Wisdom from Sherlock Holmes

In preparation for the Sherlock Holmes movie coming out, I decided to first introduce myself to the mystery-solving duo in print. Not very far into “A Scandal in Bohemia,” I ran across some wisdom from Holmes that I thought you might enjoy.

Holmes has just finished reading a letter of unknown author to Watson.

“This is indeed a mystery,” [Watson] remarked. “What do you imagine that it means?”

Holmes responds: “I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

Comments 8

  1. Robin Barnwell

    Hello Jessica

    Yes, big Sherlock Holmes fan! When you get to read The Hound of the Baskervilles you might want to review this early draft covering the section near the end where Dr Watson is spying on Dr Stapleton’s house……

    Regards Robin

    "Creep forward quietly and see what they are doing but for heaven’s sake Watson don’t let them know that they are watched!" said Holmes.

    I tiptoed down the steep path and found the ground muddy underfoot and very slippery. As I approached a low wall which surrounded the stunted orchard I lost my footing and started sliding toward the house. I could not stop my speed building as I rapidly approached the house. Within feet of hitting the kitchen door I braced myself for an unstoppable impact but miraculously a servant opened the door and I slid undetected straight through the kitchen. As I glided into the dining room I saw Sir Henry enjoying an ample supper. I hurtled past the table completely unnoticed and managed to grab a turkey leg from the absent Stapleton’s plate as I rushed out of the luckily open front door.

    "Had a spot of bother but I think I got away with it" I said as I finished the turkey leg.
    "You say, Watson, that the lady is not there?" Holmes asked when I had finished my report.

  2. Sean

    If one has no theory, how does one know where to look for data?

  3. Diane Heinzen


    Thanks for sharing this quote. It’s great. I love it!! As we know, data is the key. I just would have never thought to see it in a Sherlock Holmes book. But it goes to show you that the more our eyes are opened they more we see around us.


  4. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Jessica, for a great post! I wonder how many of us "process improvers" are also Sherlock Holmes fans?

    When I think of the myth-busting aspect of our work (the problem is often not what people think it is, so we need to prove to them that it’s something else), I think of this quote:

    "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" Sherlock Holmes in "The Sign of the Four "

    Sue K.

  5. Bob Love

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a superb analytical mind and was able to explain complex issues with great clarity, allegedly to Watson but obviously to keep hold of the reader. Such clarity of thought and presentation skills are as much in demand, or even more so, today than when he was at the peak of his writing career.
    It emphasises that cream will always rise to the top and can be timeless, nomatter what the "advanced" nature of the underlying environment.
    As you may guess I have been a Holmes fan for more years than I want to admit!!!

  6. Dave Smith

    Holmes RULES! Sir Doyle’s books are teimless treasures, and us Sigma-ites are well-served in rereading these classics!

  7. alpaslan terekli

    A MBB is bored sitting near the production line. Suddenly he sees a white rabbit, wearing a coat and carrying a watch, run past, lamenting running late.

    ( the first phragraph of story about overload MBB after 16 h nonstop work)

  8. Deeann D. Mathews

    That quote from "A Scandal in Bohemia" saved me a great deal of trouble in my career as a journalist in the U.S. the wisdom of Mr. Holmes is desperately needed in our news services as much as it is in law enforcement.

    By the way, fellow admirers of the world’s favorite sleuth, you do know that you can find all of them at your fingertips at I consult the entire collection regularly to escape the commonplace of work on one hand, and in some work of my own on the other . . .

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