November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. That war was called the Great War, the war to end all wars. Tragically, it was misnamed.
Margaret Macmillan, one of the foremost historians of the First World War, reminds us in her recent Reith Lectures that war does not happen out of the blue. It happens because we choose not to act on the warning signs:
History is not much help when it comes to predicting the future, but it can remind us of the warning signals that always come before wars – the heightened rhetoric, for example, or the inability to understand the other side. What both sides learned in the cold war, sometimes nearly too late, is that they needed to grasp how the other side was thinking and feeling and how it might read or misread signals. In 1983, the Soviet Union became convinced, wrongly, that the United States and its allies were planning a sneak nuclear attack in retaliation for the Soviet shooting down of the Korean airliner KAL 007. Luckily, the west realised this in time and called off a planned military exercise.
The work of listening to and understanding the other is the work of every person, every team, every organization, every community, and every country. This 100th anniversary of Armistice Day reminds us that we ignore this critical work at our peril.
Over the last four years, I have written several posts relating to lessons from World War 1. If you are interested in learning more, please see the following posts:
- When Dysfunction Leads to Disaster — how a project team’s dysfunction led to the First World War
- Seeing is Understanding — on the incredible value of good data visualization
- Calculating the Cost of Collaboration — a World War I Lesson — how the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetary painfully illustrates the true cost of collaboration
Finally, here is the latest installment of the incredible video series on the Great War:
[Photo Credit: https://armistice100.org.uk/]