The Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau were two of Germany’s most powerful battleships.
They were brand new and could do 32 knots (60 mph), they each had 11” guns.
Each gun fired a shell weighing a quarter of a ton, each ship had nine of them.
So powerful were the guns, they’d sunk a British aircraft carrier, HMS Glorious, hitting it from 15 miles away.
By 1942, they’d sunk 22 British merchant ships then sailed to Brest, in France, for repairs.
But Brest was too close to England, several times a week RAF bombers flew over and bombed the ships.
They had to get them back to Kiel, in Germany, where it was safe.
All the experts said there was only one route back that was safe: up around the north of Scotland, between Iceland and Greenland.
The shortest route, of course, was via the English Channel but that was unthinkable, at one point it was only 20 miles wide.
How could you even think of sending two of the most valuable ships in the world that close to England, under the nose of the British?
The experts said it was impossible, unthinkable, ridiculous.
But that’s what they did.
At 11pm, in the pitch black, they began to sail up the English Channel.
The British submarine, HMS Sea Lion, that was watching them, had gone off to recharge its batteries.
The RAF Hudson, flying reconnaissance overhead, missed them in the low cloud.
The second RAF Hudson also missed them.
The third Hudson had a problem with its radar so it went back to base.
The fourth Hudson missed them in the fog.
2 reconnaissance Spitfires saw them but had no radio contact and had to fly back to base.
2 more Spitfires saw them but got into a fight with the covering Messerschmitt’s.
By this time, the ships were so close to England the shore batteries were firing at them.
But they all missed.
Then 6 redundant Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers attacked, all were shot down.
5 Motor Torpedo Boats tried to attack them, but were beaten off.
4 RAF Beaufort torpedo bombers got lost and couldn’t find them.
More Beauforts had to turn back for lack of fuel.
73 RAF heavy bombers attacked them, then 134 more heavy bombers, all failed.
6 destroyers attacked with torpedoes, all missed.
35 more bombers attacked, all missed.
The only things that damaged the two massive ships were mines they hit, they were each stopped for an hour.
But during this time nobody attacked them.
Eventually, the two battleships reached the German port of Kiel, and safety.
In the attacks, the British had lost 42 aircraft, the Germans had lost 20.
But the two warships, that the British wanted to sink more than anything else, had escaped by going through the one place everyone said was unthinkable, Britain’s back yard.
As the Times said at the time: “Nothing more mortifying to the pride of our sea power has happened since the seventeenth century.”
The lesson is that the experts are very good at telling you what can’t be done.
They’re not so good at telling you what can be done.
Because all experts can do is repeat conventional wisdom – experts aren’t creative.
Which is why they’re considered experts.
To them creativity is risky, unconventional, outrageous, unthinkable.
So sometimes the creative thing to do is exactly what all the experts say is unthinkable.
Just because the experts won’t be thinking about it, or expecting it.