I once visited Pueblo Bonito in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. Chaco Canyon is the site of ancient ruins of some buildings, roads, and irrigation systems constructed by the ancestral Puebloan people. As I viewed the ruins, and as I thought about them later, I gained some important insights into the work many of us do.
- The ancestral Puebloans had a technologically sophisticated culture about 1000 years ago. However important a particular workplace issue might be to any of us now, Chaco Canyon reminds me to ask the question: What will we think about this issue in a thousand years? If the answer is "not much" then maybe we can end the debate and move on to the next issue.
The ruins known as Pueblo Bonito, in Chaco Canyon. Photo courtesy U.S. National Park Service.
- In the ruins, you can see evidence of technological evolution, and you can also see how the ancestral Puebloan people incorporated advancements into existing structures analogous to a compatible upgrade today. So the issue of compatible upgrades is an old one, and we might be able to learn about compatible upgrades from the ancients. This reminds me that many of the problems we think of as unique to today's high-technology culture are actually very old problems.
- The structures in Chaco Canyon, particularly Pueblo Bonito, were built over a period of 250 years, much longer than one lifetime. It wasn't possible to plan for every contingency from the outset. The original architecture and technology had to be flexible enough to allow for extension, adaptation, and innovation so that it could meet the needs of future generations. If only our systems today had these properties…
- The stone that was used to build Pueblo Bonito was favored because it broke cleanly in two planes at right angles to each other. It was quarried from the top of a nearby cliff, which eventually broke off huge pieces that fell on the structure. The cliff not only provided the material for the structure, but also crushed it. This reminds me that a great strength can also be a great weakness.
My visit to Chaco Canyon gave me insights into the work I do. I can have that experience whenever I take time to connect with whatever is around me right now. I can make connections that will help me see things in new ways — and old ways that are new to me.
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