- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

The Tragedy of the Obvious

A man was leading a caravan of donkeys and crossing the border almost every day, coming back with apparently the same caravan. Each donkey carried two bags of sand, one on each side. The border guard got progressively intrigued and suspected that the man was smuggling something, hidden in those bags. Very often he would stop the man with the caravan and would search the bags, only to find sand and more sand. Over the years, this practice continued and the border guard could never find anything in those bags. One day, the border guard retired. Once he had retired, he went back to the border and saw the man with the same caravan. “Look, I am not in a position of authority anymore. I have been watching you, stopping you and searching your bags. I have found nothing. But I am still convinced that you are smuggling something. Would you tell me now? What are you smuggling?” To which the man answered: “donkeys”. (The Leader with Seven Faces, 2006) [1]

The obvious (obvious, from the Latin ob viam or ‘in the way) is sometimes un-seen. That rather painful stone under foot, that you did not see. Ouch! That friend in the street that you did not recognise. OK, it could be worse.

Also, the obvious is a rather problematic term in organizational life. ‘It’s obvious’ often implies, I don’t have to think about it too much, it’s clear. Read, a recipe for Uncritical Thinking.

But I could go on for hours here, just to undermine the power of this donkey tale. I’ll leave you with this. Just see those donkeys in front of you, will you?