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 BURKHARD BILGER, 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.