Nicholas Hook shoved his arrow into the soldier’s eye socket and kept pushing until he felt the arrow slide through the soldier’s gelatinous brain and finally come to a rest at the back of the skull…
OK – the above is an “attention-grabber” (I hope it worked 😊) that actually happened in a book I just read about Agincourt – one of the most famous and gruesome battles in history.
The book was Agincourt, a historical novel by Bernard Cornwell, who is famous for historically accurate recreations of renowned battles from the Viking wars through Napoleon.
His books are very appealing to adolescent males and surprisingly immature 57-year-olds (aka me) b/c of their very graphic and accurate descriptions of battle scenes (see above).
I read the book to get a break from my constant diet of business books, but I still found some very compelling business lessons that I wanted to share.
Briefly, Agincourt is the famous battle that Shakespeare wrote about in “Henry V.” Henry was in France with a rag-tag army of about 6,000 men trying to reclaim French territory that he thought rightfully belonged to England.
The French not-surprisingly heartily disagreed with Henry and met him at Agincourt with an army of 30,000, where they promptly got their asses kicked despite having a five to one numerical advantage.
Below are the reasons why the English won so handily.
This is probably the biggest single factor that swayed the battle in favor of the English. The English had longbows while the French had crossbows. Longbow “technology” had been around for over 100 years but the French refused to embrace it, despite the enormous advantage longbows provided.
Longbows are extremely powerful bows (they could pierce medieval armor) about six feet in length that allow archers to shoot arrows at a rate of 15 to 20 per minute! In contrast, crossbows are not only weaker than longbows, but they can only be shot two to three times per minute.
The Agincourt battlefield was literally shrouded by a cloud of arrows. The French refused to embrace longbows b/c of the very long and intense training they required – about ten years on average.
Even the strongest of men cannot begin to fully draw (let alone aim) a longbow unless they have had years of practice.
Another reason the French lost was mud.
The English were very lucky that the battle took place in a deeply plowed field right after heavy rains. The entire French army, sitting on large horses and clad in heavy armor, literally got stuck in the mud, making them sitting ducks for English archers.
Henry was certain this was God’s providence but it might be another example of luck derived from simply taking action.
This was particularly interesting to me. The English were led by one man – Henry V – who was solely in charge of planning and strategy.
The French army in contrast was comprised of numerous factions led by various members of the gentry, with no single leader overseeing operations.
The French thought they had nothing to worry about in any case b/c of their massive numerical superiority; they were of course amazingly wrong.
Somebody on the French side should have yelled: “Mec nes pas courir dans la boue!” (“Dude, don’t run into the mud!”)
I loved this lesson most of all b/c we see companies play “the numbers game” over and over in both of the mortgage and real estate industries.
All too many firms simply try to hire more and more bodies to grow volume without any underlying strategy in place.
This works great as long as the market is great and no competitors come along with their proverbial longbows to wipe us all out.
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