An ancient Chinese fable about “The Frog in the Well” turned out to be one of the most enduring stories to come out of Laserfiche’s recent Empower 2013 conference. After Laserfiche CEO Nien-Ling Wacker told it in her keynote speech, it was mentioned again and again at other sessions and became a conference catch phrase.

The frog is quite happy living in a well, and is always bragging about how wonderful his home is to the other animals. Because the other animals are outside the well, they understand that the frog has a narrow viewpoint. He can only see the sky, clouds, or other animals or plants if they happen to pass over the mouth of the well.

Then one day, one of the other animals — a turtle or a yellow sparrow, depending on the version of the story — takes it upon itself to educate the frog about the world outside, describing the vastness of the sea. At that point, the frog finally realizes how much more of the world there is beyond his well.

Participants mentioned the fable again and again because it helped them understand a universal phenomenon: Your view is limited by what you can see. And the only way to change that view is to get out of the well.

Some felt their companies were stuck in the well, devoting a lot of energy to manual paper-based business processes. Then they discovered enterprise content management, allowing them to look at their world in a different way.

Others applied the fable to the way they used Laserfiche products: They were stuck in the well, using Laserfiche to store information and to search and retrieve documents. Then they expanded their perspective, and realized they could use Laserfiche to automate their business processes or drive business decisions.

The fable can also refer to the way businesses get caught up in the silo mentality. One group doesn’t know what the other is doing.

The fable has become so popular over the years because it means so many things to so many people. Ultimately, it teaches us that we have a choice: We can choose to be shaped – and limited — by our world. Or we can take active steps to shape it to our needs.

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