To the Innovation Engineering movement and myself....Dr. Deming is our intellectual inspiration and Dr. Franklin is our spiritual inspiration. Together this duo form a "whole brain." 308 years ago on Milk Street, in the city of Boston, Benjamin Franklin was born. He was the fifteenth of seventeen children.
His life as an entrepreneur, writer, scientist, diplomat and never ending learner has inspired millions.
Core to Ben Franklin and Dr. Deming was a belief in the fundamental good of people. Dr. Franklin famously wrote of the importance of collaboration - writing "There is never a good war or a bad peace." To this end he went to great lengths to negotiate with King George - long after others had given up at the cause. When the split with England was forced upon him - he turned to his fellow country men and urged them to work together preaching famously "We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
These two quotes from Ben Franklin are well known.
For this post - and each year on this date in the years to come - I am going to bring to life a deeper understanding for Benjamin Franklin by providing quotes that are less known but equally relevant, interesting and/or entertaining today.
Each year I will go back 253 years and bring to life quotes from what Franklin wrote during that year. Unlike many Internet Quotes that are sometimes real and sometimes not - I'm going to the authoritative source - The Papers of Benjamin Franklin published by Yale. It's a collection of 40 volumes of everything that has been found and verified as being written by Franklin.
And with that I begin what I hope is a tradition that goes on by me for 30 more years :).
In 1761 - Benjamin Franklin he was in London as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly. He had been there since 1757. He spent that summer - as he did every summer - on a 5 week trip of learning. In 1761 his trip was to the Netherlands.
Here's a selection of quotes from what he wrote that year...
He believed in never ending learning. Among the many ways he did that was with the Junto - a club for mutual improvement. It was a place where the tradesmen of Philadelphia would gather to share learnings. In 1761 writing to Hugh Roberts, a friend in Philadelphia he wrote. "You tell me you sometimes visit the Junto. I wish you would do it oftener. I know they all love and respect you and regret your absenting, yourself so much People are apt to grow strange and not understand one another so well, whiny they meet but seldom. Since we have held that Club till we are grown grey together, let us hold it out to the End. For my own Part, I find I love Company, Chat, a Laugh, a Glass, and even a Song, as well as ever; and at the same Time relish better than I us'd todo, the grave Observations and wise Sentences of old Men's Conversation: To that I am sure the Junto will be still agreeable to me as it ever has been: I there fore hope it will not be discontinue'd as long as we are able to crawl together. "
He believed in focus. In 1761 he wrote "He who exerts all his strength in one direction will move farther in that direction than if he had exerted it in several."
He believed in education and the power of youth. In 1761 he wrote Lord Kames, "By alluring Youth to the Practice of Reasoning, you strengthen their Judgement, improve and enlarge their Understanding, and increase their Abilities of being useful. To produce the Number of valuable Men and Women necessary in a Nation for its Prosperity, there is much more Hope from Schemes of early Education than from those of Reformation."
He believed in the power of writing. In the same letter to Lord Kames he said "And as the Power of a single Adult to do National Service, in particular Situations of Influence, is often immensely great; a Writer can hardly conceive the Good he may be doing when engaged in Works of this kind. "
He loved a good wine. He send John Quincy grape vines to help him develop a business with wine. He wrote Quincy in 1761 "As New England trades to Spain with their Fish, it would I imagine, be easy for you to furnish yourself at the best hand with Plenty of Grapes, and from them produce a genuine Wine of real Worth, that might be sold by you for good Profit. Being lately at a Friend's House where I drank some old Wine that I found to be very good. I heartily wish you Success in your Attempts to make Wine from American Grapes. "
He Loved Scotland. It was to Lord Kames that he said, "Certainly I never spent my Time any where more agreeably, nor have I been in any Place, where the Inhabitants and their Conversation left such lasting pleasing Impressions on my Mind, accompanies with the strongest Inclination once more to visit that hospitable friendly and sensible People."
Further notes on Scotland. During 1761 - Scotland was the most literate and educated country on planet earth. It was also in Scotland that Benjamin Franklin was given an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of St. Andrews in 1759. The Doctorate was a big deal to the 53 year old Franklin as he was self educated having only had formal schooling to age 10.
Given Franklins inventions - most famously his discovery that lightning is electricity (published in 1750) it was reasonable to give Franklin a Doctorate. However it should be noted that the reason St. Andrews gave Franklin the Doctorate was they were going through a bad time. They were seeking to improve their reputation and make connections to get students from the Colonies. It worked then and now. Today they have 1,230 Americans among their 7,200 students. And yes - St. Andrews is also where Prince William and Kate met.
Importantly - it was also in Scotland where the Innovation Engineering movement was born. On May 22 and 23, 2002 in partnership with Graeme Crombie of Matrix in Scotland - Maggie Nichols and I gave the first presentation of what is now known as Innovation Engineering. It was at the Royal Troon Hotel - at the famous British Open Golf Course of the same name. So I end this years Franklin letter with a toast to Scotland!
And as Franklin would end his letters
I am, sir Your most Obedient humble servant