Geoff Ficke's fallacies

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.

In search for remedies against the waste at American corporations Geoff Ficke turns to ... Soviet Union ! He observes that:

"The Soviet Union was very competitive with the United States in the race to outer space. Using inferior equipment, the most basic technology and primitive logistics the Russians, nevertheless, maintained an active space program. The American space program was blessed with amazing levels of funding, pristine facilities and a military/industrial/scientific support complex unlike any in the world. Yet, despite the huge disadvantages the Soviets faced, they were more than competitive. They had to be. They had no margin for error or waste.

A perfect metaphor for the difference between fat, happy and wasteful, and lean, creative and thrifty is the development of the space pen. The simple act of writing in the zero gravity atmosphere of outer space was actually quite a challenge. The National Aeronautic and Space Association (NASA) tried to perfect such a writing utensil without success. Contracts to develop and produce such an implement were let on several occasions. However, none of the prototypes offered could withstand the effects of gravity, extreme propulsion and weightlessness all occurring inside the enclosed environment of the space capsule. Millions of dollars were spent in pursuit of a customized space specific writing implement.

When the Soviet Union fell, and the two countries began space collaboration, an interesting discovery was made. American scientists asked their Soviet counterparts what they used to write in space. The Soviet reply: “A #2 lead pencil”. The Soviets did not have millions of rubles to waste. They reverted to a simple common sense answer to a basic need. The Americans were able to spend millions to pursue an obtuse technical solution to this simplest of problems because they simply could. The money, though wasted, was of little import in the huge financial machinations and of NASA and the federal government."

So, the Soviets were thrifty and incurred less waste because they were poor. It is a very timely thought ! And quite in line with the current drive of making Americans poorer.

But the irony is that the Soviets always thought that Americans were rich because they were thrifty and less wasteful ! They always pointed out to the tremendous waste at their enterprises and tried to learn from the West how to be lean. In this regard, Geoff Ficke should know that the story about the space pen (that he cites to corroborate his theory of thriftiness of Russians) is nothing but a myth.

The error of Geoff Ficke's thinking is that he knows just one difference between the Soviets and Americans (the former were poor and the latter were rich) and see it as the cause of competitiveness of Russians in space. He did not bother to investigate other differences. Meanwhile they existed. For example, in the level of soberness and in the amount of sex at the workplace. Below is the table summarizing these differences:

Sexual relationships/harassment at the workplace Drinking of alcoholic beverages at the workplace
Soviet Union Practically non existent Substantial
America Abundant Practically non existent

What if Russians were creative and competitive in space because they had less sex in the workplace rather than because they were poor ? Or what if the reason was that they were less sober ? Did Geoff Ficke investigate these possibilities ?

Meanwhile, one is clear as day: the amount of sexual relationships between workers significantly exacerbates the non-Newtonian dynamics of enterprises. Punishing (rather than encouraging or tolerating) sexual relationships between workers is a good safeguard against non-Newtonian dynamics.