The river guide and the rapids

It's probably not an accident that rapid (as in rapid change) shares a root with rapids (as in Lava Falls in the Grand Canyon).

The river guide, piloting his wooden dory, has but one strategy. Get the boat to the end of the river, safely. And he has countless tactics, an understanding of how water and rocks work, and, if you're lucky, experience on this particular river.

The thing is, the captain changes his tactics constantly. He never whines. He doesn't stop the boat and say, "wait, no fair, yesterday this rock wasn't like this!" No, the practice of being great at shooting the rapids is a softness in choosing the right tactic, the ability to hold the tiller with confidence but not locking into it. If your pilot keeps demanding that the rapids cooperate, it's probably time to find a new pilot.

Domain knowledge underlies all of it. Give me an experienced captain over a new one any day--the ones that got this far for a reason. Yes, the reckless pilot might get lucky, but the experienced pilot brings domain knowledge to her job. It takes guts to go onto the river, but once you're there, the one who can see--see what's coming and see what matters--is the one you want piloting your boat.

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