Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rocks in the lake

Had lunch last week with a family friend whose company sends its executives to Boston once a year for two days of classes taught by three Harvard professors.

He talked about how impressive the profs were, not just because of their obvious incredible intelligence, but because of their energy, how they managed the classroom, and engaged the students, which reminded him of a master coach on the practice floor.

As we ate our lunch, he recounted a story one of the profs told the class:

Imagine, for a moment, a boat on one side of a lake ready to set sail to the other side. But it can't because near the surface of the lake are huge, sharp rocks that would surely rip open the bottom of the boat.

To overcome the problem, those in the boat simply add more water to the lake, covering up the rocks before setting sail to the other side.

However, when they get to their destination across the lake, they look back to see that the rocks have grown. They're now stuck on the other side and can't return. Again, they add water to the lake to cover up the rocks just enough to sail back.

Then along comes another boat. Seeing the rocks, the captain and his crew drain the water from the lake and dig out the rocks from the lake bed.

Once they'd removed the rocks, they re-fill the lake with water and sail across.

The lesson: Don't cover up problems -- uncover them. Expose them entirely. Then work on them. Dig them out. It's much harder to do so, but when you're done, the sailing is much smoother.