Don’t remove a seemingly foolish long-standing custom or institution until you understand its intended purpose

πŸ’Ž Don’t remove a seemingly foolish long-standing custom or institution until you understand its intended purpose

This rule is known as Chesterton’s fence, after G. K. Chesterton, the British writer who proposed it in an essay in 1929. Imagine you discover a road that has a fence built across it for no particular reason you can see. You say to yourself, “Why would someone build a fence here? This seems unnecessary and stupid, let’s tear it down.” But if you don’t understand why the fence is there, Chesterton argued, you can’t be confident that it’s okay to tear it down. Long-standing customs or institutions are like those fences, he said. Naive reformers look at them and say, “I don’t see the use of this; let’s clear it away.” But more thoughtful reformers reply, “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Excerpt from: The Scout Mindset: The Perils of Defensive Thinking and How to Be Right More Often by Julia Galef

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