“Our Nation is faced with grave threats of terrorism. I have brought you, my three most senior advisors, here to the edge of this great forest to show me how you might deal with this problem. I have here a rabbit, which will represent a single terrorist. I will release him into this forest, and each of you will be tasked with finding him and bringing him back to me using whatever methods and tools you see fit to employ. I give you unfettered access to every technology we have at our disposal and to our bravest and most experienced men. You will draw lots to see who goes first.”
The first advisor chose to use violence. He took an army of hundreds and blasted his way into the forest. They used flame throwers to burn away the underbrush and cannons to fell the trees. Men armed with the deadliest, most accurate weapons searched for any sign of the rabbit as they cut their way through the brush, killing whatever they found.
The rabbit, hearing the noise, ran as fast as he could, but it seemed to come from all directions. Suddenly he spied the entrance to a small cave — far too small for a man to enter — and ducked inside. He found that the cave went deep, deep into the ground, and he scratched and burrowed until he could go no deeper.
After several hours, the first advisor returned and announced “We have killed almost every animal in the forest, and we have destroyed every possible hiding place. We believe we have eliminated the rabbit threat.” But he could not present the rabbit to prove that it had been found, so the Leader announced that the mission was a failure.
The second advisor chose to use espionage. He deployed teams carrying parabolic microphones, heat sensors and motion detectors. They searched under rocks and through piles of debris, looking for any signs of life in the decimated forest. The rabbit, still hiding in his deep underground cave, had fallen asleep and made no noise, so the devices were not able to locate him. After several hours the second advisor returned and said, “We have searched every inch of the forest, and have found nothing but a few evasive squirrels, which we have detained. We believe the rabbit threat has been eliminated.” But he could not present the rabbit, so the Leader announced that the second mission was also a failure.
The third advisor chose to use coercion. He deployed a band of vicious men into the forest, armed with restraints and terrible instruments of torture. Some time later they returned with a large bear bound in handcuffs and leg irons, covered in bruises and welts. The third advisor presented the bear to the Leader and announced, “After several hours of torture we extracted a full confession. This creature has admitted that he is the rabbit!” However, it was obvious to the Leader that the bear was not a rabbit, so he knew his third advisor had also failed.
Crestfallen, the Leader walked away from his entourage and sat on a large stump at the edge of the ruined, useless forest. He rubbed his eyes, put his head in his hands and said, “All these men, all these tools — all this money and technology — and we can’t find a simple rabbit. How will I ever find the terrorists? What am I going to do?”
As he sat thinking, mired in frustration, he heard someone approach. The Leader looked around and saw a homeless man in dirty, ragged clothes. He noticed that the old man’s eyes were wet with tears.
"Oh, great Leader," the man said, “Why did you destroy this forest, home to so many, including myself?"
“We are trying to understand how to fight the terrorists that threaten our Nation.” the Leader replied.
“Your advisors with their technologies and great weapons understand many things, but the methods they chose will never work, for they do not understand our common nature."
“If you’re so gifted,” the Leader replied, “find the missing rabbit yourself! If you succeed, I will give you a place among my advisors. You may use any of my men and all of our technologies."
"I will not need those things," the old man replied. "I need only your patience."
"You have it."
"Then, ask your men and their machines to withdraw, and assemble in the meadow on the top of the hill. Please wait there. Remain seated and remain silent."
The Leader and his men withdrew. The old man walked to the edge of the decimated forest. He pulled an apple and a small knife from the folds of his coat, cut the fruit into pieces, and laid them on the ground in a line. He sat on a rock just a few feet away, pulled a small wooden block from his pocket and began carving it to pass the time.
Several hours passed. The Leader and his advisors waited impatiently, but remained silent.
Eventually, the rabbit woke up and crept out of the hole. Looking around, he realized that his home had been destroyed. Carefully, he began finding his way through the ruined forest, looking for a way out. After crawling along for some time, he suddenly caught a whiff of a lovely scent — apples! He began to follow the aroma, looking for the source.
Emerging from the edge of the forest, the rabbit saw a piece of apple lying on the ground. He stopped and waited, cautiously listening. After a long time, he decided there was nothing to fear. He crept to the apple and began to nibble. When he finished it, he noticed another slice just a few feet away. He looked around then froze — a few yards away he saw an old man sitting on a rock, quietly whittling. But he was hungry, and the apple was so close…. Slowly he crept closer and closer, prepared to run if the old man made a move. More time passed. Once he decided that there was no threat, the rabbit hopped over and began to eat. This process repeated again and again. Each time he ate a piece of apple, his fear diminished. Finally he hopped, unafraid, toward the last slice. As he began to eat, the old man bent over, picked him up, walked to the meadow and presented him to the astonished Leader.
Every entrepreneur must learn something very important: you cannot make people do what you want. You cannot coerce customers into buying your products and services. You cannot use data or advertising or public relations to force customers to visit your store and pull out their wallets. The only thing you control is your offering. If you understand what people want and offer it, they will come to you.
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