One look is worth a thousand reports

"[...] I visited the troops near Coutances on the twenty-ninth and found an armored division sitting on a road, while its Headquarters, secreted behind an old church, was deeply engrossed in the study of maps. I asked why they had not crossed the Sienne.  They told me they were making a study  of it at the moment, but could not find a place where it could be forded. I asked what effort they had made to find such a place and was informed that they were studying the map to that end. I then told them I had just waded across it, that it was not over two feet deep, and that the only defense I knew about was one machine gun which had fired very inaccurately at me. I repeated the Japanese proverb: 'One look is worth one hundred reports,' and asked them why in hell they had not gone down to the river personally. They learned the lesson and from then on were a very great division."

War As I Knew It, George S. Patton Jr., Bantom Books (Mass Market Paperpback Edition, May 1, 1983)





I've been misquoting this:  Patton said one look is worth one hundred reports; I rounded it up, rather liberally, to one thousand.  I probably confused this saying with 'A picture is worth a thousand words' and that induced the rounding error.


Regardless of the magnitude of the value of the reports vs direct experience, the lesson is still valid.  Here are other ways of thinking about it: