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The Riddle of the Miners

In a book on investing I came across a riddle of two miners who emerge from a mine, one with a clean face, the other with a dirty one. The question is, which of the two will wash?

             The author offers three possible answers:

(1) The dirty one.

(2) The two miners will look at one another, and, seeing his partner’s clean face, the dirty one will assume that his own is clean, and vice-versa. So the clean one will wash.

(3) It’s a bogus riddle, based on a false assumption; it’s impossible for two men to be so differently affected by the same experience.

                 In my experience the correct answer is none of the above; rather, the clean one will wash his face because his appearance coming out of the mine reveals his commitment to cleanliness.

               I learned this (or learned that this is what subconsciously I believed) from the former employee communications director of a major corporation. When he was forced to golden-parachute and became a consultant, he made a list of all the major corporations whose employee communications were, let’s say, “dirty” — that is, in need of great improvement. He approached the managements of all these companies and did not get a lick of work. So then he turned to the “clean” companies, those whose internal communications were so good, they didn’t seem to have any need for his services. Quickly he had more work than he could handle.