“That’s the Way We Always Did It”

A few weeks ago while down at Georgetown Michael Potters was sitting with a friend of his, Dan Regard, Founder and MD of Intelligent Discovery Solutions.

He shared a story that Michael found so profound he asked Dan if he wanted to Guest Blog on eDiscovering. Dan being the smart marketeer that we all know him for, of course, approved.

So here is Dan’s guest blog:

Does the statement, “We’ve always done it that way” ring any bells… ?

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads. Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used. Why did “they” use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse’s ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses. Now the twist to the story…

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass. … and you thought being a HORSE’S ASS wasn’t important!

If you would like to thank Dan for his profound blog, you can email him at dregard@iDiscoverySolutions.com.  Thank you, Dan, for your contribution.

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Glenmont Group is a boutique search firm that concentrates on Professional Services, with a focus in the Legal & Content space. Because we are a highly focused boutique firm, we offer expertise in the industry that other search firms cannot. Our staff has been trained on, employed in or consulted for these industries so there is no learning curve. This means that you will not see resumes off of "job boards" that seem to have little or no connection to the position you are trying to fill. In fact, just the opposite is true. Our process includes a competitive analysis that identifies the top candidates in your given field. At Glenmont Group, we strive to develop and maintain long-term professional relationships with our clients. We believe in a business relationship based on hard work, cooperation, integrity, trust and a sense of humor. We are also active members in our industries by working on or with the Executive board of our industry trade organizations such as; IQPC, EDRM, LMA, PMA, ALSM, ALA, AIIM, ARMA. This assures constant access to a network of those highest quality candidates who are involved in these organizations.

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