It remains one of my favourite jokes and in setting up my new management consulting business (among other reasons), I have been reminded of this recently. I thought it well worth sharing:
Tom the farmer is tending to a fence running along a paddock full of sheep. Unexpectedly a shiny new convertible drives onto the farm and pulls up near Tom.
A bit confused Tom approaches the driver, who hops out of the convertible wearing a slick Armani suit, a pair of the shiniest shoes Tom had ever seen an obviously expensive silk tie.
Half thinking this guy might be from the bank, Tom stretches out his hand and say: “G’day mate, I’m Tom and this is my farm, can I help you with something?”
“Hi Tom, my name is Nigel and I’m here to help you!” replies the driver.
“Really?” replies Tom, now even more confused, but now slightly intrigued. “And how might you be able to help me Nigel?”
“Well Tom, the best way for me explain is to show you what I can do. How about a little bet?” enquires Nigel confidentially.
“Yes, a bet. I see you’re fixing a fence on that paddock full of sheep. What say if in less than 60 seconds I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have in that paddock, you give me one of them?”
“Well, I know exactly how many sheep are in that paddock, I’ve been farming sheep my whole life and its my job to know stuff like that, but if you can count all of them in less than a minute wearing that fancy suit and those shiny shoes, then I would be impressed! And yep, probably enough to give you one of my sheep. Sure, its a bet.”
Nigel whips out his fancy 2-in-1 tablet computer, with satellite broadband connection. He opens up a fancy new cloud app., overlays google maps, cross tabulates via an API connection with complex formulas his company has developed in an Excel model.
After just 45 seconds Nigel excitedly bursts out with: “There are 1,452 sheep in that paddock!”.
“Wow, very impressive Nigel, with the 7 lambs born this morning, you are spot on – there are exactly 1,452 sheep in that paddock! I guess that means you get to pick one…”
“To save the effort, how about I take this one just here in this paddock” says Nigel proudly as he scoops up the animal and loads it into the back of his convertible.
His heading spinning a bit, Tom makes a bet of his own: “Nigel, in the interest of being fair, you’ve made a bet, now its my turn.”
“Sure Tom, what did you have in mind?”
“How about, if I can guess in one guess what you do for a living, I get my sheep back and you jump in your car and go back to the city from where you came?”
Nigel ponders for a moment and replies “Tom, given you were such a good sport with my bet, and the fact I don’t think you’ll be able to guess in ten guesses let alone 1, I’m in. Let’s do it!”
“Nigel, you are a management consultant.” Tom confidently states.
“Wow, says Nigel, I am impressed, you are right. How on earth did you do that?”
“Oh dear Nigel it was obvious: you turned up here uninvited, you used all manner of fancy crap only to tell me something I already knew, and then, you top it all off by proving you know absolutely nothing about my business, which you came here to talk to me about…”
“Now give me back my dog and buzz off Nigel!”