In the beloved sitcom, The Office, the main character Michael Scott drives his car into a lake.
Because he followed his GPS.
He focused on the map.
He ignored the territory.
The GPS said “go right,” so he did…but RIGHT, led into a lake.
Sometimes, the map is wrong.
When we forget that maps can be wrong, we ignore what we see because we are too attached to what we think; we neglect what we know because we are too attached to what we believe. We don’t see the lake, because it’s not on our map. We turn right.
In the real world, economic realities come first. Theories about those economic realities come second. And they can be wrong. Ask any survivor of Stalinist Russia.
As Aldous Huxley, author of A Brave New World, wrote in a little-known article, “Too much working hypothesis means finding only what you already know to be there and ignoring the rest.”
Your map is supposed to guide you through the territory, not blind you to it.
Your theory is supposed to guide you through the reality you face.
Remember that the reality, the territory, came first, before theories, and before maps.
Paths existed before street names. Lakes existed before GPS systems 🙂
This image and article were inspired by Episode 613 of the Tim Ferriss Podcast, with Russ Roberts, the creator of Econtalk.
Bonus link: We also wrote an article about how this impacts the language people use in their day-to-day lives at work.