We can neither regulate the complexity of our environment nor the
number of problems which we must settle within a given time.
But we can improve the conditions very much by avoiding
overconcentration on unimportant details. The brain's best time
and energy should be reserved for our own immediate problems; it
should not be hampered by details of others.
The various officers of an industrial organization should know the
ins and outs of the thinking machine on which they depend for
guidance. With such knowledge each brain will give the greatest
results, and without such knowledge the best brain may be
One of the important characteristics of the mind is its tendency
to lose sight of everything except the subject in mind. One danger
is dodged by jumping into another which we have not seen. Both
dangers were plainly in sight to any one who had not concentrated
on one of them.
In the regular every-day business life, we seem to have ample time
to consider each problem. But in reality our great length of time
is offset by a great number of elements to consider, and a more
profound effect of long continued teaching or molding of our
For years engineers have concentrated energies on the steam-engine
of the reciprocating type. The master-minds have made important
improvements in the design, and many have given up their entire
existence to the science of analyzing the effects of each
variation in conditions of working the steam.
Our textbooks, our teaching, our observation all concentrated our
attention on this type.
For some reason Gustav deLaval, followed by C.A. Parsons and
Nikola Tesla, broke away from this spell, and we have the steam
turbine engine. These individuals are endowed with master-minds,
but the task of producing the turbines was probably no greater
than the task of others in improving the reciprocating type.
In one case a great step has been taken. In the other, we have an
example of men of undoubted ability laboring hard for entire
lifetimes with relatively small gain.
This example applies to more than the inventors' world. It has
many parallels in the cold business management of a manufactory
and in any one of its departments. Business management requires
the same kind of reasoning and getting away from the spell of
environment. But this phase we shall consider later under another
The point to be brought out here is the effect of the spell of
environment in magnifying the importance of existing views and
methods, and the deceptive part this trusty brain plays in binding
us to unnecessarily hard work.