Napoleon, one of the most colorful characters of the 19th century, is often referred to today as the Napoleon complex and comes to mind when short people attempt to compensate for their height with aggressive, bossy attitudes. The mighty power that swept across Europe was overshadowed by its defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and the mighty emperor was placed in a humiliating position. There is another interesting defeat of Napoleon about 8 years before the defeat at Waterloo, which fewer people know about and which those who know make it legendary. This time he was defeated by those who were smaller than him. He was defeated by an army of rabbits that he went to hunt on a hunting party he organized, not the soldiers of another nation.
Napoleone di Buonaparte, son of an Italian nobleman, left his humble life on the island of Corsica and went to military school in France. He learned French at the age of 10. He quickly rose through the ranks of the military school, supported the French Revolution and won great military victories in the 1790s. In May 1804, he was proclaimed Emperor of France by an absolute majority.
After defeating Russia and signing an armistice with the rulers of Russia and Prussia in the summer of 1807, the French decided that it was necessary to throw a party for the senior military. He asks the talented staff, Louis-Alexandre Berthier, to organize a rabbit hunt followed by a banquet-lunch. Although the number of rabbits is exaggerated in the legendary story, Berthier keeps maybe a few hundred or maybe a thousand rabbits in large cages in the field where the party is taking place. So when Napoleon arrives, he will hunt lots of rabbits and have a big hunting party. However, this simple plan will be the scene of unexpected developments.
On the day of the hunt, the rabbits are released while all the guests prepare their guns. Instead of running away from the gunmen, the rabbits start running towards them. First of all, Napoleon and his guests start laughing and having fun with this unexpected gesture of the rabbits. One of the guest soldiers jokes that they are dying to be rabbit stew, and another says confused rabbits… Then the color changes in seconds, fear fills the hearts of the commanders the France’s top performers and Commander-in-Chief Napoleon, hundreds of fearless rabbits salute towards the coming wave. Rabbits surround Napoleon, climb on him, pull on his coat. The soldiers attack the rabbits with sticks and weapons, but the rabbits do not fear or back down. With the help of other soldiers Napoleon desperately reaches his car, this time the rabbit army attacks the car and they try to get inside until the car moves. In the end, Napoleon leaves the hunting party as the fleeing prey, not the hunter. The Rabbit Army conducted a siege no army could even dream of and captured Napoleon. The smaller man was beaten by even smaller rabbits.
How did such a fiasco happen? All arrows point to Napoleon’s right-hand man, Louis-Alexandre Berthier, who hosted the party. Berthier, who has always distinguished himself by his sense of organization, this time made a big organizational mistake. He took things lightly and didn’t do the necessary research and planning. Rather than getting hares for three on the day of the hunt, he opted to source a large number of rabbits from local breeders, disregarding the fact that these domestic animals are used to humans and would think they came to feed them rather than fear them. . This knowledge could have been obtained through research and asking the right questions, and could have prevented disgrace.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE PLANNING ERROR
There may be several reasons why a staff that creates grand war strategies may make a planning error in such a simple organization. Small jobs can often seem like a waste of time for people with big tasks. Their time is precious and they always have more important things to do. They do not give the same importance and the same attention to each task. Details make a job complete. It takes knowledge, patience and care to get the details right. Research is essential to knowledge. You have to think, plan and test every little detail with patience. Maybe Belthier needed to see the rabbits up close. If he had seen how tame they had become, he could have foreseen that they would not be suitable for hunting.
2- To underestimate your enemy. Could there be a more tragicomic situation than when Napoleon and his glorious commanders, who swept across Europe, were besieged by the tiny rabbits they came to hunt? Tiny rabbits versus many gunmen… Perhaps parallels can be drawn with the pandemic and the battle humanity is waging today with its coronavirus. A virus we couldn’t see with our eyes has claimed 4.5 million lives and sickened 219 million. The pandemic has affected people in every country around the world, we have moved our lives and work into homes, we have isolated ourselves, to protect ourselves and the health of our loved ones. However, when cases started to appear in China in early 2020, how was it considered a possibility of contracting the virus? But how many of us could have predicted that the virus would change our lives?
3- Planning according to a unique scenario. When planning an event, it’s not enough to stick to Plan A and not anticipate scenarios where things will go wrong or go unplanned. Most of the time in life we can’t control everything, but we see the benefits of planning as long as we can control it. When we go to a sales meeting in business life, we first listen to the other person and steer our conversation according to their needs, wants, and opinions. Making assumptions without knowing our client and determining the course of this meeting solely based on our own agenda means losing the meeting. When our plans include more than one scenario, we can adapt more quickly and take new positions.
As happened to Napoleon and his soldiers, we could be in for a big surprise as we prepare for the biggest victory. Prior work and planning are essential so that this surprise does not turn into defeat. Don’t underestimate any job or rival. Walk into each meeting with multiple scenarios. You will get closer to your goal every time.