Little Red Hen and the smell of freshly baked bread

Little Red Hen and the smell of freshly baked bread

Little Red Hen and the smell of freshly baked bread

“It’s not what you believe, but how you believe it that matters.” Tom Davidson

Jonathan Yudelowitz

One day, Little Red Hen came across a sack of corn in the barnyard. She was a barnyard animal like all the others, but she was particularly intelligent and observant.

What’s more, she had an imagination. And that meant, right away, she had an idea. A brilliant idea of how she could put the sack of corn to good use and transform the lives of all the animals. So, she called them all together.

“I’ve watched what the farmer does,” she said. “Instead of sitting around all day, we can become farmers too. We can grow our own corn.”

But the animals were happy with life as it was. They enjoyed their lazy days. And so they laughed at Little Red Hen and her crazy idea.

But that didn’t daunt Little Red Hen. The next morning, she called her chicks and while the other animals lay drowsing in the sun, they set about planting the corn.

The summer was a good one. The rains came. The sun beat down. And the corn grew and grew.

Little Red Hen called the barnyard animals together.

“My seeds have turned into golden corn. I’ve watched the farmer and I know what to do. It’s time to harvest. Come and help me.”

But the barnyard animals laughed at her again. “Who do you think you are, with your crazy ideas?” They went back to lying in the summer sun.

Now, that didn’t daunt Little Red Hen. Day after day, she and her chicks went out early and came home late. Soon, they looked on with pride at their very first harvest.

Little Red Hen was sure the barnyard animals would now see what she was doing. She called them together.

“I’ve watched the farmer and I know what to do. Help me grind the corn.”

But the barnyard animals only laughed.

Little Red Hen and her chicks ground the corn. Then she called the animals one last time.

“I’ve watched the farmer’s wife,” she said. “Come and help me bake the bread.”

But they laughed and shook their heads.

So, early the next day, Little Red Hen and her chicks started to bake. Soon, the smell of freshly baked bread wafted through the barnyard.

When Little Red Hen took off her apron, she saw that the animals had gathered around.

“Why are you here?”

“Little Red Hen, your bread smells so wonderful! May we have some please?”

And the moral of the story?

To the analysts, the venture capitalists and the market, your crazy idea is an experiment, not an investment. There’s a gulf between an investment mindset and an experimental one. You may persuade a few people to be part of the hard slog to bring your idea to life but, like Little Red Hen, you’ll quickly realise the market won’t be part of it. The market is interested only in results – in the freshly baked bread.

So, what fortified Little Red Hen on her journey and what will fortify you?


Resolve is not a word used much in the business world, but at YSA we use it a lot. Resolve is your sense of self. Your beacon. Your belief in your own belief, if you like. It is the resilience you need, the discipline to stay the course, whatever the headwinds and setbacks.

The American philosopher Tom Davidson puts it aptly. “It’s not what you believe, but how you believe it that matters.”


Even if you have the resolve of Little Red Hen, you must accept that, actually, you do not know if your idea will work. You need to experiment. You need to take on enough risk for your organisation to be interested in the outcome, but not so much that you will permanently damage yourself or the system around you.

That’s key. The purpose of your experiment is not to perform, but to learn. Once you have learnt enough to know that your idea will, indeed, produce a meaningful trajectory into the future, then you can call the barnyard animals to a meeting.


Our modern business culture has an obsession with outcomes and results. In many ways, this is necessarily so. After all, businesses have mandates to deliver on.

But a focus on results is a real obstacle to your business moving forward. The problem is that results are lag indicators. You are harvesting what has already happened. To develop a meaningful trajectory for your organisation, your obsession should not be with what you hope will come about in the future, but with how you will act right now, in the present. How are you going to intervene? How will you act upon your market, your organisation, your culture?

To reiterate Tom Davidson’s words. “It’s not what you believe, but how you believe it that matters.”

In a position of leadership, that is your responsibility.

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