Beware of Dragons! How Middle Age Mapmakers Can Teach You To Anticipate Problems

Middle Age mapmakers knew that the world was larger than what had been explored. So when they drew maps beyond the world they knew, they used symbols of dragons to warn early explorers of potential dangers.

As applied to our modern world, ask yourself, “Where do boundaries and “dragons” lurk in my work and personal life that may not be serving me?”

To help you answer that question, I’d like to share some great advice from of my favorite books, Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War, by Cohen and Gooch (2006).

The authors analyzed a bunch of military failures and found three dominant failure modes:

1. Failure to learn

2. Failure to anticipate

3. Failure to adapt

Learn To Anticipate Problems So You Can Adapt

Think about common ways dragons hide in today’s world, and then consider how well you anticipate these problems:

Business: When someone suggests the need to employ big data and analytics, do you know what’s being suggested? Or do you smell dragons? Is your marketing expertise limited to the “4 Ps” (Product, Price, Place, and Promotion) while you nod sagely about the need to employ Hadoop (a large scale data processing software) or the like?

Medicine: You “get” the idea of surgery and X-rays and pills, but do you “get” the implications of CRISPR? Maybe you know it’s about gene splicing. Or maybe you don’t. But do you know that scientists are talking about controlling evolution? Oops, dragons. (By the way, if you want to sound really smart, you can tell people that CRISPR stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” (whatever that is!).

Global Weather: The dragon’s lair lies in the melting glaciers and arctic ice. Maybe it is caused by mankind (I think it is), or maybe not. Dragons don’t care.

Money: If Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple were physical coins, I’d suggest a profile of a nasty dragon as the embossed mark. We know they’re cool and hip and we know that blockchain technology is supposed to be super-secure. But we also know that North Korea has one of the largest “mining” (dragon!) operations in the world.

Aging: I feel that I’m a kid at 73. But when I look at all those “old people” in Arizona, I wonder what’s going on in their minds (and knees). I know I can’t reverse the calendar… and future years have a distinct dragon appearance.

Retirement Savings: I assumed we had “enough” money for retirement… until I discovered that the average “entry fee” for a nice continuing care residence is $320k. Ouch! Dragon teeth!

Politics: My liberal friends think I’m conservative. My conservative friends think I’m liberal. I’ve decided to stop discussing politics because dragons want to bite my head! I don’t even know what to call myself! A ConLibDemRep?

OK… so dragons lurk in our world.

But what can you do to better anticipate problems and be prepared with solutions?

MindPrep Resource Center has the tools you need to avoid the hidden dangers in your business.

Contact us to discover how our solutions can help, and together we will slay those dragons together!

Reader Interactions


  1. OWC says

    The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020 lays out some dragons along five lines: Economic (e.g., asset bubbles), Environmental (e.g., human-made environmental disasters, loss of biodiversity), Societal (water or food crises, infectious diseases), Geopolitical (WMDs, governance failures), and Technological (e.g., data fraud, information infrastructure breakdown). There are indeed a lot of dragons out there and as detailed in the report the likelihood of them raising their heads varies, as does the impact on humans if they do. It an interesting view of our world when taken through your dragon prism.

    • mindprep says

      Maybe we need to think about dragons more often. True for the world and true for the managers in the businesses of the world.

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