The Agincourt Technology Rules

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In 1346, an English army of 16,000 defeated more than 35,000 French at Crecy. Ten years later, 7,000 English defeated 20,000 French at Poitiers. And, in 1415, in a battle immortalized by Shakespeare, 6,000 English repeated the feat against 30,000 French at Agincourt. The English did not have better soldiers. And, at Agincourt the English were ragged, on scanty rations, and tired, but they won. There are three reasons.

Agincourt Technology Rule Nr 1: Technology can change the game.

The English used the longbow which they always called a “war bow”. A trained archer with a longbow could unleash 15 to 20 accurate shots per minute. An arrow with a bodkin point could pierce all but the finest armor of the day and bring down a warhorse at 200 yards. The French did not have the longbow. They had crossbows and a few shortbows, nothing that could pierce armor. At Agincourt, the English fielded five archers for every knight.

Think of how technology has changed the game in the last fifty years. What do you imagine is ahead? 

Agincourt Technology Rule Nr 2: Leadership matters.

The French didn’t have archers because their nobility disdained them. The noble French wanted to fight knight to knight. The French could have triumphed at Agincourt. All they had to do was let the English wander around the countryside until they were out of food and went home. Instead, they chose to force the battle. When they did, Henry V made better use of the terrain and his weapons.

There were several online booksellers on the early web. Only one became the juggernaut that is Amazon. Credit Jeff Bezos’ leadership. If you’re a leader today, one of your challenges is spotting and seizing the opportunities technology makes possible. What opportunities do you perceive?

Agincourt Technology Rule Nr 3: Technology changes us.

The English longbow was different from anything we see today. It was made from a single piece of yew, imported from Italy if possible. There was no recurve. The pull was immense. A modern Olympic bow draws at 40 pounds, but a longbow at Agincourt drew at 100 to 120 pounds. It took a lot of training to use a longbow. Years of practice deformed the bone structure of the archers and created huge muscle mass.

Think about your life before and after smartphones or online shopping or Zoom meetings. How has technology changed you for good or for ill?

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