The Road to Davy’s Bar

May 20, 2009

In an earlier blog post I shared a quote from Charles Handy about sensible organizational behavior that I just love. I promised I would share his parable of change called The Road to Davy’s Bar. It’s a long quote, but I hope you find it as useful as I do.

The Wicklow Mountains lie just outside Dublin, Ireland. It is an area of wild beauty, a place to which, as an Irishman born 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 will 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 just 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.

….. The world keeps changing. It is one of the paradoxes of success that the things and the ways which got you where you are are seldom those that keep you there. If you think they are, and that you know the way to the future because it is a continuation of where you’ve come from, you may well end up in Davy’s Bar, with nothing left but a chance to drown your sorrows and reminisce about the past (pp 49-50, emphasis added).

Handy then describes a powerful concept about the basic nature of change called the Sigmoid Curve. The logic of the Sigmoid Curve is burned in my brain – stay tuned because I will share it sometime soon!

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