What maps, plans and Mike Tyson have in common

Maps — whether mental ones or cartographic ones — give the illusion of accuracy. But, as the saying goes, the map is not the territory. Only by recognizing the limitations of these constructs can we use them effectively.

So too, I would argue, for plans. We should never put too much stock in a plan as a static recipe designed for a specific result; too many things can go wrong, and reality usually gets in the way.

As that famous business thinker Mike Tyson once pointed out, “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.”

While the actual step-by-step list might have limited value, the act of planning does not. In fact, in an era where volatility, uncertainty and complexity rein, thinking through contingencies before disruption — or disaster — strikes is just common sense. After all, the best time to figure out what you’d save in a fire is not while the house is burning down around you …

Conclusion: Don’t become a slave to “the plan.” Instead, use the process of planning to game out the various scenarios that you might face, and how you might respond. If and when they happen, you’ll know what to do first while retaining the flexibility to adjust to your new reality.