“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”

Thomas Paine


Created by: the (re) institute llc                All Rights Reserved 2011-2015


story: code word: value

- deciphering Enigma -

what are fifty-thousand lives worth? how about the freedom of the western, if not the entire world? a bit hard to compute, wouldn’t you say?

when you bring people together of different backgrounds, they can’t help but see differently – not so much from one another but together, as a result of one another. that’s what happened in a large victorian mansion in London called Bletchely Park during world war II.

the story is basically this: the allies were losing in 1940 and 1941 at sea to the Germans. by using an encrypted communications code, the nazis were able, time and time again, to coordinate their subs in what came to be called wolf packs, surrounding the unsuspecting allied vessels with devastating effect.

they sank more than 50 ships a month during that period and claimed more than 50,000 lives. had they continued, they would have had high odds of taking their terror global.

the allies needed to break the code. their unique idea for doing so was to bring together a highly diverse group of minds to think differently and creatively about Enigma which was the name the allies gave to the nazi code. instead of the typical mathematicians gathered for such work, they filled that victorian with classists, grand master chess players, crossword puzzle aficionados, and scientists from less than obvious math or code-related fields. together, spurred by the intersection of different ways of thinking, they came up with a solution. it not only stemmed the tide of naval losses, but helped cause a material shift in the war – and the mindset of the allies overall.



stories of value