Jacob J. Walker's Blog

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Quote of the Day: “Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.”

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Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.

This sentiment comes from one of the under-recognized great teachers of the 20th century, W. Edwards Deming.  While some people have said that the “total quality” is dead or now irrelevant, I think that we continue to see the issues with businesses, governments, and organizations that don’t work for continual improvement.

I think today’s quote is quite profound, because it gets to the heart of the truth that within our lives, evolutionary forces exist, and that since we currently have little control over our genetics, that the best hope for our survival is through learning.

Also, as a side note, being the scholarly quotographer I am, it is unclear whether Deming said that exact statement, but there is evidence that he said something quite similar, and I would not be surprised in the least if he did in fact put it in this succinct quote that I’m sharing today.   But for the record, here is what Frank Voehl recalls Deming saying in a 1986 seminar (as written in Deming: The Way We Knew Him):

Continual improvement allows people pride with increased productivity. But remember there is NO instant pudding. It is a long journey. Don’t tell me ten ways I can’t do something; tell me one way I can! It’s so easy to do nothing! It’s a challenge to do something. Learning is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. Improvement is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. But to survive, we must learn. The penalty for ignorance is that you get beat up. There is no substitute for knowledge. Yet time is of the essence.

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Written by Jacob Walker

December 16th, 2013 at 11:59 am

Posted in Quotes from Others

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