“Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot, which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.” – Jean Cocteau
The origins of the “Gordian Knot,” a term commonly used to describe a complicated or seemingly unsolvable problem, can be traced back to a legendary chapter in Alexander the Great’s life.
As the Greek myth goes, in the centre of the Middle Asian city of Gordium, King Midas had tied a chariot to a post with an intricate knot. A great oracle predicted that the man who could untie the knot would become Asia’s next king. Hundreds of men tried and failed in the endeavour.
A man approached, studied the knot, and with one sword strike, sliced the knot in two, thus claiming his title as king. This man was Alexander the Great.
Alexander’s strength and his army did not grant him the position of leader. His ability to think and rethink a current challenge was the key to his rise. That, in essence, is what every good leader is required to do: solve problems creatively.
Thanks to the enduring popularity of the Alexander fable, the phrase “Gordian Knot” has entered the lexicon as shorthand for an intricate or intractable obstacle.
What is the business lesson?
Most new-age decision-makers want to be Gordian knot cutters, not knot studiers.
They want to be bold, confident, and intelligent in their use of information. When faced with the Gordian knot problem, Alexander did not form a Gordian Knot committee.
He did not ask for reports documenting the legend or describing the knot. Alexander did not ask for endless feasibility studies, financial analyses, risk studies, or legal opinions. He simply cut the knot.
What is holding you back today?
Think outside the box and get out your sword …