There Is More Than One Path: A Global Address Metaphor

Mail gets delivered in the US and Japan (no surprise), but each country has a completely different approach to addresses (I had no clue). In the US, houses have numbers based on their location on a street. In Japan, houses have numbers based on their location on a block. As Derek Sivers explained it to Tim Ferriss, Americans name their streets and blocks are just otherwise empty spaces, while the Japanese name their blocks and the streets are the empty spaces. They may be opposite approaches, but both work as functional systems.

When we’re teaching or explaining a concept, we should remember that there’s more than one system in the world to find an address. For example, if a friend is trying to figure out how to be happy – help them invert the answer and ask “what makes you miserable?” If we know diversification is an important concept but our client is struggling to grasp its value, we could explain the basics of why it works, what the risks of concentrations are, and how to go overboard with diversification (“diworsification” as Wes Gray calls it). We want to explore the paths until we find one that works, not death march people with “my way or the highway” logic.

Different people will require a different system for information to “click.” We don’t want to be an American postmaster baffled in Japan. There’s a whole world of different systems and approaches out there that work. If we really understand the problems we’re trying to help people solve, we should be able to find multiple ways to explain them. Our way is rarely the only way. Get creative.

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