A vain emperor who cares too much about wearing and displaying clothes hires two weavers who claim to make the most beautiful clothes and elaborate patterns.
The weavers are con-men who convince the emperor they are using a fine fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid.”
These unbelievably beautiful clothes that they will make for the emperor are invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.
The Emperor is excited.
Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished and they pretend to be dressing the emperor his new clothes.
Ministers and other officials comes to monitor the work of the weavers and the Emperor in his new clothes.
None of them can see anything, but each one of them assures the Emperor that his new clothes look amazing.
The Emperor praises the weavers how feather lite his new clothes are and then marches in the street before his subjects in his new “clothes.”
When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes”, no one in the crowd dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid.
Finally a child in the crowd cries out: “But the Emperor is not wearing anything at all!”
The crowd starts laughing out loud at his naked embarrassment.
The emperor realises that the child’s outburst is true but bravely continues with the procession and his Ministers continues walking with him.
Children love this story because finally they get to be smarter than the grown-ups. Many adults on other hand react with unease.
Would you have had the courage to speak out or would you like the Ministers have carried on the pretense?
What Hans Christian Andersen [the author of this short story] describes is not far from reality in businesses and governments.
A vain leader comes up with a dubious idea, anyone who dares to speak out is automatically considered incompetent and disloyal and will be pay the price for their cheek.
So, everyone keeps quiet and carries on as if they think the leader’s idea is amazing, even after it has been exposed as a complete nonsense.