The pen is mightier than the sword. Really? Because the last time I watched Game of Thrones, Jon Snow wasn’t standing on The Wall shouting for his Parker rollerball.
Nor do I remember Wellington sharpening his quill rather than his sword before entering the fray at Waterloo. And if King Arthur had carried a fountain pen instead of Excalibur, his court would have been more Rotary Club than Round Table.
So, you get the point. When it comes to the business end of a battle, few have turned to their pencil case before their armoury.
That said, the pen’s power doesn’t lie in its ability to injure and harm, although many have used it for that purpose. Instead, it lies in its ability to further our ability to communicate.
The written word is the most omnipresent, enduring and powerful means of communication that humans have developed. Whether scratching charcoal onto cave walls or typing emails on a touchscreen, the written word is at the heart of how humans have communicated with each other for thousands of years.
All our learning and laws are set down in writing. From the ‘back in five’ message left on the corner shop door to the encyclopaedias that line the shelves in the British Library, we trust the written word to convey our meaning, record our evolution and share our knowledge.
And the more we understand each other, the easier it is for disparate communities to find common ground and collaborate for mutual benefit. In the commercial arena, better understanding enables companies to work together and improve the way they deliver the products and services that we all need.
Improved communication and integration lets us see there is more that binds us than separates us. Ultimately it will enable us to break down barriers rather than hide behind them in ignorance.
But imagine we didn’t write things down or share our learning in this way. We would never, like Einstein, be able to stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us. We would struggle to develop and evolve the commercial and societal solutions that make our lives better.
Capturing our ideas and sharing them is one of the most powerful things we can do as a race and it is, perhaps, the most important reason that humans have been able to develop sophisticated societies so quickly and successfully.
Not to capture our ideas is to miss out on the opportunity of contributing to that shared evolution and working towards a more harmonious future for everyone.
Perhaps, therefore, the point about the pen being mightier than the sword lies in its ability to avoid conflict rather than to play a part in any conflict. By effectively sharing and collaborating we can find solutions to our problems rather than fighting over our differences.
The questions, therefore, is how well do you share your learning and seek to explore what others have to share?