While individuality is a wonderful thing, there is also a certain strength to people working together as a group. An individual Swiss pike man would not stand a chance against several armored knights. But a group of Swiss pike men changed the course of history. James Burke, in episode 8 of his TV series CONNECTIONS, showed how the best armored knights, that money could buy, were upended by wall of pikes wielded by relatively poor Swiss pike men.
Working, thinking and acting as a group also found application in commerce as well as war. In another work Burke in his book THE PINALL EFFECT recounts the impact of the Non-Conformists. These were people who would not swear allegiance, or conform, to the established Church of England. They were not allowed to go to the university. Their means of earning a living was restricted basically to commerce. So these Non Conformists had to set up their own schools and societies. While restricted these Non Conformists were also focused. Some of them even developed thriving institutions. How many people today know that Lloyd’s Bank of London was founded by the despised, outcast Quakers?
Of course working as a group in coordinated fashion or generating volume need not be in the context of war or peace time discrimination.
Generating volume and working as a group can be used in the context of purchasing items or saving money.
The son of Seminary professor and Lutheran Hour speaker Walter Maier (WAM), Walter Jr. saw an offer by baseball player Dizzy Dean
through Post Grape nuts. The offer required a certain number of box tops to get prizes such as baseball gloves. Collecting the
required number of box tops would probably be difficult or next to impossible. The offer was most likely a promotional to get children
to buy more of the product. To counter this challenge of getting enough box stops young Walter Jr. engaged in a creative
entrepreneurial endeavor. He talked to the cook and nutritionist, of the seminary. He asked her to collect the box tops of the cereal
served to the 400 seminary students. He also asked her to serve more Grape nuts. That way the children of the seminary professors were
able to get baseball uniforms, mitts, chemistry sets microscopes and tennis rackets. Several months later Post informed WAM Jr. that the
offer had ended. He was philosophical about it, for he got most of the items offered
This writer remembers a Nikkei Weekly article, which wrote of Japanese consumers who banded together to buy in bulk from a volume store like COSTCO. One person buying 100 tennis shoes is an unreachable goal for most people. But if 100 people band together and buy in bulk then the cost of shoes per a person goes down. This writer cannot remember the exact date and page of the article. However a web search turned up an article which, sort of, confirms this practice. A Japan Today article (February 21, 2011) has an interview with Ken Theriault, who heads the Japan Costco operations. In response to the question “What buying trends do you see among Japanese consumers?” Mr. Theriault mentions in his response that some members divide the product among themselves.
Perhaps the effect of a coordinated, focused group effort could be summed up in an illustration. A woman, from the European nation of Austria recounted an incident, to this writer. Her husband was working, in the Asian country of Australia, as a waiter. At one party the
Japanese ambassador was in attendance. The ambassador noticed the husband’s accent and started talking to him. The husband asked if Japan would ever recover. The Ambassador responded if 100 people pull on one string they will get somewhere.
(the TV series) Episode 8. “Eat, drink and be Merry.” between the 7 to 11 minute mark. Currently this episode can be found on YouTube
THE PINBALL EFFECT by James Burke. pp 277-278
A MAN SPOKE, A WORLD LISTENED: The story of Walter A. Maier by Paul Maier. pp. 148-149