Whenever someone dives deep into a subject or problem they are always described as “going down a rabbit hole”. While never physically visiting one, I imagine they go deep underground with no light and most likely are pretty narrow.
The imagery is vivid. Narrow. Confining. Dark. With little space to roam.
Implied in this imagery is the ease with which we can lose perspective when “going down a rabbit hole”. The popular thinking is that the detail revealed when going deep into a subject keeps us from seeing the “forest from the trees”. Its finiteness also implies that it is hard to get out once in it. For, of course, we are not rabbits!
My experience with detail tells me a much different story.
First, any impactful action needs an understanding of detail before a reasonably good choice can be made. We can take an action at any time even when we only “headline read” and act impulsively out of emotion. Making the outcome of your action(s) uncertain and left to chance with a high risk of failure because of what you don’t know.
Making thoughtful decisions, that have a reasonable chance of succeeding, requires a good understanding first of what you are trying to solve or impact. Without going “down the rabbit hole” before deciding, you will never see what is to the right or the left of what you are considering. Or what risks might you face.
In a group setting, going down rabbit holes gives you an opportunity to see others’ points of view once you better understand the words, and technical terms they use. What do they mean when they say exponential, probabilistic, or stochastic? You must put in the time to gain more domain knowledge to understand everything you can by going down a rabbit hole first before engaging.
To influence others, you must be multi-lingual. Fluent in their languages and thinking. More so than yours. Able to use their terminology to ask better follow-up questions to further broaden your understanding as well as theirs. Words, phrases, and sentences all have nuance. Much of which you will miss if you don’t go down the rabbit hole before engaging in discussion.
My experience also reveals that rabbit holes can be made much, much wider.
Mistakenly, when someone goes down a rabbit hole they are singly focused on the one topic they are researching. They learn facts and gather information and then return to their original problem. When I go down a rabbit hole I am constantly looking for connecting the dots and pattern recognition. Yes, I first absorb all the new information I encounter. But I am always thinking about where can I use something, how can it benefit me, and where else could I apply what I now have seen.
This constant monitoring of my world, outside of the immediate problem, helps me find ways to use the new information within a rabbit hole to expand my world in ways, I did not understand before. Sometimes new information that will not be used today, becomes quite valuable in the future. Helping to make the next rabbit hole a bit wider at the start, giving me a broader range of exposure to find a connection. Making my skill set a bit larger than first intended making me better prepared for the next problem I face.
Rabbit holes and the detail they uncover provide a great starting point for finding opportunities besides solving problems or influencing others. Especially when pattern recognition and connecting the dots are used. Making them important to use and not feared. Helping us to always make seeking more detail our best friend.
While understanding that our future growth will always come
from what we do not know or understand today.