I was reading an article and I came across this:
When I was a teenager in Korea, the lesson was called Three Men on a Shovel. Koreans used to dig trenches using one guy steering the shovel with the handle and two other guys pulling with ropes tied to the shovel. How Americans would laugh! Dumb Koreans, takes three of them just to dig a hole! Then the Army did a test with three Americans with three shovels against the Koreans, and the Koreans kicked our asses.
I don't know if you have any idea how freaking revolutionary this would be. In the world of programming, we have a story which we tell over and over again, The One Month Pregnancy, it goes like this: "You can't make a pregnant woman give birth in one month by assigning 8 more women to the task." Here is, if it is true, a beautiful counter example of three people on the same task, with fewer resources, accomplishing more than the same three people working alone. An enormous blow to the individual-as-productivity-superhero cult.
I found a 1911 article on "The Principles of Scientific Management" which is one of the most alarming and horrible documents I have ever read, about which I will write another day, but does talk a lot about shoveling.
Even snopes.com was no help. So I give up. I have no idea how true this is. I want it to be true. Anyone out there have better data?