In 1855, Prussia and Austria were competing for dominance over the new federation of German states.

The Austrian army was equipped with the Lorenz rifled-musket.

It was called a rifled-musket because the barrel was rifled to make the projectile spin for greater accuracy, but it was a muzzle-loader like a traditional musket.

But the Prussian army was equipped with a revolutionary design, the Dreyse Needle Gun.

It was revolutionary because it was a breech-loading rifle.

The gunpowder, percussion cap and bullet all came ready wrapped in a cartridge.

A bolt opened at the rear of the barrel, the cartridge was simply popped in and fired.

(Time between each shot was 5 seconds.)

The Austrian musket by comparison had to be placed upright, gunpowder dropped into the barrel, then the projectile dropped into the barrel, then everything tamped down with the tamping-rod, then a percussion cap placed under the hammer, then it was ready to fire.

(Time between each shot was 30 seconds.)

Strangely, this lack of speed was one reason why the Austrian army preferred the old-fashioned musket against the Prussian Needle Gun.

The Austrian high command thought: “The speed of firing will cause Prussian troops to shoot too fast and consequently waste ammunition”.

The Austrians also preferred the musket because it had a range of 1,000 yards as opposed to the 600 yards of the Needle Gun.

This thinking may have been relevant in traditional static warfare where both armies stood a long way apart and shot at each other.

But they hadn’t allowed for the fact that the Needle Gun ushered in a whole new kind of warfare: mobile warfare.

After every shot with the musket, Austrian troops had to stand still to reload their guns, they couldn’t do it while moving.

But with the Needle Gun, the Prussians could reload on the move.

Also, with the musket, Austrian troops had to stand up to reload, during which time they were a large target, but with the breech-loader the Prussians could shoot and reload while lying down.

But of course, the biggest difference was the rate of fire, each Prussian soldier could fire fiveshots while each Austrian was firing one.

Which was like having five times as many soldiers.

The main battle between them was fought at Koeniggratz in 1886.

By the end of the battle, the Austrians had lost 42,000 men, the Prussians just 9,000.

All because the Austrians leaders were locked into formulaic thinking, and formulas are dangerous things.

Because, as Bill Bernbach said, “Principles endure, formulas do not.”

The Prussians thought upstream, they rejected the formula of winning solely by accuracy, preferring speed and mobility.

So while the Austrians stood reloading, the Prussians fired and moved, fired and moved.

The Austrian high command weren’t able to think upstream, they weren’t able to see warfarehad changed, they were locked into their formula of accuracy above all else.

It’s the same with us, the principle of advertising remains the same, but if we get locked intoa formula we can’t think upstream.

As long as we are locked into formulas we can’t be creative.

As Mary Quant said: “Rules are for people who are too lazy to think for themselves”

The economist J M Keynes was once criticised for changing his mind.

He said: “Of course when the facts change I change my mind. Why sir, what do you do?”