Shakespeare, the Bible, Einstein et al on Doing Development Differently

April 4, 2017

     By Duncan Green     

Just finishing ‘Building State Capability’, a wonderful new book from the Doing Development Differently crew. Review on its way tomorrow, but in the meantime, sit  back and enjoy these wonderful epigrams, which open the book:

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.

Early PDIA seminar

Early PDIA seminar

Now appoint us a king to judge us [and rule over us] like all the other nations.” But their demand displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge and rule over us.” … . Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king … But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations … ”

Samuel 1:8 (c. 600 BCE)


We must not make a scarecrow of the law,

Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,

And let it keep one shape, till custom make it

Their perch and not their terror.

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure Act 2, Scene 1


Theory is when you know everything and nothing works. Practice is when everything works and nobody knows why. We have put together theory and practice: nothing is working … and nobody

Learning by failing

Learning by failing

knows why!

Attributed to Albert Einstein


We have added much new cultural material, the value of which cannot be discounted; however, it often fits so ill with our own style or is so far removed from it that we can use it at best as a decoration and not as material to build with. It is quite understandable why we have been so mistaken in our choice. In the first place, much has to be chosen, and there has been so little to choose from.

Ki Hajar Dewantara, Indonesian educator (1935)


[W]e tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it is for creating the illusion of progress at a mere cost of confusion, inefficiency and demoralization. Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Marauders (1959: 72) The term “implementation” understates the complexity of the task of carrying out projects that are affected by a high degree of initial ignorance and uncertainty. Here “project implementation” may often mean in fact a long voyage of discovery in the most varied domains, from technology to politics.

Albert Hirschman, Development Projects Observed (1967: 35)Frank Robinson


If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.

Baseball great Yogi Berra, advising a young player who was mimicking the batting stance of famed slugger Frank Robinson