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Jan 5th, 2018 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

The Map Is Not the Territory

My former boss at Mozilla, John Lilly, used to preface his presentations with a note that stated that “there are no maps.” He then extended the notion that there are, of course, maps – but that they are never yours. I’ve picked up this idea twice on The Heretic (here and here).

I recently heard Tim O’Reilly (of O’Reilly Media) refer to a slightly different quote:

“The map is not the territory.”

Combine the two insights and you gain a unique perspective: We are all presented with maps, all the time. However, those maps are, at best, guidance and never an actual recipe (although they are often presented as such: Do these five things, and your startup will be successful. Follow this investment advice, and you will be rich. Put these things on your slide deck, and you will get funding.) Once you understand this, you further need to realize that there is a vast difference between the two-dimensional flatness of a map and the three-dimensional reality of the territory.

Tim has some wonderful advice on how to make this work for you:

Recognizing when you are stuck (…), looking at an out-of-date map rather than looking at the road, is something that is surprisingly hard to learn.

The art and skill for you are to understand which parts of a map are useful for your situation, learn to read the map and then keep the eyes on the road (your reality) instead of zeroing in on the map, referring to the map only when you come to a fork in the road.

P.S. Quick reminder that this weekend only you can download the Kindle edition of The Heretic book for free (the offer is valid in all Kindle shops worldwide!). Enjoy!

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