that matter). Related to this can be the arrogance of the "new broom" - a determination to get away from the past and do exciting new things even if it turns out that these "new" things are in fact old forgotten things discarded for good reason.

Part of the problem may be a reluctance to pay attention to the "old timers".  Using accumulated expertise is a joint responsibility. Not only must the new broom listen to old timer, the old timer needs to make sure they're interesting to listen to.

I recall being an old timer and having a new broom come to me with a "new" idea. I understood her idea immediately,  "Ah, yes! we used to do that. It worked very well! I don't know why we stopped it". She went away knowing she had a tried and tested idea but it had been stopped in the past. All she had to do now was find out why and see if the reasons were still valid.


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