Saturday, September 01, 2007

Charles Handy on The Road to Davy’s Bar

Corporate chiefs frequently speak of the need for a vision of the future. One of the unintended consequences of such visions, thinks Handy, is that it may not point the way to where you ought to be. At the beginning of Chapter 3 of "The Age of Paradox", author Charles Handy shares this incident that suggests why this may be so.

"The Wicklow Mountains lie outside Dublin, Ireland. It is an area of wild beauty, a place to which as an Irishman born near there, I return as often as I can. It is still a bare and lonely spot, with unmarked roads, and I still get lost. Once I stopped and asked the way. 'Sure, it's easy,' a local replied, 'just keep going the way you are, straight ahead, and after a while you'll cross a small bridge with Davy's Bar on the far side. You can't miss it!' 'Yes, I've got that, 'I said. 'Straight on to Davy's Bar.' 'That's right. Well, half a mile before you get there, turn to your right up the hill.'”

"His directions seemed so logical that I thanked him and drove off. By the time I realized that the logic made no sense he had disappeared. As I made my way down to Davy's Bar, wondering which of the roads to the right to take, I reflected that he had given me a vivid example of paradox, perhaps even the paradox of our times; by the time you know where you ought to go, it's too late to go there, or more dramatically, if you keep on going the way you are, you will miss the road to the future."

Source: Charles Handy, The Age of Paradox (USA: Harvard Business School, 1994). This can also be found online at ‘The Road to Davy’s Bar’.

Image: Charles Handy among the sunflowers.