Wednesday, 1 April 2009


I was in London last Sunday wandering around the Science Museum. It doesn’t change much – favourite exhibits like Babbage’s Difference Engine still capture my imagination. It’s always a grand day out – particularly if you have kids and want to see some of the original Wallace and Gromit sets which are on show until November 2009.

But I discovered a new bit on this latest visit – Shipping. I’d already seen Samuel Plimsoll’s statute in London a few months before and the
Plimsoll line story had anchored itself somewhere in my brain. So I was keen to have a look. We wandered round and found models of ships with numbers and lines painted on the sides. It was riveting stuff.

“So did he invent gym shoes as well?” was the inevitable joke. “Nah – that was his brother – they were a talented family…” Yup, the conversation was almost as inspiring as the exhibits.

Of course it wasn’t his brother, but the gym shoes were named after him in a way. When these new canvass shoes became all the rage they had a thin rubber band running around the shoe to stop the top and bottom sections coming apart. It looked like the Plimsoll line that had just been introduced in 1867. So the shoes became plimsolls and Mr Plimsoll was famous twice over.
The shoes didn’t visualise any sort of data, but they were well suited to sport which has inspired business with many great performance management ideas.

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