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045 – Old oak forester beams

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 19, 2019
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling, Podcast

Some 100 years ago, Oxford’s New College faced a crisis. This crisis had been foreseen by the college’s founders, who implemented a plan to be fulfilled 500 years in the future.

Oak tree forest

In this episode, it’s Shawn’s turn to share a historical story. He recounts a crisis faced by Oxford’s New College about 100 years ago. 

An entomologist found the beams in the ceiling of the college’s main dining room riddled with beetles. The beetles had chewed through the beams and had compromised the structural integrity of the building. Little did the college council know, the college’s founders had prepared for this very crisis. 

For your storybank

Tags: long-term planning, planning, preparation, problem-solving

New College, one of Oxford’s newer colleges, was built in the 14th century. About 100 years ago, an entomologist was asked to inspect the beams. He found them riddled with beetles. 

The beetles had chewed through the beams, impacting the structural integrity of the building. 

The entomologist informed the college council. The beams needed replacing, but no one knew where they could source the large oak logs they required. Eventually, a council member suggested they talk to the college forester.

They did as suggested and told the forester about the problem. 

“We were kinda waiting for this to happen,”  he told them. 

When the college was founded, the founders also established a wood filled with English Oak Trees. The trees would be used to replace the beams in the dining hall ceiling, should they have such an issue with beetles. They had prepared well in advance. 

The council soon had the beams replaced.

Podcast transcript coming soon!

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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