By Brian Lucas
A post of mine, “HCM, HIM and Agile are Perfect Together“, had the following reply from Dave Francavilla:
Very comprehensive! What I love is that the basic common theme is derived from simple common sense. The entire world seems to have taken the focus off basic common sense and basic principles of business.
I see Agile as coming to our senses…
Many of today’s businesses suffer from the same lack of basic understanding.
Thanks for your clarity.
This got me to again think about the history of agile which I explored in my webinar, “Is Agile a Fad or an Evolution”, available on the ITMPI web site. The question that I asked myself was, “In the past, from ancient to recent, was there more common sense than there is today.” My method of examining history is to relive it. To travel back in time and become a part of the history that made the world in which I live…
Athens, 423 BC, it is a dry and hot August. It is an ancient city already; first inhabited in the Neolithic period. The violent rains of the wet season are yet to come. The breeze from the west which will turn violent then, is now only mild. On the hill of Pnyx the Athenian Assembly is meeting. The fragrant scents of wine and spices float through the market squares, along with the many voiced sounds of brisk trade. The almost edible, green smell of olives permeates the air in the Agora, the commercial district and social center of the city that lies north of the Acropolis or high city. The many branched olive shrubs, with their rough thick bark are everywhere. Their green/silver leaves shine in the heat of the noon day sun. The stream called the Eridanus, oblivious to the vibrant market activity; flows sluggishly through the city from its birth in the foothills of the Lykabettos on its meandering way to Kerameikos.
I am just inside the colonnade of the Stoa Poecile or “painted stoa” on the north side of the Agora. I am sitting on a marble bench, behind a trellis, festooned with grapes. Along with the simple, yet elegant fountain, adds a cooling touch to the square. There are rows of shops and offices lining the back wall, which is decorated with murals. I am admiring one of Theseus battling the Amazons. I take a sip from my goblet of wine. It is seeped with borage leaves which gives it a slightly minty cucumber taste and sweetened with flowers which give it a honey-like flavor.
Socrates is holding forth in a crowd of citizens, mostly young aristocrats. He is using elenchus with gentle, yet determined efficiency, to destroy the puffery of the young son of a wealthy Archon. His series of questions, each one built upon its predecessor, point out the fallacy of the youth’s pedantic belief. The brilliant irony of Socrates discourse is not lost on the rest of the crowd. A fundamental enlightenment begins to descend upon them, as they begin to question themselves about their own firmly held and unquestioned beliefs. It is almost 2500 years ago, and yet the argument and logic premise I am hearing, is as profoundly self-evident, as any I have ever heard expressed. I think about many of the spurious political arguments, I have heard in my own time. We have indeed devolved in thought from this glorious past’s bright moment in the sun.
Socrates voice fades and I hear the scratching of a pen on parchment. I turn to peer into a rather dark, somewhat gloomy, wood lined room. I see a tall man furiously scratching on foolscap. The floor is littered with crumbled up discards from his current effort. I move closer to this later reality and step into the room. I am standing in the Graff house in Philadelphia. It is June 1776. I am in a parlor on the second floor of the house, newly built in 1775 by a popular bricklayer named Jacob Graff, Jr. I am careful not to disturb the piles of papers on the floor. The windows are open, though the shutters are drawn. Through the window, the horse smells from the nearby stable, simmer in yet another hot day, even though the house lies on the outskirts of town.
I glance down at the pen; to my surprise it is not a quill pen but a metal one. Nearby is an engraved pen case with the name of William Cowan, a Richmond watchmaker logoed on it. A decanter of Madeira, and a half empty glass stand on the sideboard. The man writing is Thomas Jefferson. He is working at a curiously designed portable mahogany writing desk. It was built especially for him by Benjamin Randolph, a Philadelphia cabinet maker. Fast by Jefferson, are copies of “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”, his own draft for a Virginia state constitution, and the “Virginia Declaration of Rights” drafted by George Mason.
He references these papers often as he works. Glancing down at the document, I notice he is writing, though quickly, in a firm and even hand. He has just finished the opening paragraph. The following words are flowing onto the paper as if by magic: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —“
The words self-evident, strike me almost as a blow. These thoughts, as profound as they are, were self-evident or common sense, to this group of people that lived over 236 years ago. They didn’t have the advantages of modern public libraries, the internet, television, email and smartphones. I think about all the spurious political arguments from all sides in modern elections. It is disgusting how politics has degenerated.
I hear an incessant chirping sound. My droid bionic is telling me I have to run to a meeting in the future. Jefferson and his room fade down the long corridor of the past. I come back to the present where I am sitting in my study at me desk. I think about what I have seen and learned. In the past, people thought more. They were generally more practical and had more common sense. They didn’t have all the distractions we have today, being constantly bombarded by trivial news that has denuded the populous of thought. Today, a once proud media, has been taken from the public trust and been demeaned into a mockery called “newstainment”.
People of previous eras had to think more on their own. Discussion, argument and logical discourse were the means of reasoning. People had less education and more common sense, because they had to have these qualities or they would not survive. They adapted to challenging circumstances, without massive planning and with minimal resources. They did what they had to do; learning as they went along.
This was never truer, than in the American west. It was a time when the final exams in your life’s education, were given by an unforgiving environment and hostile natives. Failure was usually fatal. Adaptability was something everyone took for granted. I’ll have to travel back there soon to do some additional research. I plan on having a chat with Bat Masterson. I have always found him to be an erudite and personable conversationalist.
So I believe that agile, which I often equate to adaptability, was stronger in our past. It is now something we are rediscovering, because we must, in order to survive the new wave of future shock that is now challenging us. I believe we will survive this. Some will unfortunately fall along the wayside; others will benefit greatly. We will be stronger for having weathered this change; becoming a more thoughtful people once again, because it is required of us. I hope you enjoyed time traveling with me. Let me know what you think and remember to – keep agile!
 I have included some footnotes for those of you who are more comfortable with mundane internet surfing than time travel.
 The Neolithic Period, derived from (neos, “new”) and (lithos, “stone”) is known as the New Stone era. It began about 10,200 BC. It is considered to be the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic began with the rise of farming and the use of both wild and domestic crops along with domesticated animals. It ended when metal tools became widespread during the Copper Age or Bronze Age.
 The Pnyx is a hill in central Athens, the capital of Greece. Beginning as early as 507 BC, the ancient Athenians gathered on the Pnyx to host their popular assemblies. The Pnyx is located less than 1 kilometer west of the Acropolis.
 The agora was originally a gathering place where citizens would gather to hear military orders. At the time I am writing of it also served as a marketplace where merchants kept stalls or shops to sell their goods amid colonnades. The word agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces or public situations, derives from the meaning of agora as a gathering place.
 The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The word acropolis comes from the Greek words (akron, “edge, extremity”) and (polis, “city”).
 Also known as Lycabettus, Lycabettos, Lykabettos or Lykavittos is a Cretaceous limestone hill in Athens, Greece. At 277 meters above sea level, the hill is the highest point in the city that surrounds it. Pine trees cover its base. Tales say it was once the refuge of wolves, which gives it the origin of its name (which means “the one (the hill) that is walked by wolves”).
 An area of Athens, Greece, located to the northwest of the Acropolis, which includes an extensive section both within and outside the ancient city walls, on both sides of the Dipylon Gate. It was the potters’ quarter of the city, from which the English word “ceramic” is derived, and was also the site of an important cemetery and numerous funerary sculptures erected along the road out of the city towards Eleusis.
 In ancient Greek architecture they were covered walkways or porticos, commonly for public usage. Early stoas were open at the entrance with columns, usually of the Doric order, lining the side of the building; they created a safe, enveloping, protective atmosphere. Later examples were built as two stories, with a roof supporting the inner colonnades where shops or sometimes offices were located. They followed Ionic architecture. These buildings were open to the public; merchants could sell their goods, artists could display their artwork, and religious gatherings could take place. Stoas usually surrounded the marketplaces of large cities. The name of the Stoic school of philosophy derives from “stoa”.
 It pays to be prepared when time traveling in hot weather.
 Elenchus is an argument of disproof or refutation. It is the central technique of the Socratic Method. In Plato’s early dialogues, it is the technique Socrates uses to investigate, subjects like the nature or definition justice or virtue.
 The chief magistrate in ancient Greece city states.
 Jefferson often complained to me about the smell when we were dining at the City Tavern which was constructed in 1772. I always rather fancied the roast pheasant.
 See Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche