I Did Not Know That

by john on July 21, 2005

Deadprogrammer wrote about Grace Hopper today and attributed to her the quote “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” I knew about Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper through the history of the computer in particular her coining (or at least popularizing) the term debugging when she found a moth in an unworking circuit. Read more about her at Wikipedia and see some more quotes at Wikiquote.

But I had no idea that she came up with one of my favorite quotes. I actually have been saying it as “It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” although a quick Google search shows her name associated with both. I’ve been using it as an interview question, and it certainly does draw out some interesting responses.

What is particularly interesting to me though is that the only two people I have interview who responded that it was better to ask permission were both Military. Funny that it should come from someone in the Navy.

(For the record like most of my interview questions this one “Is it better to beg forgiveness or ask permission?” has no right answer, it is how the candidate chooses to respond that is what I am looking for. I can usually lead them from this question into a story of how they once handled a situation where they needed to make a decision without getting approval first, and how they handled that. If you say you always ask for permission then I don’t want to hire you.)


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