Lessons from Vimy Ridge

Robert Paterson “on organizations and culture” reminds us that Easter is the anniversary of a World War One event known as the taking of Vimy Ridge, in northern France by the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in 1917. He points to an article he wrote on 2001 in which he looks in detail at the lessons to be learned from this event, in particular the planning and organization that went into making it possible.

In case you were wondering what this has to do with learning and autonomy, here’s a quote: “[CEF Commander Arthur] Currie recognized that we each need to be treated as an adult with an area of personal space where we have autonomy or authority to act and choose. Research shows us that people with very limited autonomy become ill and ultimately incapable of making decisions.


The more we apply the rules of the 1970’s the more we risk looking like many generals and armies of the Great War. “Trained during the late 19th century, the British generals were confronted by the weapons technology of the 20th. Rather than evaluate the premise on which the war was being fought, they applied the old concepts or merely improved tactics” (George Cassar – Beyond Courage).


The Canadian Corps was unique in the Great War – because it developed and applied the new rule book. It ended the stalemate and showed how the new technology could be applied. Our forefathers learned how to breakout and to breakthrough. They learned how to learn in the crucible of war. If we are humble enough, we can go back and learn from them.


Paterson identifies a number of lessons to be learned from the Canadian Corps, obviously aimed at corporations and similar organizations, but some lessons highly relevant to educational institutions too.

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