Why is it so hard to accept change?! – The Story of the 19th century Navy’s Resistance to (Rejection of) the Submarine

(We flew in from Charleston late last night, and I am in “catchup” mode after vacation).

the Hunley at work (a rendering)

One of the many places we toured was the site of the restoration of the Hunley, the first submarine in history that successfully took down an enemy ship.  It is quite a vessel.  A crew of men, turning in unison from a seated, cramped position.  An explosive torpedo loaded at the end of a spar.  On February  17, 1864, led by Lieutenant George W. Dixon, they successfully embedded the explosive in the hull of the USS Housatonic, and she sank in a matter of minutes.  The Hunley also went down (theories abound; the exact reason is unknown), and Dixon and his crew of seven volunteers perished.

So, later in the evening, after our tour, I pulled out my iPad to read about the history of submarines.  Here is a submarine timeline:  WORLD SUBMARINE HISTORY TIMELINE.  And here is the key quote for those of us who think about the difficulty of leading change (I’ve bolded the key line):

1852
Indiana shoemaker LODNER D. PHILLIPS built at least two submarines. The first collapsed at a depth of twenty feet. The second achieved hand- cranked underwater speeds of four knots and depths to 100 feet; Phillips offered to sell it to the U. S. Navy. The response: “No authority is known to this Bureau to purchase a submarine boat . . . the boats used by the Navy go on not under the water.”
During the Civil War, Phillips again offered his services to the U. S. Navy, again, without success.

There it is in a nutshell:  “No authority is known to this Bureau to purchase a submarine boat . . . the boats used by the Navy go on not under the water.”

“This is how we do things around here; we don’t want any of your newfangled ideas; what we’ve always done has worked just fine” — “our boats go on not under the water.”

We also saw a World War II U-boat watch tower on a barrier island.  It turns out that the U-Boats sank quite a few ships off of our coast, more than our government revealed at the time.  And the defense against the U-Boats led to some substantial innovative breakthroughs.

The lesson is clear.  What are you resisting?  Why are you resisting it?  Be careful, your commitment to the “way we’ve always done things” just might cause you to lose your entire ship…

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