Strategists should stop mountain climbing and start extreme caving

I had always thought strategy and the pursuit of insights was akin to mountain climbing, but an article in this week’s New Yorker on extreme caving has changed my world. By , In Deep, The dark and dangerous world of extreme cavers, has given me a perceptual shift. Bilger writes, “cave depths, unlike mountain heights, are inherently subjective.” And I love this. Damn, a mountain? You can see how big that is. How difficult it may or may not be able to climb. Caves. That’s another story. All you know of a cave is the entrance in — and even that may be misleading. 

While mountains are measured from the bottom up, caves — when they can be measured — are measured from the top down, and down, and down — that’s because you never quite know when you’ve hit bottom. And this is how we should approach problem solving in general. If we use a mountain as a metaphor then our path is clear, but once we start using caves as a metaphor it becomes evident that all we know is where to start, but we can make no assumptions on where we are going.

 

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