Learning and Doing?

(Microsoft, 2014)

This is a story from my husband, Dennis, that perfectly illustrates the learning-doing gap.  My husband was working as a janitor in the 1980s for medium sized printing press which is no longer in business.  Press operators would feed massive rolls of paper into the machines.  There were sharp blades coming down under high pressure to slice & dice massive quantities of paper that were whizzing through the press.  A lot of people would disable the safety devices, allowing them to put their hand on the plating allowing the machine an opportunity to sever off digits.  This was done in a false “Spirit of Efficiency.”

One day, Dennis was thrown on a printing press because he was another warm body and they needed to keep the printing press running while the trained press operator was rushed to the hospital to reattach his thumb.  The first thing that Dennis did was enable all the safety devices.  When a supervisor asked him why, Dennis held up his hand and wiggled his fingers and said, “Because I like these a lot.” He still has all four fingers and his thumbs because he respected the power of slicing and dicing machines.

With no other information, logic would suggest that Dennis would end up in the hospital while the trained press operator wouldn’t.  Yet, the trained operator was the one who cut his thumb off while my husband with no formal training, just by enabling the safety devices, kept his fingers.  Now, my husband did have informal training with slicers and other dangerous machinery during his earlier apprenticeship as a restauranteur.  However, both Dennis and his injured co-worker saw numerous other industrial accidents during their tenure at the same company (his co-worker was actually there longer than Dennis).

Why the learning-doing gap then?  Exposure from an early age about the dangers of slicing and dicing machines?  A larger quantity of exposure? An unhealthy absence of fear? An ego that that says “This couldn’t happen to me?!?”


Microsoft. (2014). Bryce Canyon in Utah in winter [Digital Image]. Used with permission from Microsoft. Retrieved from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=canyon&ex=1#ai:MP900442251|


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