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“My country, ’tis of Thee…”

July 3, 2012

Earlier this year, I made a commitment to be more “mindful” (more to come on this subject in future posts!). I want to pay more attention and be more aware of the details surrounding the people, places and things I encounter each day. It has been an interesting endeavor this journey to “mindfulness”. I am seeing “old” things as “new” and “common” things as “unique” and I am learning more about things I thought I knew.

Like today, in preparation for the July 4th holiday celebration tomorrow, I found myself scouring the garage for the flag. Every holiday where appropriate, like my neighbors, I fly the American Flag from the mailbox post at my driveways end. It makes the neighborhood look nice. And it has come to be a routine expectation for the July 4th holiday. It’s the right thing to do. The flag will proudly fly – no questions asked!

So as I unfurled the flag to examine its condition in preparation for tomorrow, I feel a real sense of pride, responsibility and history wash over me. I run through my mind what I know about this flag. Known as The Stars & Stripes, Old Glory, or The Star Spangled Banner, it has 13 alternating red and white stripes representative of the original 13 colonies and in the canton to the upper left a blue background with 50 stars representing the current 50 states. It is the ultimate symbol of The United States of America!

But is there more to know? In light of my interest in “mindfulness,” I had to ask the question.

 And that lead me to discover there was so much more to know. For example, did you know that there are specific data values that describe the dimensions and relationships of each component in the flags design?

The specification:

  • Hoist (width) of the flag: A = 1.0
  • Fly (length) of the flag: B = 1.9
  • Hoist (width) of the Union: C = 0.5385 (A × 7/13, spanning seven stripes)
  • Fly (length) of the Union: D = 0.76 (B × 2/5, two fifths of the flag length)
  • E = F = 0.0538 (C/10, One tenth of the width of the Union)
  • G = H = 0.0633 (D/12, One twelfth of the length of the Union)
  • Diameter of star: K = 0.0616
  • Width of stripe: L = 0.0769 (A/13, One thirteenth of the flag width)

And the overall ratio of length to height is a specific 1:1.9! (RATIOS! We know about those in healthcare workforce management, don’t we?)

So now, should I ever wish to determine whether a specific American Flag meets government specifications, I have the data to make the evaluation! I also know that each component of the design was thoughtfully determined. Until now my evaluation would have been limited to the colors, number of stripes and number of stars…pretty superficial. I would have missed the real story of connectedness that the details of the design convey.

Chances are slim that I’ll really use this information, but you never know…

What I do know is that always looking to learn more can lead us to discoveries that may inform or may redefine how we look at something.

This is as true of my experience today with the flag, as it is, with my more sophisticated analytic work around labor management. In my day job, I work to make what some may see as dull, static workforce management data, on closer inspection, yield information that can surprise and sometimes redefine how the workforce in healthcare is managed. Remember there is always more yet to be known.

So tomorrow, when you raise the flag at your house, I hope you will see not just the “data” – stripes and stars, but look deeper to see how the data comes together as a flag that tells a more detailed and interesting story. Alone the design elements are stars and stripes and colors, together, as the pledge reminds us, it is a flag that symbolizes “…the Republic for which it stands…”

Oh! And after you’ve had this deeply moving patriotic moment, you may want to go over and measure your neighbors’ flag to see if it complies with the 1:1.9 ratio requirement!

Happy 4th of July!

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