Gordian Knotes

The problem of the parable of the Gordian Knot is that it's stated badly: We have a knot that nobody can untie, and Alexander solves the problem by cutting the knot.

When I encountered that parable (in a book about management theory, as it happens), I thought the meaning was obvious: Alexander was a man with a sword, and to a man with a sword everything looks like -- well, something you cut. He had either been frustrated by the task, or had thought it was silly, but he clearly didn't take it seriously.

As I read on, though, it became clear to me that I was supposed to see cutting the knot as a good thing. It was an example of "lateral thinking."

Here's the thing: Anybody can change the rules. It's not hard. The real question is this: What's more important, the rules or the solution?

One way of looking at it: people who are ends-focused will cut the knot. People who are means-focused will try to untie it.

Another way: people who value the integrity of the rope will untie the knot. People who don't care about it will cut it.

I usually prefer to be left with as much sound, un-frayed rope as possible.

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