138 – Scurvy sailors served sauerkraut

Pushing ideas and actions on people will only lead to resistance. Listen to hear how Captain James Cook used a pull strategy to save his crew from scurvy.

Hello! This week on Anecdotally Speaking, Shawn shares a historical story that he came across reading The Status Game by Will Storr. It provides an example of using a pull strategy rather than a push strategy: pulling people into a solution rather than pushing it at them. 

Shawn also mentions his upcoming webinar with Tim Baker and Meghan Ede, Five Story Rich Conversations to Build a Performance Culture. For more information and to register, click here

For your storybank

Tags: behaviour change, change, experiments, status, persuasion

This story starts at 03:02

Scurvy was a big problem in the age of sail (from the 1500s to 1800s). When planning voyages, it was anticipated that about half a crew would die from the disease.

A lack of vitamin C, usually sourced from fresh fruit and vegetables, causes scurvy. Over several years, experiments were conducted to overcome the disease. And one of the captains chosen to test different solutions was Captain James Cook.

In 1769, Cook left for the South Pacific—a long voyage. He was asked to take along 8,000 pounds of sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a rich source of vitamin C, so if he could get everyone eating it, there would be no problems.

But Cook knew he would struggle to get the British sailors eating it. So, when they set off, he made the sauerkraut available only at the captain’s table—accessible only to him and his officers.

Soon word got out that the captain and his officers were enjoying it. It then didn’t take long for the rest of the crew to start demanding their share.

Cook relented and made the sauerkraut available to everyone. Throughout the multi-year voyage, there were no cases of scurvy.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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