Einstein, Cotton Fields and Sweatshops

Not long ago, I was reading an article in Fortune Magazine, entitled, “The Desperate Search for the Next Great American Idea”, when I stumbled on a quote that resonated deeply with me and is as follows:

I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain, than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweat shops.”

– Stephen Jay Gould, Evolutionary Biologist

I got to thinking about this statement and the power of it in terms of operational excellence. If it is true, by Stephen Jay Gould’s estimation, that people of equal talent to that of Einstein have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops, what latent talent of that caliber exists on the shop floors and front lines of our manufacturing and service industries? How do we tap into that talent in the individual plants, call centers and kitchens? What value can tapping into that talent bring to the businesses where it exists?

This is a subject that should be of concern to every executive, manager and associate within any enterprise seeking operational excellence and truly sustainable results.

It is definitely something worth pondering.

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